Recall Elections

A Recall That Needs to Happen

Last week I mentioned my change of heart on secession. Now I have to backtrack on another long-standing principle: my opposition to recalls.

Actually, I still think that recall elections are absurd and even anti-democratic. Attempting to cast out an elected politician halfway through his term because you disagree with his policies is worse than bad sportsmanship. The threat of recall could prevent leaders from making serious attempts at reform. No, you just have to suffer through the term and hope to vote the sonofagun out.

On the other hand, recall efforts to oust corrupt politicians who refuse to give up their office even in the face of growing evidence that they are borderline (or not even borderline) criminals: I’ve got no problem with that.

So I am all aboard the DC Recall movement to get rid of Mayor Vincent Gray. For those who have not been following this story (and I suppose that entails just about everyone outside of the metro DC area), this story provides a succinct rundown of why Gray needs to go.

Three of the 12 members of the city council on Wednesday called for Gray to resign after it was revealed that supporters ran a shadow campaign on his behalf during the 2010 Democratic primary race against then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and did not properly report financial contributions.

Then on Thursday, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Nikita Stewart reported that Gray knew about unreported expenditures as far back as January — before federal law enforcement officials raided the homes and offices of consultant Jeanne Clarke Harris and businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, who is accused of spending $650,000 on the shadow campaign.

In addition, Harris pleaded guilty Tuesdayto spearheading the scheme and now faces three years in prison. She is the third person from Gray’s campaign to plead guilty.

We’ve known for a while that Gray was in trouble; now he’s fighting to keep his job.

By all means, please follow the links in the story if you have the time.

Gray is clinging to the argument that he had absolutely no knowledge of the shadow campaign. The mayor is also attacking those City Council members that are demanding his resignation.

Gray (D) appeared Friday morning on NewsChannel 8’s NewsTalk. HostBruce DePuyt asked Gray to respond to the resignation calls, which came Wednesday afternoon from David A. Catania (I-At Large), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

“I think it depends on which of the three you’re talking about,” Gray said.

Gray dismissed Catania’s critique as politically motivated: “Let’s be honest, David Catania is a Republican who became an independent. We forget that we have partisan politics in the District of Columbia. … He never supported me; he certainly didn’t support me in the election.”

Catania departed the GOP due to President Bush’s push for a constitutional amendment protecting marriage, so that gives you an idea of what kind of partisan hound he is. It’s true that Catania is the closest thing that comes to being a Republican on the City Council, but that simply shows how far left the Council has become.

That there are only three Council members seeking Gray’s ouster is an indictment of the rest of the Council. This was hammered home as I listened to at-large Council member Michael Brown spinning for Vincent Gray this morning on the radio. Instead of addressing the allegations, Brown decided to tapdance around the issue while waxing poetic about all the improvements the city has made. Not only was this beside the point, any credit for the city’s improvement must go to the previous two mayors, Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty, who have been about the only elected officials in the city who have had any sense of fiscal sanity. Listening to Brown inarticulately ramble for ten minutes caused me to quip on twitter that perhaps it’s time end home-rule for the District. I was only half-kidding.

So if the City Council is unwilling to do its job, it might be up to the citizens of the nation’s capital to throw Gray out on his behind. Then again, this is the same city that re-elected Marion Barry after he had been busted for possession of crack cocaine. Perhaps Washington isn’t the same city it was two decades ago, and maybe they are willing to finally let go of their corrupt elected officials.

Hmmm. I wonder what City Council member Marion Barry thinks about that?

Close, But No Cigar

Unions spent north of $30 million* in a recall effort in Wisconsin in order to gain control of the state senate.  Six Republican senators faced recall elections, and the Democrats needed to win three in order to win control of the upper house.  They won two.  What’s more, two senate Democrats face recall elections next week, and the GOP has a good chance to win at least one of those two races.  So, in the end, the unions would have spent $30 million to gain a whopping one seat.  Not a very good return on investment.

Evidently the “news” team at MSNBC was trying to spin this as a victory for Democrats, but that strains credulity past the breaking point.  Of the two seats they won, one was in a fairly Democratic district and the other involved a scandal-plagued senator.  In fact, as Ed Morrissey suggests, this should be seen as a big defeat for big labor.

Next Tuesday, two more recall elections take place for the state Senate, this time two of the fleabagger seats, thanks to the reaction from the GOP to the union’s efforts to recall Republicans.  It’s possible that the unions will go 0 for 3 in 2011 and end up handing back the two pickups they got last night.  The unions will have ended up spending millions to end up right where they began — locked out of Madison — while adding a powerful display of electoral impotence to their brand.  They have discredited themselves with Wisconsin voters in a way that Walker and the GOP couldn’t possibly have planned, the victim of their own arrogance in attempting to overturn elections for no other reason that protecting their own featherbeds.

Markos Moulitsas is pushing the kool-aid that this is a progressive victory over at Daily Kos.  It’s actually kind of cute to see a man so delusional.

Beyond Wisconsin, if we can enjoy a similar “loss rate” in Republican-held districts (picking up 33 percent of them), Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a huge majority in 2013.

Yes, because the rate of victory in a special election in one state featuring roughly 1/5 of one legislative chamber is clearly a sign of things to come.

It’s going to be a long year, and tens of millions of dollars of Koch money (in addition to hundreds of millions more from Rove and allies) are going to force us to fight like hell for every inch of territory. They won’t cede it willingly or fairly. They’ll do their best to cheat or buy whenever they feel they can’t win fairly.

This is going to be the rallying cry for progressives.  As always, they complain when people besides themselves actually spend money and campaign against their interests.  I get a particular sense of amusement from the bellyaching about the evil Koch brothers, because it’s not like the Democrats have their own deep-pocketed sugar daddy, right?  And really, do guys like Kos want to talk about cheating to win elections?

But I can understand Kos’s wishful thinking.  They were on the precipice of revolution.  That revolution was halted in the fall of 2010.  This election was to mark the turnaround that jumpstarted that revolution.  The good people of Wisconsin were to throw off the shackles of their tyrannical GOP overlords and send a stinging rebuke to the heart of that evil monster Scott Walker. The people would finally join the progressives and take the necessary step to inch them closer to the utopia.

And then the people of Wisconsin sort of yawned and said they’ll keep the government that they have, thank you very much.

Dagger.  So what’s left to do?  Admit defeat?  Acknowledge that maybe the populace isn’t as enamored with your lofty plans as you’d like?  What are you crazy?  No, it’s time to just double down, retrench, and like Homer Simpson  cry out that “It’s still good!  It’s still good!”

Whatever you say, Markos.

*: $30 million figure seems to be a combined spending figure.  Union amount was in the $15 million range, give or take.  Still a lot invested for little return.

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