California Recall Draws Praise, Jeers

“A circus” is what one P.H.D. student called this week’s controversial election in California that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor’s spot. Despite the publicity surrounding the event, only 40% of California’s 21 million eligible voters – that’s 60% of its 15 million registered voters – actually did the deed, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the end the score was 4,415,398 to 3,559,436 in favor of the movie star.

When approached, HBS students appeared to distance themselves from the event, citing a reluctance to be quoted or an absence of opinion on the subject. First year student Adam Marcus (NC) was disappointed, “particularly about what was revealed about his [Arnold’s] treatment of women.” Sebastien Brochet (NF), a first year MBA student from France, expressed approval for the recall as a democratic process “because it shows that everyone can becomePresident…it’s interesting to see citizens express their opinions. As a foreigner I don’t think that [Arnold] brings a lot of credibility – besides being a [movie] star he’s done nothing much politically.” Brochet also cited the lack of real political debate leading up to the recall as a disappointment. “I would have expected much more than that,” he said.

Professor Bruce Scott, who has written a number of books on the impact of public policy on business, was careful to distinguish this particular recall from whether the process itself is an effective mechanism to run the state:

“Look, this was a mechanism that was created around the turn of the century when big business controlled the legislature,” said Scott. “They decided we needed two remedies – the recall process and the power to initiate petitions. As a result, now you’ve got a bunch of half-a**** legislation that’s from an ignorant electorate and special interest groups.

For example, they gutted the property tax, meaning that 60% – 70% of the state’s budget is now out of legislators’ control.”

Scott does not care for Davis, however.

One of the real losers of the campaign appears to be the Los Angeles Times for a series of articles alleging that Schwarzenegger groped several women, among other things. The paper was widely perceived to have taken unfair shots at the candidate at a very late point in the campaign.

So far at least 1,000 people have canceled their subscriptions.

October 14, 2003
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