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Gray Davis left Sacramento in shame. And he made his share of mistakes, perhaps more than his share of mistakes. But I am less subtle than Marc Antony. I come to praise Gray Davis, or, perhaps more accurately, to praise the legacy that he left for the Democratic Party in the State of California. This is, after all, a progressive-leaning California blog.
But in order to begin, we must go back to what can only be described as a bad day for the Democratic Party. The day when Gray was recalled. Now, I will not pretend to hide my disdain for the recall process, or its ugly cousin, the initiative process. I just think that they are a bad idea for the state. They waste money and time. For evidence just see the cost of the current special election, currently estimated by the Examiner at $45million. Or $44million or so for the recall that the SFChronicle estimates. But I digress. Suffice it to say that Gray was not a popular man on that day (See the wealth of information at the Newshour’s Recall Site.) But as Stuart Smalley has been known to say, you have to hit your bottom in order to want to recover. And the recall can be considered a localized bottom, or more precisely, Ahnold was our rock bottom.
See the extended…
Arnold Schwarzenegger was hailed as GOP savior (or as one essayist put it, the messiah). And he was, at least for a while. He dominated the recall election, even forcing Darrel Issa, who funded the recall movement, out of the race.
Some interesting exit poll data from CNN’s recall site:
Ideology Total CB Ahnold
Liberal 32% 63% 20%
Moderate 36% 31% 50%
Conservative 33% 11% 67%
He managed to get 20% of self-styled liberals. That is extremely impressive for a GOP governor. He also got 18% of Democrats, and 50% of “moderates” (as opposed to 32% for Bustamente). So for a time, Arnold was a savior.
But in the world of politics, you must beware false gods. And thus was Arnold. The California GOP invested everything they had in Arnold. He was to balance the budget, kick some special interest butt and then still have time to hype his next movie. Suffice it to say that it didn’t work out that way. Cruising now below the dreaded 40% in job approval polls, he is despised by most in the state. Those “liberals” who crossed over to vote for him now see the folly in what they did. The special interests he was going to kick? Oh they were teachers and nurses,
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lauded teachers union leaders and educators last year for their “generosity and great vision” when they agreed to give up $2 billion in education funding to help balance the state budget.
This year, when the same coalition demanded that Schwarzenegger follow through with that deal and give more money to schools as he promised, he called them “special interests.”
But Arnold is the gift that keeps on giving for the Democratic Party. And oddly enough, it’s punctuated by the Rolling Stones:
Here’s the ticket: a private evening rockin’ the night away with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the kickoff of the Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang” U.S. tour on Aug. 21 at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Here’s the bottom line: $10,000 a pop to get in on a private preconcert reception and front-and-center seats to watch the show — or $100,000 to sit with the governor in his luxury box.
The eyebrow-raising event is one of a cluster of glitzy fundraisers the star-power governor will headline in the next few weeks as he seeks to arm his campaign fund with $50 million in preparation for the Nov. 8 special election — which will determine the fate of his political agenda and, observers say, his chances for re-election in 2006.
Thus, the special election on November 6, 2005 will probably determine the fate of the Arnold. And, for at least the time being, the fate of the California GOP turns on the fate of Arnold. It’s a delightful irony that the fact that they have Arnold made me want to throw things at the wall a year ago, but it now makes me smile.
And who do we have to thank for all this? I say it’s Gray Davis. The man who was underappreciated. The man who had the job that nobody should have wanted. California was hit by the sledge hammer of the bubble burst. And so was Gray Davis. He was not the most charismatic and perhaps he spent a bit too much time raising money. And for those sins he has paid dearly. But now the voters of California can see through the GOP, and transparency does not work well with them.
So we end where we started. The recall. So how are the voters feeling about that now?
Two years after Californians booted Gray Davis for being politically spineless –not to mention dull — the oft-ridiculed ex-Governor is suddenly aglow with vindication.
Amid the plummeting popularity ratings of his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, both a legal settlement and a documentary this summer attribute the state’s energy crisis four years ago less to Davis’ dithering and more to Enron’s market manipulation.
Of the 1,100 respondents in a recent online poll, 67% said they wouldn’t recall Davis now if given the chance.
This most cautious of Democrats these days seems candid and downright personable. “I do feel liberated,” Davis told TIME.
And now? Well, let’s get to work on ending the Governator’s political career on November 6.