As a political humorist (i.e., someone too lazy to pursue gainful employment), I’ve been longing for political turmoil. It didn’t have to be anything earthshaking, like Camryn Manheim doing high-impact aerobics; just something that could compete with that ridiculous Queer Eye for the Straight Guy show on NBC. Well, I believe my prayers have been answered in the form of the California gubernatorial recall election.
Ever since California courts certified the recall effort, the news from Sacramento has gotten weirder and weirder (and it was bizarre to begin with). Within days, hundreds of political unknowns announced their candidacies for governor of the nation’s most populous state. For example, three enterprising men named Gray Davis have filed to have their names placed on the ballot in an apparent attempt to win the governorship through name confusion.
However, perhaps even more strange are the celebrities who have thrown their hats into the ring. For instance, Gallagher has announced his candidacy. This will be a much needed career boost for the comedian who believes that smashing a watermelon with a sledgehammer qualifies as humor. In addition, Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, is running under a “pro porn” platform.
As for politicians entering the race, we have former spouses Michael and Arianna Huffington running. Likewise, Gary “I Didn’t Kill That Woman … Ms. Levy” Condit is considering running as a Democrat.
On the Republican side of the aisle, the situation is even more bizarre. Arnold Schwartzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan are locked in a battle of “You go first. No, you go first.” Apparently, Riordan is interested in running only if the Terminator doesn’t also run. On a side note, Schwartzenegger should be running from the millions of fans who paid $8.50 to see the latest movie in the Terminator series, T3: Rise of Your Popcorn.
So where does this leave California voters? It leaves them with the most interesting election ever. On October 7th, California voters may be faced with a ballot with up to 500 names on it. By comparison, the infamous butterfly ballot used in Florida in 2000 will seem like child’s play. In fact, the instructions for NASA’s Lunar Landing Module will be simple in comparison. In short, chances are excellent that this recall effort will be the greatest political debacle since Admiral Stockdale’s “What am I doing here?” speech at the 1992 Vice Presidential Debate.
This has led many Democrats in California to oppose the recall. They claim that recall is a Republican attempt to “steal” the governorship. Furthermore, they claim that the recall procedure will create chaos. However, I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I’m saddened that the party that calls itself “Democratic” has a problem with democracy in its purest form.
The simple truth of the matter is California’s recall election closely resembles the Founding Father’s view of an election. In the first presidential election, the electoral vote was split between twelve candidates.
In those days, you didn’t need the endorsement of a major political party to run for President. You simply needed courage, a good family name and a newly-sanded set of wooden teeth. Nowadays, things are not that simple. To even consider running for dog catcher in most counties, you need the endorsement of a major party (and not many other job prospects).
As a result, our political candidates have become as bland as the chicken at a Rotary Club luncheon (only not nearly as tough). This seems particularly true of the Democratic Party, which has nominated such “wild men” as Al Gore, Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale.
However, in the California recall election, we aren’t going to have pre-packaged candidates with years of grooming and training in the art of obfuscation. We are going to have “real” Americans running for office – pornographers, adulterers and basically anyone who can come up with the $3,500 filing fee.
In fact, if there is any drawback to the California recall process, it’s the process for getting on the ballot. To run for governor in this election, a candidate only needs to collect 65 signatures and pay the filing fee. Perhaps, we should increase the signature requirement by a factor of 10. After all, you can get 65 signatures at a single house in some neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
In any event, it wouldn’t take more than an hour to get these signatures by just standing in front of a donut shop. Obviously, it should require more than an hour of preparation to mount a campaign for the second most important elected position in America.
Nevertheless, the recall is going to be great for democracy. We are going to learn that not all candidates need to be boring (or even sane). Furthermore, we will have real choose in this election. And perhaps, most importantly, Arnold Schwartzenegger will be too busy to work on T4: Another $8.50 Down the Drain.
SEAN CARTER is a lawyer, comedian, public speaker and the author of If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? Your Humorous Guide to the Law. He can be reached at www.lawpsided.com.