Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel,
Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs
throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Our Glorious Recall
Or, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love California”
[Carol Platt Liebau] 8/11/03
As a little
girl, I distinctly remember reading that Mark Twain had once said, “When
God made the world, he tipped it and all the nuts rolled to California.” No
Twain collection records the quote, so perhaps I was misinformed – but
to me, the quip was witty, and, I thought at the time, quite apropos.
all, viewed from the vantage point of a Midwestern childhood in
the mid-1970’s, California really did look crazy.
Every flaky trend, from marijuana smoking to tie-dye to nude
pool parties, all seemed to originate in the Golden State.
Whenever television shows featured silicone-enhanced blondes
in microscopic bikinis, they were always roaming the beaches
of California. In fact, “The Brady Bunch” was being
rerun on Nick at Night before I realized that the palm trees
surrounding the home of this very normal family indicated that
they lived in California – not Florida, as I had assumed
as a child.
Beach Boys might have wished that everyone could be a “California
girl,” but I was quite happy where I was, thank you very
much. Even as a college student on the east coast, witnessing
the excitement of the California kids at the first snowfall elicited
from me a wave of pity – clearly, beneath their façade
of “California cool,” they were feeling the effects
of a childhood bereft of sledding and snow days off from school.
six years ago, when a mutual friend introduced me to my husband – we
were all visiting Arizona at the time – I remember being
skeptical. He seemed pretty wonderful, but I was convinced that
the heart of a wild and crazy playboy lay beneath his intelligent,
sensible demeanor . . . after all, he was a native Californian,
third generation at that! Well, there can be no doubt that a
sense of humor infuses the intelligent design shaping every life – 23
months later, and a mere13 days after a wedding in my home town
of St. Louis, I found myself returning from a honeymoon to my
new “home” in California. I worried about fitting
in either with the statuesque blondes in the south or the hippies
up north, but I decided that if my hero Ronald Reagan had loved
it here, I could certainly thrive, too.
November of 1998, I have learned about California’s
people, its politics, its climate, its geography and its traditions.
But I never knew how much I had come to take pride in being a
Californian until this week, when – in the midst of discussing
the recall -- a friend on the east coast asked me, “Aren’t
NO, I’m not. In fact, I’m proud. Although there
is reason to be ambivalent about the potential implications of
the recall (and the practice of governing through referenda in
general), the people of California are to be commended, not disparaged – they
have identified a problem (known as “Gray Davis”)
and they have set out to fix it. In doing so, they have proceeded
with their usual enterprise, brashness and utter unpredictability.
Where else could a gubernatorial slate include pornographer Larry
Flynt, 1970’s child actor Gary Coleman (“What you
talkin’ ‘bout, Davis?”), the comedian Gallagher
running on the “Watermelon” ticket, an adult film
actress campaigning to make lap dances tax deductible – and
Arianna Huffington, too?
of these candidates will be elected, and their presence will
detract from the seriousness of the issues
or the importance of the debate. But they will make the race,
as a whole, much more entertaining – and remind all of
us that, at least in California, even the least likely citizens
are willing to dare to exercise their right to seek political
office (and be roundly rejected in the attempt). Their very
presence on the ballot proves that political office isn’t
always reserved for the elite . . . and that politics need
not always be deadly serious. The heterogeneity of the field
is testament to California’s diversity – in its
true sense, not the fashionable, the PC-laden version now in
vogue – and we will hear about the dazzling variety of
ideologies, backgrounds and agendas that will shape the political
dialogue for the next seven weeks.
territory lies ahead. But that seems appropriate for a state
whose people are, at heart, pioneers. After all, Californians
are the people with the courage and the enterprise either to
have crossed the mountains from the east or the border from
the south in search of a better life for themselves and their
families. They are hospitable, good people who are generous
to each other, and who, notwithstanding enormous differences,
live together in this great state in surprising harmony. And
for better or worse, they are always in the vanguard.
I once saw California’s eccentricity as a sign of
weakness, I now know better. Our uniqueness isn’t just “weird” – rather,
it’s symptomatic of a confident, robust and energized citizenry.
And somehow, it’s charming.
years, the media elites have been clucking their tongues at
the political “apathy” of
the average American. Well, we Californians are not apathetic – and
not about to let the glory days of the Golden State fade into
distant memory. The operation of totalitarian governments is
tidy – democracy can be messy. So be it.
on the carnival. Bring on the circus. Let our neighbors to
east have a good chuckle at our expense. The people
of California are strong enough and sensible enough to see
the recall for what it truly is – a roar of outrage at
a political system that has become too powerful, too arrogant
and too unaccountable. Our Sacramento “masters” are
about to be brought to heel. So let the campaign begin, and
for the sake of California’s idiosyncratic, independent
and brave people, may the best candidate win.
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.