10/17/03

Musings on the recall

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The recent recall election for the office of governor of California was an amazing demonstration of American democracy. Once again, one must judge it by the process, and largely ignore the result. Yet, what is more quintessentially American than the election of an immigrant to the state’s highest office, indeed of a state with perhaps the 6th largest economy in the world?

There have been kudos for the unorthodox governor-elect, one Arnold Schwartzenegger, the Austrian-born body-builder-turned-movie star-turned-politician. Democrats took it on the chin for losing a race in a state that is deeply Democratic in registration.

California, as ever, became the fodder of late night talk shows,and mid-day talk shows, as talking heads used the recall election as yet another reason to poke fun at the state.

Lost in much of the criticism however, was the real nature of the former administration, headed by the feckless, unpopular Gray Davis.

Although given the mantle of the Democratic Party by the national media, Davis was hardly a liberal. He was a conservative who ran his office as if he were an honorary member of the Republican Party. Unions, the poor, the urban, students, immigrants, and the elderly fared poorly under his reign (with the exception of the prison guards bargaining unit, which virtually owned him).

For millions of Californians, who received his back hand during his first term, the prospect of voting for a guy who acted like a Republican, as opposed to a guy who actually *was* a Republican (albeit one who appeared moderate on social issues) didn’t present much of a challenge.
Especially when the challenger was an actor, in a state that reveres actors.

It also didn’t help matters that this was a reporter’s dream come true – the photogenic, movie star vs. the colorless bureaucrat (a guy named *Gray*? C’mon!).

This race was a no-brainer.

As to the politics of recall, many politicians and their spokespeople, underestimate the appeal of such a device to millions of Americans who look to their elected officials with scorn.

What do you think would happen today, if such an option were available to determine whether US President, George W. Bush should be recalled from office?

In a nation that prides itself on the illusion of democracy, on the elaborate fiction that this is a government of ‘the People’, it is indeed interesting that there are not more offices open to the option of recall. If it were otherwise, presidents and other officials would be loathe to run roughshod over the wills and wants of the people as they have done. If a recall were a live option, Bush would never have dared to plunge the nation into a mad war in Iraq, for he would’ve been on the unemployment line in a matter of months.

Bush (whom the critic Arundhati Roy calls, ‘George, the Lesser’) holds the office because of his name, his family wealth, and the whim of the US Supreme Court. Period. “Ah-nolt’ won the office of Governor of California because Gray Davis violated the first rule of politics; he alienated his base in pursuit of a fictitious ‘center’, and left them with no real reason to vote for him. And neither Clinton, nor Vermont’s Dr. Dean, nor Jesse, nor Barbara Boxer (Sen. D-Ca.) could remake him to his turned-off constituency.

Those who really favor change in American politics should endorse more, not less, recall devices in the nation’s polity. It presents the very real probability of recreating the politics that presently prevails, of unbridled corporatism (practiced by both major parties).

Americans don’t want business as usual; that’s the source of their alienation. They want change. And in such a context, even a man who is the son of a Nazi officer, who claims to be a self-made millionaire, who has no political experience, who is said to be a boorish, ‘serial butt-fondler’ can win one of the biggest plums in US politics.

Let’s have more recalls – not less!

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice."
- Mumia Abu-Jamal

 

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