30 August 2021

The New York Times: “Brace yourself for the Man who could become California’s Governor”

But Elder’s candidacy makes the race as serious as a heart attack, especially because the rules governing California’s recall election, which will take place on Sept. 14, are unfair to the point of plausible unconstitutionality. For Newsom to prevail, a majority of voters must oppose his recall; if he were to fall even just barely short of that majority, the rival who gets the most votes becomes our next governor, even if that candidate wins far fewer votes than Newsom.

Because California’s Democrats appear deeply apathetic about the race, current polls show likely voters to be roughly tied on the question of Newsom’s recall. Elder, meanwhile, is far ahead of his fellow challengers in the race to replace Newsom — even though he is supported by only about 20 percent of voters.

But anyone who was alive in 2016 ought to appreciate the danger of Newsom’s focus on Elder’s extremism. Like Donald Trump, Elder has a keen understanding of the utility of outrage; when the left attacks him, he goes on Fox News and wears the criticism as a badge of purity, helping him further stand out from the Republican pack. Perhaps that’s why Elder’s standing in the polls has only gone up amid the onslaught of criticism. By making him the face of the recall, Newsom is cementing Elder’s lead, all but guaranteeing him as a successor should Newsom fail to win a majority. It’s a frightening strategy, even if it’s Newsom’s best play.

Farhad Manjoo

For a country that prides itself for being the greatest democracy in the world, there sure seem to be a lot of cracks in that narrative, from small local elections all the way to the US Senate. Ironically, this recall procedure is how Arnold Schwarzenegger first become Governor of California as a Republican, but with a much more substantial share of the vote (48.6%).

Vice President Dick Cheney's first meeting with California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger
Vice President Dick Cheney meets with California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Vice President’s West Wing office Oct. 30, 2003. This is the first meeting between Vice President Cheney and Mr. Schwarzenegger since the state’s historical recall election Oct. 7, 2003. White House photo by David Bohrer

Evidently, there are many examples of democratic failures outside the US as well. A good example from here in Romania is the current electoral process for mayors, with a single election cycle where the candidate with the most votes wins, no matter how small that number of votes represents as percentage of total voters.

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