BROTHER. The California recall election is one West Coast trend that the rest of America should hope never makes its way across the country.
Why movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger set aside a great acting career to jump into politics is beyond me. Maybe because he could afford to - he used $10 million of his own money to fund his campaign.
But chances are whatever adoring public he may have now will turn sour before it's over now that he's a politician.
California voters dissed Democratic Gov. Gray Davis by wading through 135 candidates' names to vote for their man or woman. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, starts a new chapter for the Kennedy family's role in politics. The governor-elect is married to Maria Shriver, a Kennedy and a Democrat.
But it's unclear just what the victory for the Austrian immigrant means for U.S. politics. What's certain is that the other 49 governors might have new reason to worry. With every state in economic anguish, voter unrest could incite more recall elections.
“The whole idea of career politicians and the old guard has suffered a big blowout tonight,” said Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton. “I happen to think, though, that it was done in a wrong way and it will lead to a result that will come back to haunt people.”
California voters were displeased with Mr. Davis' leadership, which led to the $10 billion budget gap, the poor economy, and the need for jobs.
However, the gubernatorial recall election wasn't the first. The state of North Dakota once fell on hard times after a prosperous period. In 1921 voters there recalled Gov. Lynn Frazier. The next year he won a U.S. Senate seat, which he held for the next 18 years. So it's possible that Mr. Davis could redeem his political career yet.
Californians were so angry that from 65 percent to 70 percent of the state's 15.3 million registered voters went to the polls. Did fascination with the movie star or disgust with Mr. Davis send them to the polls? Maybe some of both.
“As long as it's not Gray Davis, it doesn't matter who it is,” Maria Corpuz, a legal assistant in L.A., told Reuters.
But it does matter, and although voters preferred Mr. Schwarzenegger, some worry that he is not a professional politician, even though the election outcome didn't reflect that concern. With 59 percent of Californians voting to recall Mr. Davis, they gave the governor-elect 3,743,393 votes, or 49 percent. The lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, trailed Mr. Schwarzenegger with 31 percent of the votes.
“I think people are disappointed that somebody with so little experience and such an undefined agenda would be put in a position to lead the state at such an important time,” said Matt Graves, a public relations executive in San Francisco. He said the absence of admiration for Mr. Davis “doesn't eliminate the need for a governor with the experience and credentials to effectively run the state.”
Indeed, you can't ignore that the election went off without much of a hitch. Some voters were disgruntled because the state combined polling places in the wake of the shortage of cash and time to prepare for the election. In Los Angeles County, nearly 5,000 polls were merged into 1,800. Still, it appears that voters found the right locations.
The fear that minorities would be disenfranchised because error-prone punch-card ballots would be used in areas with large minority populations was not realized and did not become a fiasco like the one in Florida three years ago.
So kudos to the U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals for allowing the election to go forth on Tuesday, instead of in March, when California must replace outdated voting methods with new technology. Surely Californians are glad the election is over. Now they can get busy saving their state.