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Voters made right choice in recall

Guest Column, Jeff Ackerman

So much for “expert media analysis.” Most all of the Talking Heads and Political Pundits (including yours truly) were wrong about this recall election. As usual, we underestimated the electorate.

Let’s start with the “forever” part, as in, “It will take forever to count these ballots because there are so many names on it!”

Polls closed last Tuesday at 8 p.m., and a winner was announced 60 seconds later. And our own Elections Office, headed by Lorraine Jewett-Burdick, performed flawlessly.

Or … remember this one? “It will take forever to vote because there are so many names on the ballot that voters will be inside the voting booth for an hour and maybe even starve to death and … and … it’s soooooo complicated!”

How about eight seconds. That’s how long it took me to vote, from the time I closed the curtains to the time I opened them again. Punch, punch, punch and punch, and I was out of there. It took me longer to pick my Super Lotto numbers on the way home.

Anyone who says the punch-card ballots are too tough to figure out ought to be put to sleep. And, yes, that includes the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who seems to be on hand whenever there are more than 10 television cameras gathered in one place.

Then there was the theory that “this is undemocratic because the winner could get fewer votes than the ‘No’ on recall and Arnold will steal the governor’s mansion just like George Bush stole the White House and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!”

Sorry. That didn’t happen, either. More people voted for Arnold (3.7 million) than voted for the “No on Recall” (3.6 million). There’s a very good chance that Arnold would have beaten Davis in a straight-up, face-to-face, no-holds-barred election. With one hand tied behind his back and the other holding a rocket launcher.

Finally, there was the Right Wing Conspiracy theory, as in, “This recall is just a right-wing plot to take over California, and … and … it’s all about oil!”

Lots of good Democrats also favored the recall and even voted for Arnold.

What Tuesday taught me was:

1. Californians are smart enough to know when the captain of the ship is lying about the holes in the bow. “Ignore the water filling the lower decks!” shouted Captain Davis. “There is nothing to worry about! Everything is under control!”

2. Californians are smart enough to know the difference between a leader and two weak-kneed bureaucrats. When times are tough, it’s nice to know that the guy in charge isn’t sneaking out the back door with a briefcase full of cash.

3. Californians are smart enough to see through a phony, and Bustamante is a phony. On Tuesday night he was a phony with no class. His “concession” speech (“I-wasn’t-really-running-for-governor-I-just-wanted-to-defeat-Proposition 54”) was an embarrassment that hopefully put a missile into his political career. His corner office will be a lonely place in an Arnold Capitol Building for the next three years. But most of us wonder what a lieutenant governor actually does all day anyway. Maybe Arnold can give him some stamps to lick.

4. We wondered whether California would be better off after the recall, suggesting that it was a bad idea. Well … we are, and it wasn’t. The new governor has already ordered a long-overdue independent audit of California, one that I’m certain will reveal enough waste to fertilize Nebraska.

5. Californians don’t mind paying taxes so long as they believe the money is going to a good cause. Indian casinos and union bosses don’t fall under that category.

6. The recall initiative process has a few holes in it. The biggest one is timing. Gray Davis was fired last Tuesday. Why is he still making decisions? Why is he still hiring people? There ought to be some language that prohibits a recalled public official from doing anything more than packing, unless there is an emergency that requires him to actually make a management decision. “Earthquake! Run for the hills!” for example. And don’t tell me every outgoing governor does it. None of them were recalled.

7. Californians (at least 3.7 million of them) don’t care what Arnold did when he was 25 and filled with steroids. They were smart enough to see through the allegations of “anonymous” women reported by a newspaper that endorsed Davis the day before. If Arnold did, in fact, act inappropriately toward a woman in the “late 1970s,” why did she wait 25 years and a couple of weeks before his election to report it? And … why didn’t the Los Angeles Times also investigate Davis? His “office manners” have been well-documented, and the Times was reportedly well aware of the allegations surrounding Davis’ belligerent treatment of his own staffers. He was allegedly very fond of the “F-Bomb” that he tossed around during his frequent office temper tantrums. One female staffer was reportedly so traumatized after being shoved by Davis that she started working from home.

In the end, Californians voted for strength and determination. The new governor’s life has been a testimonial to both. If given half a chance by the to-date ineffective and unresponsive Legislature, he may actually deliver on his promise to “Pump Up California.”

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The Union newspaper in Grass Valley.


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