The polls don’t close for another nineth minutes and the count will take hours, but I see no reason to disblieve either Drudge or the exit polls he reports: the recall will pass comfortably and Schwarenegger will crush Bustamante.
There’s lots of blame to go around: Schwarzenegger for running such an intellectually dishonest campaign, the press for not calling him on it, the California Broadcaster’s Association for setting up the one debate format he could survive, the press again for being so slow and lax in unearthing the skeletons in his closet, the bloggers and talk-radio hosts who falsely portrayed Bustamente as some sort of ethnic separatist, Susan Estrich for deciding that the weekend before the election was a good time to give aid and comfort to the enemy, the “family values” Republicans for cynically embracing the permissiveness they pretend to hate as long as it involves a Democrat, Cruz Bustamante for taking Richie Ross’s horrible campaign advice and Ross for offering it, Gray Davis for refusing to endorse Bustamante in Round II and thus making a truly united front for the Democrats impossible, &c, &c, &c.
But the people I’m maddest at right now are the national and state Democratic leaders, including Bill Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, who decided that the voters of California would not be allowed a decent alternative to their current coin-operated governor. The calculation couldn’t have been more cynical: “Californians hate Davis, but if we confront them only with choices that are even worse they will, once again, grit their teeth and vote for him again.”
Well, it didn’t deserve to work, and it didn’t work. The Darrell Issa/Wilson/Quackenbush/ developer/Rove/Schwarzenegger coup didn’t deserve to work either, and the people of California don’t deserve being stuck with him, but there’s some satisfaction, however grim, in not having allowed ourselves to be rolled once again.
In a state with 35 million inhabitants, half of them Democrats, it should have been possible to come up with at least one candidate for governor who didn’t make you want to vomit. The party sachems who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get that person on the ballot had a pouding coming to them, and today they got it.
And for God’s sake let’s not hear any nonsense about another recall drive. Even if the signatures could be gathered, the voters would laugh at it, and at the people who have spent the last six months arguing that recalls are undemocratic but now decide that only recalls against Democrats are undemocratic. Let Schwarzenegger deal with the budget mess, and concentrate on having a decent candidate — not, for example, Bustamante or Lockyer — to run against him in 2006.
And to those of you who spent today pounding the pavement and running the phone banks in what was almost certainly a doomed cause: Stand tall. A year from now, many of the people who voted today are going to wish they’d listened to you.