The current drive for a recall of California’s Democratic governor, Gray Davis, has this financially strapped state – the seventh largest economy in the world – in a political tizzy. But with all the rhetoric over the reasons Davis should or should not be recalled, one factor has been pushed to the side: the shadow of political opportunism and political doublespeak that has emanated from the Bush White House.
It has been clear from the beginning that Bush’s usurpation of the presidency of the United States and the weak Democratic response gave a green light to Corporate America and its political allies on the right to try to throw all rules, laws and decorum in U.S. politics out the window. If the Republicans could bully their way into the White House despite losing the election, and the Democrats failed to respond, it gave the Republican Right a clear message that they could get away with anything, and so far they pretty much have.
Start with the California energy crisis that the Republicans now blame on Davis, despite the fact that deregulation was passed during their watch in the State House. The wholesale ripoff of the California consumer by the mostly Texas-based energy giants (Bush’s friends all) was a direct result of the “we can do whatever we want” attitude prevailing following Bush’s ripoff of the White House. The message was, it’s OK to lie and cheat and steal, and if you get caught, well maybe you will get a slap on the wrist – like Enron, for example, and Ken Lay, Bush’s buddy and political backer.
When the Bush-controlled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission refused to act in the interests of the people of California it was clearly a sign that the Bush administration was after California. And why not? California, the only major state in the union with a Democratic-controlled legislature and governor, overwhelmingly rejected Bush’s “selection” to the White House.
Of course, the “dot-com” disaster contributed to the state’s economic woes, but billions have been lost on the energy fiasco, and the Bush administration has merely shrugged.
Without a doubt, the right wing is on the attack with the green light coming from the White House.
It would be far-fetched to blame the economic crisis on the Bush administration, but it is safe to say that the Bush policies are clearly aimed at using the crisis to destroy government services and privatize them – a long-standing policy of the right-wing neocons. And so, when California got itself caught in the quagmire of the crisis, Bush and his friends helped it along.
It would be misleading to say the recall is a conspiracy hatched in the White House. In fact, the state GOP steered clear of it until conservative Rep. Darrell Issa dumped a million bucks in the drive and it began to look like the recall would get enough signatures to make the ballot. But, at that point, the head of the state GOP galloped to Washington, met with neocon guru Karl Rove and came back in full support of the recall.
And what if Davis is recalled and a Republican takes over? (With a possible list of as many as 10 or more candidates and no run-off, a winner could get in with a small minority of the popular vote.) Would anything change? The fact of a huge budget deficit would remain – but a Republican would sit in the state house and promote the very policies that caused the crisis in the first place.
What the recall does do is take attention away from the continuing war in Iraq, the military budget that is going out of whack thanks to the war, the paranoia hype about “terrorism,” while Bush’s “voodoo economics” are swept from the public’s attention.
We cannot blame Davis for the economic crisis in California, and it is clear that the recall is merely a dirty trick on the people of the state. The California Democratic Party, the state AFL-CIO and other mass organizations are strongly opposing it.
All progressives should fight the recall.
Lincoln Smith has been a labor editor in the Bay Area for over 25 years. He is currently the editor of the Journeyman newspaper, the official publication of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org