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Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel is the immediate past president of the California Republican Party, activist, commentator, conservative stalwart and recall proponent. Mr. Steel is an attorney practicing in Palos Verdes, California.

People Must Demand Recall
After the Damage Davis Has Caused In One Term, Can State Afford to Go Through Another?
by Shawn Steel 6/2/03

At the beginning of the 20th century, a progressive revolt added the rights of initiative, referendum and recall to the state constitution in order to give citizens recourse against the powerful special-interest groups that had made state government their handmaiden.

As we begin the 21st century, we again find ourselves faced with corruption, incompetence and the paramountcy of special-interest influence, this time centered in a single individual: Gov. Gray Davis. His continuously scandal-plagued, calamitous administration has brought our state to the brink of disaster, and it's time to take those tools of democratic accountability in hand and recall Davis.

Recalls have been threatened before, but in my decades of political involvement never has one caught fire like the current effort to recall Davis.

In the last few weeks, a broad-based, ad hoc coalition of activists, public-policy groups, business people and ordinary citizens has begun to coalesce around this effort, ranging from the anti-tax group People's Advocate on the right to Pat Caddell on the left.

It reflects a disgust and disaffection with Davis that transcends partisan affiliation, age, gender, race or ethnicity. Californians understand we would not be in these perilous straits if Davis possessed a modicum of foresight and the basic sense of duty and honor to place the best interests of state residents before his immediate political imperatives.

Californians are paying for Davis' ostrichlike refusal to deal with uncomfortable realities such as high electricity rates; a budget meltdown that will result in higher taxes on working families and businesses; reduced public assistance for the aged, blind and disabled; and deteriorating health care for children, the poor and the vulnerable.

Davis' failed leadership means fewer opportunities and greater hardship for all Californians. In a hundred ways large and small, he has proved himself unworthy of our trust and his office.

This recall campaign is not about replacing a Democratic governor with a Republican one. It is about throwing out the most incompetent and corrupt governor in state history. Voters will be able to choose Davis' successor from a range of candidates. If they want another Democrat in the governorship, they can elect one. If they want a Republican instead, they can have that, too - or an independent, a Libertarian, a Green or whomever.

Critics of the recall could give lessons to the French in hand-wringing and rationalizations, trotting out several phony arguments for opposing it. They claim it is inappropriate because Davis was re-elected, however anemically, just last November.

To which I respond: so what? That is exactly why we have the recall - so citizens don't have to wait until the next election to remove an elected official. According to the state constitution, "All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require."

Before his re-election, Davis brazenly lied about the magnitude of the state deficit. He pays hundreds of former campaign aides who are working for various state agencies. He has admitted that he hid vital budgetary devices, which means that the dismal plurality that re-elected him was deceived about the true scope of Davis' incompetence. This recall is an opportunity for voters to act on this new knowledge.

The state's constitution gives the people the right to recall their elected officials whenever it suits them, provided enough voters - in this case, 898,000 - sign a recall petition. There has not been a more opportune or necessary moment during which to exercise that constitutional right than now.

Critics claim the recall is wasteful and pointless. On the contrary - it is neither. It is driven by the freely donated time of volunteers and the freely donated dollars of contributors. And if 898,000 voters decide otherwise by signing the recall petition, then the people have the right to decide that question for themselves.

Davis fears it because he knows Californians won't pass up another opportunity to replace him with a man or woman of honor and ability.

Despite the state constitution's assertion that "sufficiency of reason [for a recall] is not reviewable," the Los Angeles Daily News claims that recalls should be reserved for massive corruption and incompetence and states that while Davis is corrupt and incompetent, this doesn't merit a recall.

How corrupt and incompetent must one be? Must state government go completely bankrupt? Must Davis openly admit that campaign contributions guide his policy decisions?

In light of the damage Davis has done during a single term, can we afford to wait out a second term? The Libertarian Party seems to think not. Recently they became the first political party formally to endorse the recall. The Republicans made it official just days ago, and the Greens probably are not far behind.

Our present crisis requires true leadership and moral fortitude - qualities Davis will not suddenly and magically acquire. The right of recall exists for a reason. Let us not shrink from using it.

[This editorial originally appeared at the Los Angeles Daily Journal 5/29/03]

copyright 2003 Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel, the immediate past chairman of the California Republican
Party and a principal with Shawn Steel & Associates in Palos
Verdes, California.



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