Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Davis Descending LV: Recounting One's Owns Demise

California is about to hold its recall election - in which much voting has already taken place.

California has a Democratic Governor for the moment. It also has two solidly Democratic houses in its legislature and a Democratic Secretary if State. Indeed all state wide offices are held by Democrats. The counties and cities, including Los Angeles, in which the American Civil Liberties Union claimed voting technologies disadvantage "minorities" (a term quaintly not used by the ACLU to include white men, for example) are almost entirely run by Democrats.

In short, this is an election whose significant operational mechanics and procedures are almost entirely under the control of liberal Democrats who are opposed to the recall and are performing their functions grudgingly - and against their political convictions.

Yet, the Democratic Party and the ACLU are making flamboyant preparations to bog the entire election down in litigation:

Setting the stage for a post-election legal challenge to the recall vote, Democrats are set to launch a national fund-raising campaign today to help pay for any legal action needed if Tuesday's election on Gov. Gray Davis' future is close. .... "We're preparing for every possibility," said Peter Ragone, communications director for Davis' anti-recall campaign. ... [S]tate party spokesman Bob Mulholland said when asked whether the conduct of the voting may spark yet another legal challenge. "We're going to do everything that's legal to have the votes counted in California, and we're putting the Republicans on notice that we're prepared for their goon tactics this time."

But we are apparently supposed to believe that this litigation effort pushed by the communications director for Davis' anti-recall campaign and his own party spokesman is not, in fact, coming from the Governor himself!

The Democratic governor sought to distance himself Tuesday from such plans, saying he was "unaware" of any effort that would end up in court after the election. "I'm focused on winning the recall, not winning it in a legal challenge," Davis said in response to a reporter's question at a campaign appearance in Los Angeles.

Particularly hilarious is the way the Sacramento Bee offers the distinction between Governor Davis and his communications director as one that might be taken seriously, but largely conflates the ACLU and the Democratic Party, with any distinctions between them apparently so insignificant as not to warrant mention:

The Democrats' strategy appears to be aimed at ensuring that evidence of any irregularities at polling places Tuesday is documented for use in court.

The recall election already has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, most notably over the fact that six counties plan to use punch-card ballot machines on Tuesday -- the same type that resulted in the prolonged fight during the 2000 presidential election in Florida over "hanging chad."

The ACLU and other groups contended that the use of those machines in the counties, including Sacramento, could result in many votes not being properly counted. The six counties account for about 40 percent of the state's voters. ... [T]he ACLU ... did not preclude itself from filing a challenge after the election...

Legal experts said Tuesday that if the vote is extremely close on the first part of the ballot -- which asks whether Davis should be retained -- those issues could end up in court again.

Certain basics seem to elude the Democrats and the ACLU. Their litigation preparation is not justified by any extraordinary risk of election irregularities. Those preparations will be seen by many people as indicating that some entrenched Democrats are far too willing to challenge elections. South Dakota Republicans, for example, figured this out when they decided not to challenge the very close and possibly irregular reelection of the junior Senator from that state. Public reaction to the recent ACLU experience before the Ninth Circuit - which corresponded to a serious decline in Governor Davis' poll numbers - should have been enough local warning.

If this election, which is being run almost entirely by liberal Democratic politicians and their appointees, warrants such extensive litigation plans by Democrats then every election at which there is much at stake does. The public does not and will not agree. If the Democrats and the ACLU do force the election in litigation, the consequences will be probably very much to the Democrats' public disadvantage.

Further, notwithstanding the media's and Governor's attempt to recast this as a "two-man-race," the California constitution still divides the ballot into two questions (1) Davis, yes or no? and (2) if Davis is removed, then who do you want?

That means that if the vote is extremely close on the first part of the ballot -- which asks whether Davis should be retained - a legal challenge will pit Mr. Davis against the voting public. He can't "distance himself" from the litigation and has no "opponent" at all.

Other than the people of California.

To the extent one combines the two questions, one of Governor Davis' biggest "semi-opponents" is his own lieutenant governor who is now transparently supporting the recall. Yet it is Republican "thuggery" that is suppose to justify dragging all this into court in the case of a close election on Question #1?

Is that how the Democratic Party plans to keep itself going in California?

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