The California gubernatorial recall election is on, and as the renowned tautologist said, it is déjà vu all over again. Just last November 7.5 million Californians voted Gray Davis into a second term with 48 percent to 42 percent victory over his nearest rival, Bill Simon. But they must return to the polling booths once more because Southern California millionaire Darrell Issa funded a recall with nearly $2 million of his own money.

The timing troubles me: Issa launched the recall barely a month after Davis was inaugurated. It feels as if the law is being abused rather than affirmed. Recall proponents look at best like sore losers who can’t accept the results of a popular vote; at worst, like dangerous ideologues who have the wherewithal to force their decisions on the public.

Yes, we will all pay for Issa’s petulance. The state will end up spending nearly $100 million on the recall election. From Issa’s perspective, things have gone swimmingly, yielding a $100 million value on an investment of only $2 million. In finance, they call it leveraging, and it’s a good thing–for Issa.

Davis is not anyone’s idea of an inspiring leader, but I’ll take him over his predecessor any day. Pete Wilson, the so-called moderate Republican, gave us energy deregulation and divisive politics. He made it easy to vote for Davis.

Those who are getting pious about the 1.6 million signatures collected by Issa would do well to remember the 3.7 million Californians who voted for Davis in November 2002. Some of them might actually remember who they voted for, and might be a bit miffed at being asked again so soon.

Something is seriously wrong with our democracy if only millionaires–or those who raise millions of dollars–can get elected. Think about Steve Forbes, Bill Simon, Michael Huffington, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Cecci–would any of them be candidates for political office if it were not for their personal fortunes? Is this the kind of elitist democracy the founding fathers envisioned? When did money become equivalent to free speech? How come some people have so much more free speech than others?

All this will change when ordinary Americans wake up and demand change in the political process through campaign finance reform and instant runoff voting. Then future generations will wonder how their forebears were ever persuaded to vote millionaires into power for as long as they did.

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