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We are in week two of the recall campaign. And already my worst fears are being realized.
Some pundits predicted that the California recall movement would spread throughout the country --- that California would set the trend for extra-electoral politics. On the contrary, California has become a political laggard. The California recall movement will demonstrate to the nation the dangers of working outside traditional electoral politics.
In reality, the Democrat party and its extreme liberal wing have been strengthened by the recall, and the Republican party in California will have a more difficult time gaining any ground on the Democrats and their devastating programs.
First, the Democrats have right-sided themselves. Democrat Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante has joined the race and is the leading candidate in early polls. This despite all the glitter of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Tonight Show" candidacy announcement, and the rage against the Democrats running California. Instead of a termed-out incumbent, California now faces the possibility of twelve years of Bustamante.
Bustamante's candidacy will motivate Latino voters. This hurts programs by California Republican Party to woo Latino voters to the GOP. .
Illegal immigration has become a campaign issue. This will not help the California Republican Party's outreach to the state's Hispanic voters. Although Proposition 187 denied benefits to illegal immigrants (and was thrown out by the courts,) it's a sensitive issue to most California Hispanic communities. By hiring the core of former Republican Governor Pete Wilson's campaign staff, Schwarzenegger has been thrown into the illegal immigration storm. Wilson used the illegal immigration issue to win re-election.
Fourth, Governor Davis, in a fight for his political life, is now rushing to sign controversial bills that were headed towards his veto. Two should enrage most conservatives in California and elsewhere: the first, granting benefits for same-sex relations; the other allowing illegal immigrants to apply for drivers licenses.
Fifth, higher taxes are on the horizon, and California's sacred low property tax tradition is in danger. Candidate Schwarzenegger brought noted financier and investor Warren Buffett on board as a chief advisor. Buffet promptly told the press that the state's property tax rates are too low. Instead of repudiating higher taxes and attacking Governor Davis' 38% increase in spending, Schwarzenegger has hinted at higher taxes - presumably including higher property taxes.
Sixth, the recall has further fractured the California Republican Party. Despite efforts to have all GOP candidates other than Schwarzenegger to drop out, the two other major republican candidates, State Senator Tom McClintock and former gubenatorial candidate Bill Simon are pressing ahead. So, now the GOP is breaking up into three campaign camps. Conservatives supporting McClintock, moderate conservatives aligning with Simon, and liberal Republicans invigorated by the Schwarzenegger campaign.
Next, the recall has misdirected the focus of California republicans. Whether Bustamante or Schwarzenegger wins, the Republican leadership will have a more difficult time delivering the state to President George Bush. This would explain why the White House has stayed out of the recall frenzy. An unpopular Democrat Governor Gray Davis would have provided a strong contrast to President Bush. The disenchantment of California voters towards Davis and the democrat-dominated state legislator could have translated into low turnout by democrats and significant support among the state's independent voters.
Finally, with the state near bankruptcy and businesses leaving California, republicans were positioned to win back seats in the State Assembly and Senate. It is there that most of the devastating programs have originated. Now, the republican leadership has been forced to focus on the governor's office. No matter who wins the recall, the state legislator will remain in the hands of liberal democrats.
The father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, originated his most powerful conservative principles in response to the French revolution. He feared the fanaticism of revolution. He questioned the ultimate benefits of revolutionary politics. The California recall movement has all the pomp and excitement of a political revolution. For that reason, it should be feared.
It is too easy in difficult times to blame the system rather than elected officials. To be conservative is to believe in traditions. The tradition in this country is to vote out those responsible for ineffective programs and policies. The recall will prove to be a glamorous and ineffective way to punish California Governor Gray Davis and the democrats for what they have done to the Golden State.
Write to Arthur at firstname.lastname@example.org
Arthur Bruzzone has written over 250 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political and urban issues for American and European television and radio networks. He is an award-winning public affairs television producer/host.His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. Mr. Bruzzone holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from C.U.A in Washington , D.C., and a M.B.A. in real estate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the Kingdom of Tonga, and the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. He is president of a real estate investment company headquartered in San Francisco, CA.
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