Land of the Free-for-All

So, Californians are going to decide whether to remove their hapless governor, Gray Davis, in a recall vote and elect a new one. The big date is Oct. 7, and the liberal elitists are shaking in their Ferragamo shoes.

Art Torres, California’s Democrat Party chairman, complains that the recall “just exacerbates the impression that we’re a bunch of wackos out here.”

Sorry, Art, but that impression exists because of what you and your party have done to California, not because the people, through lawful, civil and democratic means, have decided to reclaim their state.


The AFL-CIO, whose members have benefited mightily from the governor’s profligate spending, has warned any independent-minded Democrats: “We anticipate that you will work with us ... to maintain this clear, united message” of support for Davis. And Democrat National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe seeks to diminish the recall effort as a Republican coup, claiming that “it’s outrageous that someone can come up with a million dollars and undo an election. The voters aren’t going to let [the Republicans] hijack this election.”

What’s really bothering these folks is that they can’t control the process. The public has taken charge, and the liberal elite can’t stand it.

So the NAACP, led by longtime Democrats Kweisi Mfume and Julian Bond, went to court to block this election, claiming that minorities would be disenfranchised. Apparently Mfume and Bond prefer total disenfranchisement.

Davis himself unsuccessfully asked the judiciary to delay the election until March, hoping that the passage of time would diminish the public’s enthusiasm for his ouster.

And then there’s the effort to ridicule the process by focusing on some of the more absurd candidates. They include a smut peddler who cares, Larry Flynt. Now, if you think about it, is Flynt really that much different from Bill Clinton?

Actor Gary Coleman is throwing his hat in the ring. Yet isn’t Coleman as qualified to lead California as ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is to serve as commander in chief?

Citizens from all walks of life have lined up to run for governor, including some kooks. But so what? Kooks run in many elections. Some even manage to get elected. Take Congress, for example. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) once asked if the Mars Pathfinder took any pictures of the flag planted by astronauts in 1969 -- on the moon -- and has demanded that African American-sounding names be used for hurricanes. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Hayward) is given to challenging his colleagues to fisticuffs. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) applauded Osama bin Laden for his philanthropy. And the list goes on.

California has become a liberal laboratory of failed economic and social experiments. Davis and his overwhelmingly Democrat Legislature have turned this once-proud state into a banana republic, and the people have said enough is enough.

Republicans may have been among the most active supporters of the recall movement, but it would be a mistake to ignore its broad appeal. There have been more than 30 attempts to recall California governors, including Ronald Reagan. This is the first such effort to make it to the ballot. The reason: opposition to Davis is so widespread.

Californians are also voting with their feet. They are leaving the state in bigger numbers than citizens of other states are arriving. California’s population growth is because of the influx of immigrants -- many of them illegal. Davis’ answer is to increase taxes and cut basic services to the citizens, while increasing benefits for illegal immigrants -- including driver’s licenses, in-state college tuition benefits, etc.

Moreover, between 1998 and 2001, state spending increased more than 35%. California’s $38-billion shortfall was larger than the budgets of most states. California’s bond rating has been slashed, increasing the cost of its enormous debt. And during this time, Davis added more than 25,000 state employees to the public payroll.

Davis was slow to react to his state’s energy crisis for fear of offending the radical environmentalists. The infrastructure for energy production was incapable of meeting growing demand. He then purchased long-term energy contracts at top dollar, and spot market contracts during market peaks. The result: The public paid more for energy, yet faced rolling gray-outs.

The California recall effort is a legitimate, albeit extraordinary, public reaction to a complete deterioration in political leadership. It’s difficult to see how Governor (Fill in the Blank) could do much worse.

Rush Limbaugh is a radio talk-show host and commentator.