Fear Was the Spoiler in California Election


Fear
was the spoiler in California’s October 7 gubernatorial election.
So-called progressives abandoned their ideals and didn’t vote
for Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, the most prominent progressive
in the race. 

Why
did so-called progressives miss a golden opportunity to elect a
progressive governor? 

Peter
Camejo received 211,595 votes or 2.8 percent of the vote, far below
the almost 400,000 votes he received in last November’s election.
Progressives voted for Camejo but many Green Democrats, Huffington
liberals, and “scared of Schwarzenegger” voters reverted
back to their Democratic shells and didn’t vote for Camejo. 

This
election also brought out other so-called progressives— Americans
for Democratic Action (ADA), actors Dustin Hoffman, Paul Reiser,
Endeavor talent agency partner Ari Emanuel, “West Wing”
creator Aaron Sorkin, producer/eco couple Larry and Laurie David,
and a couple hundred other Hollywood types. They chose not to support
Camejo, but couldn’t throw enough money at one of their own—Arianna
Huffington, rich and white, chameleon extraordinaire. Huffington
started out as a right-winger supporting Newt Gingrich, then she
became progressive, and now it appears she’s the honorary chairperson
of the Democratic Party. 

The
Democratic Party did not support Lt. Governor Cruz Bus- tamante
for the same reason Huf- fington “progressive” Democrats
didn’t support Camejo. Both Bustamante and Camejo are people
of color who are okay for a second choice, but not okay for a first
choice when one of their own (Huffington and deposed Governor Gray
Davis) is running. 

We
also have to consider the celebrity of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Did
the voters have all the facts? No, but they had some facts and voted
for Arnold anyway. On election morning, Peter Camejo appeared on
the “Steve Harvey Show.” Peter is an honorable man who
deserves respect, but Harvey’s “angels” thought a
porn star was just as valid a candidate as Camejo. 

Do
voters who vote on star power and not facts care about issues? Do
they care about the “war” on Afghanistan and Iraq? Are
they against the death penalty, three strikes, racial profiling,
the Patriot Act, wars of conquest, and nuclear weapons? Apparently
not, because a vote for Arnold is seen as a vote for George Bush. 

We
cannot negate the power of the corporate media, including Oprah
Winfrey, Howard Stern, Jay Leno, and Larry King. They, along with
the networks and newspapers, dealt California a fatal blow by refusing
to give equal time to other candidates. 

What
about the Democratic Party? Amazingly, the Democrats still have
no clue why they lost. The Democrats have such bad policies and
such an unpopular leader that they are no longer trusted by the
vast majority of voters. But to hear them tell it, it was the right-
wing conspiracy. Republicans make up 35 percent of registered voters.
Not all 35 percent voted on October 7, but Davis was recalled by
55 percent of registered voters. At least 20 percent and more non-Republicans
voted Davis out of office. 

The
voters were sick of Davis and he and his party refuse to admit it.
Davis was vulnerable from the start and played a key role in keeping
more competent Democratic candidates out of the race. He kept competition
out of last year’s race by pumping $10 million into the Republican
primary to defeat Richard Riordan, a moderate Republican, instead
of arch conservative Bill Simon. The Democrats could have saved
the governorship for themselves if Davis had put ego aside and resigned.
True the recall would have gone on, but it would have been a recall
against Bustamante who no one would have recalled. 

Fear,
racism, and Davis’s ego spoiled it for California. But there’s
a silver lining. Camejo participated in six debates—the first
time a third party has been included in televised debates for a
statewide office. He was viewed as the winner of many debates and
perceived by everyone as a serious candidate with real solutions
to California problems. He shattered preconceived notions about
who the Greens are. 

Camejo
put the Greens on the map in California. Already five State Senators
are pushing through Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) legislation, a Green
issue. Fear was the spoiler in this recall election, but a progressive
stayed the course and hopefully truth will one day free us from
fear.


Donna Jo Warren
is a native of South Central Los Angeles, and was the Green Party
candidate for Lt. Governor in November 2002.