The Blog

Lost in Translation

Democrats think the recall revolution was about incumbents and the economy. Their reaction last night suggests they're in for a surprise in 2004.

8:07 AM, Oct 8, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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WITHIN MINUTES of the release of exit polls from California last night, Democrats had wheeled as one and began the hopeless attempt to spin the disastrous verdict. Senator Dianne Feinstein led the charge, but the refrain echoed throughout the party: This was a verdict on Davis's handling of the budget, a handling very similar to the fiscal mismanagement on the national level.

Howard Dean had the message on his website 18 minutes after the polls closed:

"Today's recall election in California was not about Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. This recall was about the frustration so many people are feeling about the way things are going. . . . Tonight the voters in California directed their frustration with the country's direction on their incumbent governor. Come next November, that anger might be directed at a different incumbent . . . in the White House."

This delusional spin is great news for Republicans across the country. Gray Davis was booted from office because he imposed a massive tax hike on all California drivers while fecklessly allowing illegal aliens to get drivers' licenses. Davis was all Clinton-Carville when it came to the politics of personal destruction, and he didn't bother to disguise his total dependence on Sacramento's iron triangle of special interests: Indian gambling, trial lawyers, and public employee unions.

All of which is obvious. But when Democrats reflexively reject even the obvious conclusions, they demonstrate a capacity for political suicide reminiscent of Britain's Labour party in the late '70s and early '80s. The refusal of Dean and other senior Democrats to understand Tuesday's vote is an almost certain indication of electoral disaster ahead.

AMERICANS are taxed too much, and lied to too often. The party of Clinton and McAuliffe remains addicted to trash politics, deceitful tactics, and lawyers' tricks--whether in the courtrooms of Florida or the Ninth Circuit. Disgust with the Democratic party's entire approach to politics is palpable, but Democrats have set their faces against it and now cling to a vision of higher taxes wrapped around incessant America-bashing.

Arnold surfed the wave of voter anger into office, and needs only do what he promised to do: Repeal the car tax via executive order. Speak plainly and often about special interest domination of Sacramento. Revoke the drivers' license bill, and push through genuine workers' comp reform.

He does need to keep conservatives close. They protected his right flank in the election, and need only to be recognized as a significant part of the governing coalition. For example, when Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court is confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit, Arnold should nominate a principled and credential conservative like my colleague John Eastman. With a few high profile appointments, Arnold will solidify the GOP behind him. The first time he leaves the state to campaign and raise money on behalf of a GOP candidate for a U.S. Senate seat, even McClintock die-hards will recognize the wisdom of supporting Arnold.

And when George W. Bush next arrives in the Golden State, to be greeted by Governor Schwarzenegger and thousands of energized volunteers, Democrats may finally begin to understand that willful avoidance of facts changes neither the facts nor the political dynamics that flow from them.

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.