Big Daddy

Ask Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,

We can't just recall every politician who takes a position we don't like. It's such an obviously opportunistic power grab and possible payback for the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis that I am embarrassed to be a registered Democrat.

–Elizabeth Gage

Dear Liz,

How do you tell when a president has left behind lame-duck status and finally just invested in a wheelchair? They gain this sudden obsession with trying to fix all the problems that have been festering in the Middle East since God was a toddler. It's all about obsessing over your legacy-and it guarantees that your last days are spent looking like a doddering old fool who was asleep at the wheel, turn signal on, no matter what you accomplished…just like the last outgoing president.

But that's not our situation here. Because there's another group: those rare leaders who actually have a legacy-a use their last days taking a hacksaw to it. Say, completely theoretically speaking, a Senate Pro Tem known as a strong leader who oversaw getting the bonds passed, fixed the Bay Bridge and was involved in the assault weapons ban. And picture this leader taking his dwindling political capital and expending it on a grudge that folks around here would have mostly forgot about by now otherwise.

Now let's imagine that this leader-let's call him some random, made-up name, say "Don Quixote-Perata"-hops astride his faithful steed and…I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you put a beanie on Jeff Denham, he'd look an awful lot like a windmill.  

As a former legislator, I have a legislator's biases. Which means that if there's one thing I hate more than term limits, it's a recall. Personally, I think that when voters step in the booth, many of them worse choices than my daughters did when choosing boyfriends (or, to be fair, worse than my girlfriends did when choosing me). One of the basic tenets of democracy is that it is inclusive…of morons. Once those morons make their choice, it up to the rest of us to respect their execrable, detestable, idiotic decisions (keeping in mind they think the exact same about you).

Though if you're a Democrat, a lot of California voters have made a lot worse decisions than Jeff Denham. Such as those who chose every other GOP senator this side of ready willing and Abel to cross party lines Maldonado. Heck, Denham wasn't even part of the GOP in-crowd until Perata gave him a popularity injection. I didn't agree with Denham-or any of the rest of the Gang of 14-when he held up the budget, but as the we-owe-everybodies trickled in over the last few months, I could at least see their point.

None of which gets to the main reason why I don't like this recall. I'm not even going to go on about how "two wrongs don't make a right" or "we're not the party of petty recalls." The crass opportunism of trying to use one flawed process to fix another flawed process-the 2/3 budget vote-doesn't bother me a bit. The vindictive use of legislative power to harass someone over a personal vendetta? Sign me up. I'll keep score and cheer you on.

No, what bothers me about this recall is that it doesn't have Gray Davis' chance in biker bar of succeeding. First, it lacks a sellable sin. We can argue all day long-and have-over whether the energy crisis was Davis' fault. But voters saw their lights flicker. Budget standoffs and payday loans for state workers? Just part of the background noise of everyday political cynicism emanating from some far-off backwater called Sactown.

Second, it lacks a brand name on a shining white hummer. Amidst the triumphalism among the GOP a few years back was a reluctance to admit an incorrigible truth: voters didn't so much recall Gray Davis as elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. Leave Schatzi off the menu, and Davis might have spent 2006 lounging around the Horseshoe musing over which Dem to anoint for a November walk in the cake. Whether your association with Schwarzenegger was "finally a reason to vote" or "please tell me this is a joke," you had a strong reaction. Simon Salinas? Nice guy, skilled politician, and utterly impossible to find on IMDB. 

I like Perata. I really do. This is not the end I pictured for one of the toughest enforcers the leg has seen since, well, me. Maybe something more like him sitting around a diner with Sandi Polka, Greg Schmidt and his son Nick, "Don't Stop Believing" blaring on the jukebox…


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