An announcement should be forthcoming this Thursday from California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley that enough petition signatures have been collected to force an election to recall Gov. Gray Davis. And as we hurtle toward that unprecedented opportunity to can the state's top executive, the people who have the ability to dramatically alter the situation should pause and think, for a moment, of the big picture.
The Democrats who have the Governor's ear should start whispering into it: "Give up, sir. You've lost. Pardon me, Mr. Governor, but the people can't stand you, and even if you manage to prevail in the recall, it will only be because the voters fear the alternative. They'll still hate you. Do the right thing, sir-step down and hand the office to Cruz Bustamante."
Who knows, maybe this is already happening. Perhaps the Democrats are pleading with our stubborn Governor to fall on his sword. But we seriously doubt it. Davis and the Democrats are too arrogant to consider such a thing. There's no way Davis will volunteer to stagger into history in shame, head down, tail between his legs.
But that's exactly what he should do-for the benefit of everyone.
The poll numbers tell the story: Davis has taken disfavor to new heights, and he's despised not just by Republicans but by everyone-whites, blacks, Latinos, men, women, Democrats and Republicans. They don't think the Republicans are simply out to reverse the election they lost last year; they truly believe Davis has "mismanaged" his office. People aren't enamored with the choices they have right now for a replacement-Darrell Issa, Bill Simon, The Terminator, etc.-but they still want Davis out.
The people of California are blaming Davis for everything. They pretty much believe he ruined public education, caused the energy crisis three years ago, drove the state's economy into the ground and shot John F. Kennedy. The truth is that public education was sputtering when he found it; he merely worsened the energy crisis; he didn't single-handedly destroy the economy (but he certainly played a major role); and we're just not sure about JFK.
The point is, the real truth doesn't matter. The bottom line is that in terms of leadership, Californians think Davis is a bust. And they're right. If he ever had an ethical bone is his body, he must have had it surgically removed years ago to make room for more wads of campaign cash. He's a political whore who'll do anything for money. And by many accounts, he's a jerk who makes life hell for anyone who works for him.
It's time for Gray to wander off into the sunset.
But we at CityBeat can't get behind a costly recall election that steals the attention of both the public and the state's leaders away from the real problems California faces and offers no acceptable alternative. Polls show former L.A. Mayor Dick Riordon and The Terminator running neck and neck in the lead among the Band of Goofy Republicans. Riordon borders on palatable; The Terminator is wholly unsatisfactory.
Democrats have an ideal opportunity to make the Republicans' recall campaign a gigantic waste of Darrell Issa's money. They should urge Davis to resign, thereby handing the governorship to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat. That'll be fine with the public because he passes the main test-he's not Gray Davis.
That scenario will keep the office out of the clammy hands of the Republicans until 2006, and by then the economy might be in better shape and voters will be happy to allow the Democrats to hang on to the reins until at least 2010. Voters don't want Republicans in high state office-California's version of the GOP tends to be too far to the right-that's why we keep electing Democrats.
But alas, Davis hates Bustamante. The Lieutenant Governor will be handed the keys to the governor's office only over Davis' dead body.
That's a shame. Because the alternative is a smelly choice between three and a half more years of the Davis era and three and a half years-maybe more-of mean-spirited conservative Republicanism. Yuck.