The idiom, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions", comes to mind when considering both the transformation of California's Republican Party and the Golden State's gubernatorial Recall process since first established by voters on Oct. 10, 1911. Both transformations point to the need for California to either significantly reform or eliminate gubernatorial Recalls altogether.
Our state's Recall process was the brainchild of Hiram Johnson, an immensely popular Republican governor who switched to the Progressive Party after taking office. His progressive bona fides were already on display during his Jan. 13, 1911 Inaugural Address when he declared: "The first duty that is mine to perform, is to eliminate every private interest from the government, and to make the public service of the State responsive solely to the people."
Later that year, in a letter to former President Theodore Roosevelt, Johnson expressed his dismay over then Republican President William Howard Taft's lack of humanity and Taft's belief that government exists only to benefit big business. Johnson expressed admiration for the Progressive Party candidate, Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette, but sought to persuade TR to run against Taft because Johnson believed La Follette would lose. (In 1912, the Progressive Party nominated TR as its Presidential candidate and Johnson as its VP candidate).
As envisioned by Johnson, California's Recall procedures would serve as a form of bottom-up direct democracy that would act as a check against the corrupt influence of corporate wealth and power then being exerted in the Golden State by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
California's gubernatorial Recall, however, has failed to live up to Governor Johnson's lofty expectations. "Since 1911," according to Ballotpedia, "there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting California governor. The only successful campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis". The Davis Recall was a purely partisan affair made possible only because the wealthy right-wing Republican Congressman, Darrell Issa, invested $1.7 million of his own money to fund a GOP engineered, professional signature gathering campaign. That was coupled, politically, with a disinformation campaign regarding power outages in the Golden State that had been engineered by the infamous, corrupt and now defunct Texas-based energy company, Enron.
This year's gubernatorial Recall against California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is being wielded as an anti-democracy cudgel by an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party --- a Party which morphed into an instrument of the very corporate wealth and power Gov. Johnson hoped the Recall would serve to defeat. The Newsom Recall was initiated because the unpopular CA GOP realizes its only prospect for winning a statewide election at this time lies in what it hopes is a low-turnout election; albeit, a special election that will cost California taxpayers an estimated $400 million.
Last week, California's Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat, set the date for the Newsom Recall Election for Sept. 14, 2021. Per a recently released UC Berkeley poll and a May 25 Public Policy Institute poll, it appears likely that a significant majority will cast a "No" vote. Nonetheless, given the abuse of the process by state Republicans, CA Democrats, who hold a super-majority in the State legislature, would do well to place a proposition on the November 2022 general election ballot to reform or even eliminate the gubernatorial Recall process altogether...