Huffington Needs a Refresher Course on Recall

When Arianna Huffington jumped into the California gubernatorial recall race she swore that she would wage a holy crusade against political bossism, back room deal making, and the stranglehold that corporate and union organizations have on the Democrats and Republicans. For a month she kept her promise. She pounded Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Democrats Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, and Governor Gray Davis for their blatant and shameful pandering to special interests, and their attempt to con voters by cloaking themselves in populist's garments. Though she didn't register more than a blip in the polls, her hammer-blows against the three was the hot talk around office water coolers.

But Huffington quit the race and now says that she will wage yet another holy crusade to stop Arnold from grabbing the governor's post. That at least makes some sense, but demanding that independents and progressives oppose the recall and keep Davis in doesn't. In her righteous fear and loathing of Arnie, Huffington has apparently forgotten who and what Davis is and the things he did that riled so many voters. Here's a refresher course.

Energy and the Budget Crisis. These were the two things that ignited more voter fury against him than anything else. Voters perceived that he dozed or deliberately misled them when Enron and energy suppliers ran wild and hiked their user rates into the stratosphere, and the state began to drown in red ink. Will Davis now pledge a truth-in-government openness and accountability on energy supply and pricing, assure stringent regulatory control, and back or devise a budget accountability law that imposes fiscal order on the state's tax and spending policies?

Big Money Taint. The rap against Davis is that he never met a special interest group that he wouldn't touch up for a campaign buck. He banked a king's ransom $70 million in his campaign kitty. His cash register politics got him in political hot water. But more than that it confirmed the deep public suspicion that politics is a rotten business and politicians are eternally on the take to the corporate and big union high rollers. Will Davis now pledge to back a strong public election financing law in California similar to the one in Arizona that would help exorcise the big money taint from state politics and begin to level the political playing field?

Political Disconnect. Davis's political and personal aloofness did much to stir voter worry and anger over the energy and budget crisis. But at a mini-townhall meeting in Los Angeles, Davis promised to actively speak to and network with community groups, and to hold regular forums where residents could meet and talk with the governor on the doings in Sacramento. Will Davis now keep that pledge and also pledge that these forums will not be tightly scripted, showy media, photo-op sessions, packed with carefully screened participants that will toss puff ball questions at him and let him get away with stock answers?

Government Reform. Davis and the state legislators created safe legislative districts mostly to protect their own reelection turf and that of their handpicked surrogates when their days were up thanks to term limits. They then scuttled an attempt at a true open primary where voters could cross party lines to vote for the best person, and not the best party person. Will Davis pledge to back open primaries and a fair re-redistricting plan that makes senate and assembly races real horse races between Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and that give voters a real chance to hear candidates and incumbents publicly air their views on the issues?

Political Pandering. Davis signed the driver license bill for illegal immigrants. This is virtually the same bill that he vetoed twice. He did this to blatantly and shamefully grab Latino votes. He vetoed a tough racial profiling bill to blatantly and shamefully appease prison guard and police groups that heavily bankroll him. Meanwhile, apart from a couple of church rallies, and a cozy forum or two, he has blatantly and shamefully ignored African-American voters, the most loyal Democrats, because he believes either there aren't enough of them in the state to make a difference in his battle to stay afloat, or that since they're Democrats they'll vote for him come hell or high water.

Will Davis now pledge to back and sign bills based on good law and public policy and not (a) top heavy with political chains tied tightly to whichever special interest group is paying his political freight (b) filtered through the prism of his centrist, Democrat party agenda, or (c) he hasn't first eyed to see how many votes its worth to him?

Davis badly skewered legislation and public policy to suit his personal and partisan political whims. There's absolutely no chance he'll reverse course and pledge to do any of these things. That would radically change how he does political business and that simply is not in the cards. Huffington, of all people, should know that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.


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