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Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco
by Burt Prelutsky
by Mark Steyn
by Shawn Steel [attorney,
Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Mathews’ new
book, The People’s Machine: Arnold and the Rise
of Blockbuster Democracy is quite the rage in Sacramento
and for California political junkies. Mathews recounts the
political formation of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the origins
of the 2003 Gray Davis Recall that dethroned a sitting governor
for the first time in 80 years – and elected Arnold
Schwarzenegger in his place.
That time now seems like eons ago, but we should remember the California Republican
Party was on its back following the November 2002 election disaster in which
all but one statewide GOP candidate went down to defeat. The Party had reached
a nadir. Much of the organized big business community had deserted to Gray
Davis, with the state Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable served
as affable allies against Republicans, and particularly Bill Simon.
Steel is Director California Club for Growth, the
immediate past president of the California Republican
Party, activist, commentator, conservative stalwart
and a co-founder of the Davis Recall. He is an attorney
practicing in Palos Verdes, California. [go to Steel
days after being re-elected, Davis admitted he misstated the
size state deficit by billions of dollars and the chattering
classes in Sacramento began chattering about major tax increases.
I was California Republican Party chairman at the time and was at a conservative
networking meeting in Sacramento the December following the election. Ted Costa
approached me with his idea for recalling Gray Davis.
I thought the idea was absurd.
Soon afterward, I was a guest on Melanie Morgan’s talk radio program
on KSFO in San Francisco and she pressed me for an alternative to four more
years of Gray Davis. I blurted out there was “talk of a recall” – a
n idea Morgan loudly and immediately embraced. I carefully explained I was
unfamiliar with the legal, timing and practical aspects of a gubernatorial
recall but would report back to her listeners. But when “Fred from Petaluma” phoned
in to the show that he would drive to downtown San Francisco and pick up 50
petitions, I could sense a voter volcano was erupting.
Immediately after appearing on Morgan’s show, Bob Johnson asked me to
come on his Voice of the Valley radio show in the north San Joaquin Valley
to discuss this recall idea. The prairie fire was starting.
In theory, qualifying a gubernatorial recall would be a breeze. We only needed
signatures equaling 5% of the combined gubernatorial vote from in the last
election – when the turnout was historically low. And we had 5 months
in which to do it.
To our dismay, most of the California Republican leadership was cool to the
idea – to put it mildly. Gerry Parsky, President Bush’s man in
California was hostile to the recall until almost the very end. These GOP leaders
feared the recall would fail and embarrass the party – to which I responded
the state GOP was already embarrassed and had nothing to lose because Republican
legislative leaders were leading an army of invalids with no power in Sacramento.
Fortunately, the recall was not dependent on the state party leadership, and
unified conservative grass-roots support pushed the California Republican Party
executive committee and convention to endorse the recall in February 2003 --
notwithstanding the formal opposition from our national committeeman, Gerry
Parsky and GOP legislative leaders.
During the next six months, I was busier than I ever dreamed I would be as
an outgoing party chairman, working the talk radio circuit and plumping the
recall. A true boon to our efforts was the fact that recall petitions could
be downloaded from the Internet. For the first time in history, a public official
could be recalled via the Internet. Moreover, support from dozens of conservative
talk radio hosts around the state meant we were in virtually daily communication
with more than 2,000,000 conservatives. The fusion of these two mediums produced
more than 100,000 signatures in the first 30 days.
The People’s Machine author Joe Mathews did his homework, interviewing
hundreds of key players in this first-of-its-kind political earthquake. I can
vouch for the accuracy of Mathew’s description of events to which I was
a party or of which I knowledge, which leads me that accuracy extends throughout
Readers of this column will know many of the individuals Mathews writes about.
Readers will be surprised to learn what prompted Darrell Issa to fund the signatures
-- and what events led to Arnold’s declaration of candidacy when he was
still sporting the Terminator haircut.
The ripples of the Arnold phenomenon continue to roil California’s political
waters. Mathews’ book traces Schwarzenegger’s political formation
and entry into national and state politics, his victory in the 2003 recall
victory, his early dealings and successes with the legislature through the
mashing Arnold received from the $164,000,000 media barrage against him and
his 2005 “Year Of Reform” initiatives.
It’s clear from Mathews’ book that even a savvy player like Arnold
didn’t understand the naked power of unlimited union spending, and the
Mathews explains why Arnold plunged more than $ 7,000,000 of his own money
into an ultimately failed effort to pass his raft of reform initiatives. I’ve
e never seen any Governor work so hard for a losing cause.
Now Arnold is back. Eviscerating Angiledes, co-opting Republicans and Democrats,
business and labor, Indians and Labor, Latinos from mainstream democrats, Arnold
always needs to be the center of attention. He doesn’t like predictability.
Joe Mathews understands this better than anyone. The People's Machine is
destined to be the classic definer of the Age of Arnold. CRO
2006 Shawn Steel