Democracy California-style

Listening to Arianna Huffington drop her candidacy one week before the California recall election jacked up her stature a few more notches in my book. The few minutes with Larry King showed not only an articulate, intelligent and persuasive Arianna, but also the strategist Arianna.

Many of us have been following her socio-political metamorphosis: from her early conservative days at Cambridge Union- Ms. Stassinopolous then; to her “seduction” by Newt Gringrich into rightwing Republicanism- Mrs. Huffington at that time; to the writer of the Overthrow the Government manifesto; to the populist-progressive she is today. Her advocacy now is more inclusive, sheltering the poor and politically-disenfranchised, and repudiating the oppressive forces of corruption and the status-quo. Not a heroine for CNBC cheerleaders and charlatans, that’s for sure.

Whether one views her about-face in politics as a metamorphosis or an epiphany matters little. It is her clear vision, and dissection of what is wrong in the body politic, that should withstand scrutiny, without much rumination as to why the change. Many of us have walked such a path and are thankful for any enlightenment life has thrust to our minds and to our hearts.

That same evening, while still chewing on the repercussions of a Davis’ recall in California, I received an e-mail from a friend, Arturo, who lives in Mexico City . It’s only a few times a year that we take the time to connect, a busy attorney he administers legal advice to a large and demanding American clientele. I met him while we both lived in California. Already a Mexican attorney, he was studying to get a law degree in the States. After passing the California Bar, he returned to Mexico with both new credentials and a wife.

Artie knows that I haven’t lived in California for many years, and that California politics are not a top priority with me. But he is enraged as to what is happening there, perhaps a “personal thing” considering that his wife, on the maternal side, is a sixth generation Californian. He writes:

“…I can understand this sort of thing [the recall] happening in a few other states, but California ? How can people be so blinded to the obvious?

“Californians were living a life-of-plenty and demanding more and more. And we all know that politicians in all parties aim to please. But if there were legislative excesses, lack of vision and preparedness for things to come, including Bush’s military fiasco and domestic economic agenda, that’s no reason to make phlegmatic Gray Davis a scapegoat.

“The Republican party has no place to go in California but down, given the political registration trends. One can understand that only scheming and conniving can get them their way. So Issa, Simon and the remnants of Pete Wilson’s gang build up this huge circus tent, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the poster clown… ready to turn him into a Bush marionette.

“The whole thing goes beyond my understanding, including your silence on the subject after having lived there for so many years. Are you afraid to enlist your pen for a noble cause, Ben?”

No, my dear Arturo, I am not afraid to enlist my pen. You will also see that I am not afraid to enlist yours either. I must add, however, that most political causes, when divorced from a program that helps society and not just the politicians, have little nobility in them. And what we are confronted with most of the time is a battle between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to see who gets the turn at the corruption rattle.

Regardless of what qualifications or level of integrity Arianna Huffington or Peter Camejo could bring to California… it is not their time, for there is no true legitimacy in a republic when the government, or its head, is being hijacked in the name of democracy, as with Gray Davis. Democracy, this time more than ever, is at the crossroads in the Golden State. It would be a sad day not only for Californians, but all Americans as well, if apathy in the citizenry became the winner on October seventh. True democracy can only be served by going to the polls and giving a resounding NO to the recall. And, for mob-insurance only, Cruz Bustamante must also be allowed a vote.

Arianna… maybe Gray Davis, assuming he clears this hurdle, will have his own epiphany and enlist you as an advisor; better yet, as an ombudsman to the good people of California who are giving him another chance. I’ll vote for that!