Elections Have Consequences

Jonah Goldberg's latest column is, well, kinda good. Very good, in fact. He takes as target Arnold Schwarzenegger and, as background, Gray Davis. And while his ultimate point is to slap around us kooky Californians, he's actually right about doing so:

I was against the recall on the grounds that the people of California elected Gray Davis and therefore they deserved to be punished. Seriously. Democracy isn’t merely about “the people” getting what they want, it’s also about the people getting what they deserve. Mobs get what they want every time. Citizens make informed choices and then live with — and learn from — the consequences. Those lessons inform how we view not merely candidates but parties and philosophies. “We gave those guys their shot and they blew it, I won’t be voting for that crowd again,” is an indispensable reaction in democratic politics.


I’m sympathetic to the substance of Schwarzenegger’s agenda. But the last thing California needs is more populism. What it needs are strong, competitive political parties, run by people who are held accountable for their actions, not overruled by special elections and referenda every time things go south.

That's true, though Goldberg conveniently forgets that the whole reason for the recount was the opportunistic motivations of California's skeeziest congressman, Darrell Issa. But nevertheless, we voted out Gray and ushered in Arnold, so the ultimate fault is ours.

So too have we sacrificed our political structure on the altar of feel-good populism. Our scores of ballot initiatives, a populist innovation that's now a plaything of rich groups with agendas, has resulted in a dysfunctional budget hijacked with guaranteed outlays to a variety of cookie and ice cream parties no one had the heart to vote against. Arnold, of course, was part of that problem long before he ran, contributing an idiotic initiative for afterschool programs and then governing in exactly the same way, with a stream of poorly designed ballot offerings.