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If at First You Don’t Succeed, then Impeach, Steal and Recall

August 7th, 2003

Various long-term strategies have emerged from the Republican party over the past many years. First it was stealing the language; remember “the L-word”? It sounded silly, but look at all the liberals who call themselves “progressives” nowadays. I felt sick every time a liberal politician fervently denied being a liberal, as if it were some kind of malady; they bought into the language control. Remember the memo to GOPAC from Newt Gingrich, in which Republican politicians were instructed to use specific language when referring to themselves and to Democrats? When speaking of GOP candidates and policies, they were told to use words like “active,” “moral” and “empower”; when speaking of Democratic politicians and their policies, they were told to use words such as “radical,” “abuse” and “decay.”

The came the scandal-mongering. When Clinton came into office, the charge to smear him in every and any way possible came on full-force, and every allegation, rumor and hint of scandal was met with Republican talking heads calling for special prosecutors (see David Brock’s account of the debacle). Feeling burned over having suffered special prosecutors for such trivial things as violating and weakening our foreign policy by selling arms to Iran to pay off hostage takers, GOP dirty trick committees made sure that Clinton was investigated for serious offenses, such as boffing an intern.

Now, the GOP has a new strategy: if you want to gain a political office, but there’s the inconvenient obstacle of a duly elected Democrat occupying the job, then do everything you can to take the office by force.

In an effort to weaken the presidency for a GOP takeover in 2000, Republicans forced an impeachment vote over Clinton’s lying about an affair under oath in a ginned-up sexual harassment case funded and run by Clinton’s political enemies. Then in 2000, when Bush lost the election, the GOP jumped into full gear to steal the election for Bush, sending staff workers to Florida to impersonate irate Floridians, stopping vote counts at every turn, and finally getting the Supreme Court to (s)elect Bush against precedent and against states’ rights policies so beloved by the right wing, voting Bush into office 5-4, strictly along political lines.

And now we have the recall in California, an attempt to steal the governorship of the union’s most populous state by throwing money and political gamesmanship into the ring. Bush tried to characterize this coup d’etat as “the people’s choice.” If you know anyone naive enough to believe that this is a democratic process driven by the popular will, then please send me their email address; I have thirty million dollars in a bank in Nigeria and I need their help.

The process began this February, when a group called “People’s Advocate” started a drive to recall Davis. By May, the drive was going nowhere fast. In steps Darrel Issa, a self-styled “staunch conservative.” Issa, now a Representative from San Diego, made his fortune selling car alarms, and has a rather questionable past record involving car theft. But he also has tons of money (he says he is worth $100 million), and he started making six-figure contributions to the recall effort. That jump-started it, and Issa kept coughing up cash (now more than a million dollars, with $1.5 million in total funding the drive) until enough signatures were collected.

And now we have the celebrity factor–Arianna Huffington and Arnold Schwarzenegger have entered the race as serious contenders (I don’t think anyone is really taking Gary Coleman or Larry Flynt too seriously, and let’s not even talk about Gallagher). Furthermore, there is a big political soap opera developing as legal challenges to the recall effort fly through the courts, while a double-whammy ballot (one vote on whether or not to recall, and another vote on who is elected to replace Davis if the recall goes through) which will be closely watched for any butterfly-ballot irregularities, to be certain. And remember, this vote will be a plurality–the one with the most votes wins, even if it is below 50%.

In case you’re thinking that this is no big deal–after all, it’s just a governorship–just remember the difference that was made by having Jeb Bush in office in Florida. Aside from using the power of the office to campaign for Bush, Republicans took advantage of the political authority of key positions in the state to hand the state to George W.; Katherine Harris alone, by “erroneously” kicking tens of thousands of Floridians off the voting lists–most of them African-Americans and Democrats–as “suspected felons,” cost Gore thousands of legitimate votes, far more than enough to shift the election to Bush, even if the other massive irregularities that all just happened to favor Bush are discounted. Had Republicans not held the governorship of Florida, then Gore would be president as we speak. You can bet your bottom dollar that this fact is not lost on the GOP as it tries to steal the governorship of California in time for the 2004 election campaign. Imagine the glee of the far right if they could use the publicity of having Schwarzenegger in office campaigning for Bush, as Republican staffers and appointees undermine the voting process as they did so thoroughly in Florida.

Having control of California, Texas, Florida and New York will help Bush steal win the next election far more easily.

So if you live in California and are not a registered voter, then register; if you are registered, then vote, and vote down the recall.

Also mark in your vote for Huffington, just in case. She’s cool.

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