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Conan the Barbarian at the Gates

What a Schwarzenegger victory will mean for the Democratic party.

8:00 AM, Oct 7, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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THIS IS THE PART in the movie when the battering rams smash through the besieged town's much-reinforced-but-nevertheless-crumbling wooden gates, and the outsiders pour through the breach and then over the walls to loot and pillage at will.

Arnold and his forces are at Sacramento's gates. Think Alexander and Thebes. The gutter politics of the last few days won't make the hand-over pretty. Gray Davis's allies knew better, but they threw in with a small-minded man whose greatest talents were fundraising and a seemingly limitless capability to hit low.

And these allies have clung to their old tactics even to the last. California Democratic party operative Bob Mulholland, quoted in the New York Times' yesterday on Sunday's huge pro-Arnold rally: "He doesn't draw as big a crowd as Hitler did." In many ways Mulholland has been the GOP's secret weapon throughout the campaign, reliably repulsing any audience who heard him. (I featured him for weeks on my radio show for that reason, until the dim bulb in Bob's head went off and he fled the format.)

The Los Angeles Times rushed to reinforce to the walls, but it was too late. Arnold has promised to rescind Davis's tripling of the car tax on his first day in office. Voters can thus chose a massive tax cut that will benefit them immediately or to credit the Los Angeles Times' charges of women claiming that Arnold harassed them (charges that oddly surfaced in the campaign's final 100 hours).

It has not proven a difficult choice.

With the expulsion of Davis almost certain, prepare for the Democratic meme that will follow in its wake.

(What is a "meme?" "Memes are contagious ideas, all competing for a share of our mind in a kind of Darwinian selection," according to MemeCentral.com. The term has spread virus-like through the blogosphere, and I wanted to use it once before, like "paradigm shift," it becomes an indictment of hopeless behind-the-timesism, and not simply a fancy way of saying "hot idea.")

The Democratic meme on Davis's fate? Some variation on the charge that the Republicans have again stolen an election. The thrust will be that the recall process, though spelled out in black and white in the state constitution, was not intended for the purpose it has served in 2003, and that its alleged perversion represents a new low for the GOP.

This intonation will overlook the fact that the recall is the marriage of a tax revolt and a good government purge of Sacramento. The pattern of protest from Democratic partisans is more interesting than this particular episode. We can now lay out that broad pattern:

Republicans rely on written rules and the judges who enforce them.

Democrats rely on unwritten rules and the judges who invent them.

Democratic analysis of the California recall will ignore what California attorney general Bill Lockyer (a Democrat) termed Davis's addiction to "puke politics," the illegal tripling of the car tax, and the repeated refusals of a half-dozen courts to rescue California Democrats in the way the New Jersey Supreme Court rescued Garden State Democrats by approving the Lautenberg-for-Torricelli trade last fall, or the attempted rewriting-on-the-fly of Florida election law by the Sunshine State's remarkable collection of supreme jurists. No, the refrain will be: "Republican plot, Republican plot, Republican plot."

The GOP can only hope that Democrats on the West coast as well as throughout the country embrace this mantra rather than a serious analysis of why Davis was thrown from office.

Like the virus in "28 Days," the Democratic addiction to rhetorical rage and the politics of personal destruction has quickly spread far beyond patient zero, Bill Clinton. It has now consumed the California Democrats. Next stop, Iowa.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.