Defeating the California Republic(an) Coup

Ten Recall Do's and Don'ts

1. Don't buy into the idea that this is all a big, wacky circus.

This isn't funny. This is a power play that could wrest control of California away from the man we elected, and hand our state to an egomaniac with no political experience. And it is happening during a time of real crisis. This isn't a circus: It's a coup d'etat.

2. Don't buy into the idea that this is a grassroots revolt.

This recall was paid for with $2 million by a right-wing ideologue with a bone to pick. There is no popular uprising against Gray Davis -- a mercenary army of paid signature-gatherers fomented this uprising, and their petitions were signed by otherwise-nice, pissed-off people. If this recall was about getting special interests out of politics, we'd be for it. This is a trick to steal an election.

3. Do think of this as the end of majority-rules democracy.

Only egomaniacal hubris allows Schwarzenegger to believe he is capable of running this state. Most people know this. That's why he will be lucky if he gets 38 percent of the vote. But in this deal, that could be enough to send him to Sacramento. That is not the way we usually elect people.

4. Don't even bother with the other 133 candidates on the ballot.

If Davis gets ousted, it's Arnold or Bustamante. The rest of the people running are goofing around (haha), or kidding themselves (how sad), or taking advantage of the opportunity to get their pet issues in the spotlight (admirable, but not deserving of your vote).

5. Don't vote for Peter Camejo.

Arianna Huffington was the sharpest, wittiest, most knowledgeable, and most charming person on the ballot. Camejo is almost as smart, and very principled. If only one of these two had been a viable candidate, or -- even better -- if we could have had a Huffington-Camejo ticket. Ahhh -- to dream. In such a dream world, a vote for Camejo would be appropriate. In this real world, a vote for Camejo is a vote for Arnold.

6. Don't waste your vote as a "statement."

If you want to make a statement, buy a bumper sticker. Write a letter to the editor. Get involved in local politics. This week, you are being asked to choose a governor, not voice an opinion.

7. Do vote for McClintock, if you're so inclined.

A vote for McClintock is a vote for Bustamante. (See below.)

8. Don't believe Arnold is a reformer. Or a Republican.

Arnold is a rogue egomaniac. He is a very rich man with great name recognition, a handful of good ideas, and a lot of half-baked ideas. His reason for running? He thinks he can do a better job than anyone else, even though he has no experience whatsoever to qualify him for the job. In the documentary Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger said: "I am the perfect man." He really believed it. (Sure, we all said dumb things when we were young, but...c'mon.) He thinks he can fix the state. He is probably wrong, but don't let him learn humility the hard way.

9. Don't vote yes.

This thing is a debacle, and could genuinely hurt California. Besides, for all of his flaws, Davis isn't as bad as his cynical enemies make him out to be. (See below.)

10. Do vote for Bustamante.

It's him or Arnold, and he would do much less damage than Schwarzenegger. Besides, he is clearly the most qualified candidate with a chance of winning. (See below.)

Five Reasons To Let Gray Davis Keep His Job

1. He has done more for education than any governor in recent history.

That isn't saying much -- it is horrifying what 16 years of Republican rule did to our state's schools. But Davis promised to focus on education in his first term, and he did so successfully. The cuts he has been forced to make in recent years because of our plummeting economy were largely unavoidable.

2. He is good on the environment.

With this, as with much of his record, we could take issue with Davis on some crucial details. But on balance, his environmental record is good. He has generally worked to protect the coast and inland waterways; to limit water use and land development; to clean up toxic messes; and to promote alternative energy. And his initiative in 2000 to require cars to get better mileage was one of the most significant pieces of environmental policy in the nation.

3. He is solid on the rights of workers, women, gays, and the poor.

While it is a sad fact that candidate Davis is addicted to corporate campaign money, he still manages to do pretty well by the core Democrat constituencies. That's why labor, gay-rights groups, and other advocates support him.

4. When we elected him, we made a deal: We should stick to it.

The deal said four years. That was a year ago. We should voice our discontent; put pressure on him; threaten and cajole him. But it just isn't fair to kick him out of office.

5. He is not Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Okay, we'll admit it: if there were a really good, strong, viable candidate on the ballot, we might be singing a different tune. But if Davis gets booted next week we're looking at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is the best reason to let Davis keep his job.

Four Reasons to Vote for Cruz Bustamante

1. He is a seasoned lawmaker.

Bustamante is not a passionate crusader, not a gifted statesman, and not even a rising star. But he is familiar with the issues that confront the state and with the workings of Sacramento. Of all the candidates running to replace Davis, he is the most qualified.

2. He's got the best budget plan.

His plan to raise taxes on cigarettes and on the super-rich will bring in $8 billion of new money, and, as business people know, it is good to raise revenue if you're losing money. The plan is flawed -- it relies on a constitutional amendment -- but it's the best plan around.

3. He is a centrist.

When Bustamante began his career in the San Joaquin Valley, he had to negotiate between big ag interests and the United Farmworkers (the union distrusted him at the time, but he just won the UFW's endorsement). Throughout his career, he has worked successfully with legislators from the other side of the aisle. At this point in California history, that kind of centrism may be a good thing.

4. He can win.

If Davis goes down, only two of the 134 candidates have a chance of becoming governor. Bustamante is the one who is not a loose-cannon egomaniac.

And by the Way

Vote no on 53 and no on 54.

Both of these propositions are as cynical as the recall. The infrastructure question (Prop 53) claims it will fix roads, water systems and the like, but contains not one red cent of funding. Prop 54, written by the Colorblind Crusader, Ward Connerly, is another attack on affirmative action. Kill 'em both.

Eric Johnson is the editor of Coast Weekly, in Monterey, Calif.

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