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Sunday, August 24, 2003

First Principles

Bill Simon Jr., one of the best-known Republicans in the recall election for California governor, dropped out of the race today, saying that the defeat of Gov. Gray Davis was more important than his personal ambitions.

Mr. Simon had come under intense pressure from fellow Republicans in recent days to withdraw from the contest to avoid splintering the Republican vote


… on Friday, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a group of wealthy conservative Republicans, unanimously endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger and urged Mr. Simon, Senator McClintock and Mr. Ueberroth to step aside. Also on Friday, the Republican leader of the State Senate, Jim Brulte, warned that there were too many Republicans in the race and that some would have to drop out to avoid handing victory to Mr. Davis or Mr. Bustamante.

We had a little dust up, if you recall, during the last election when the Democrats put the heat on Bob Torricelli to resign 36 days before the election so that they could replace him on the ballot with someone who could win. The Republicans went into their patented phony ape-shit mode, screaming about the rule-‘o-law-blah-blah-blah, sore-loserman, blah, blah blah.

The reasons as to why this action was so outrageous numbered in the hundreds.

Sullivan said
that the health of the body politic required that Torricelli should have been forced to stay on the ballot so he could be ritually humiliated.

George Will fulminated
that “election laws are supposed to be exacting so they can prevent just such last-minute frenzies by people frightened of losing. Yet today Democrats are asserting this principle: Anytime--even just 36 days before an election--a party has discouraging polls about a candidate, that party can replace him.”

Jonathan Last boldly asserted that “the Democrats haven't just become Nixon, they've become the exaggerated liberal nightmare version of Nixon: Today Democrats are what they believe Nixon was.”

But, despite their varying objections, there was one overriding matter of principle that every last Republican agreed upon, --- a matter so serious and of such fundamental importance to our system that any legalistic hairsplitting or judicial interpretations of it are, by their very nature, antithetical to the practice of democracy.

This principle is not, you understand, that old liberal clap trap about “counting all the votes” or “whoever wins the most votes wins” or even something silly like “short of incapacity or corruption, office holders who have been certified in a legal election should be allowed to serve their entire term.” These are nice concepts but they don’t carry any serious philosophical weight.

No, Republicans hold that the single most important principle upon which our electoral system rests is the sanctity of the arbitrary deadline which under no circumstances shall ever be overruled, even if it conflicts with another arbitrary deadline, is incomprehensibly vague or was instituted by the legislature for purely administrative purposes that had no bearing on anyone but a couple of election workers in outlying suburbs (if anyone can even remember why it was instituted in the first place.)

If an arbitrary deadline is on the books it is sacrosanct under any and all circumstances and no court in the land has a right to tamper with it.

This is because a deep and abiding fidelity to bureaucratic timetables that mean absolutely nothing is the very foundation of our democracy. You can look it up.

It explains why we hear no similar indignant outcry from George Will about “last-minute frenzies by people frightened of losing” at the sight of another weeping conservative being muscled out of the recall on a daily basis. (Lock up your horses, Uberroth.)

You see, the GOP outrage at the Torricelli matter was never about the fact that national Democrats so desperately wanted to keep that seat that they strong-armed their weak candidate to step aside to make way for a stronger contender. The Republicans admittedly did that very thing today in California, so they onviously don't have a problem with it. And, it certainly wasn’t about a corrupt politician being forced to stay the course and face the music --- after all, his opponent had been calling for Torricellis resignation for a solid month before he actually did it.

No, the egregious violation was going past the sacred 51 day deadline for replacing a name on the ballot. When the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the right of the Democratic party to have a candidate in the race superceded this holy edict (the other side argued that the Democrats had to forfeit the race), the Republicans erupted in righteous fury at the Nixonian dirty tricksters.

Lucky for them that this is California and not New Jersey. There aren’t any more hallowed deadlines that prevent them from forcing the non-muscled Austrian GOP candidates drop out of the race so that the Republican Party can take a mulligan and try again to win the seat they legally and legitimately lost 9 short months ago.

Hell, here they could put the thumb screws to Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman just for kicks right up until the polls open --- just 45 days from today.