Man Without Qualities

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Anti-Incumbent Fever? California Voters Can Just Look Down The Hall.

A theme has begun to circulate in some quarters that the big Republican/Schwarzenegger win is not really a big Republican/Schwarzenegger win at all - but, rather, a sign of a more general anti-incumbent fever that will hurt, say, President Bush, if it persists. This theme takes various forms, some more disguised than others, but all leading to the same conclusions. For example, here is a somewhat tricked-upped example from the Los Angeles Times:

[M]any Democrats, as well as some independent analysts, believe the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis may weaken the president's position in the state by allowing anger over the faltering California economy to shift from Davis to Bush.

"If the economy doesn't turn around and our federal and state deficit continue to show signs of not coming under control, that kind of voter anger is going to be transferred from one place to the next," says Mark Baldassare, a public opinion analyst at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Setting aside for the moment the whole concept of metempsychosis of voter anger on which this particular example bottoms itself, one might well ask: Assuming the "anti-incumbency" theme is correct, who is most at risk?

The "many Democrats, as well as some independent analysts" focus on President Bush. But California voters don't have to go so far as Washington to transfer their anger "from one place to the next."

Instead (or, in addition), the voters can transfer their anger to the overwhelmingly Democratic and hopelessly irresponsible California legislature - which is just down the hall from the Governor's office they just repopulated. The legislature is up for re-election next year - and the whole state budget fight has to be refought then, too.

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