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Meaning in the Recall?

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Roger Simon writes that the results of the California recall signal a sea change in American politics.

What we are witnessing is the beginning—the early movement–in the death of the two-party system as we know it. This is a revolt of the pragmatic center. And that is a good thing for the American people because those parties and the media that feed on them have indeed become a form of nomenklatura. They depend on each other. They are the mutual gate keepers of an old and sclerotic bureaucracy from which their jobs flow in a system of patronage as elaborate as the Czar’s. No wonder watching CNN tonight I felt as if I were watching a wake. They are threatened by what is going on—as they should be.

Perhaps. Call me skeptical, but I think that similar sentiments have been voiced in the flushed moments after any “outside” candidate wins or seizes a sizeable chunk of the vote (Ross Perot in ’92, anyone?). When Jesse Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota, there were some that thought the “Reform Party” might actually have another viable candidate for president. Well, Jesse split the party, and essentially ended his political career as a “one hit wonder.” When the Republicans took over both houses of Congress a few years ago, it was heralded as the “Republican Revolution,” but politicians still have to play it pretty close to the center in order to be successful.

The real meaning of the recall is, I fear, a bit more prosaic. Of course, I’m not so certain it is possible to draw realistic conclusions about the “meaning” or “impact” of an election until the glow has faded a bit. But if you compare this result to some in the past, I really wonder if it is possible to draw any other conclusion than that it represents little more than another instance of the “angry voter syndrome.” Go back to 1992, when many voters unhappy with the economy (“It’s the economy, stupid”) chose to vote for Perot. Were those “angry voters” any different than the ones who apparently voted Davis out of office and installed the Terminator?

Populist – i.e., unproven, outside – candidates often succeed in times when voters are frustrated and feel that the status quo isn’t working for them. To me, that’s what the California recall reflects: that Californians faced with a host of statewide economic problems essentially said, “He can’t do any worse.” I’m really not certain that it means much more than that.

Note: The author wastes a fair amount of time blogging about a variety of topics at Walloworld, where this post originally appeared.

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About Bill Wallo

  • Eric Olsen

    Bill, another good one. I happen to agree completely that it means little other than ABD (anyone but Davis), and who had the name recognition? Who better to rub “the politicians'” noses in it? On top of that Arnold is totally centrist, right down the middle, especially for California: fiscal conservatism, social liberalism. SOS is more like it.

  • The death of the two-party system? A great thought and a fine wish. But if done through the taking-charge of centrists, that would mean more hell for those of us on the left and right who distrust the Democrats, the Republicans, and the centrists.