According to many political observers, largely but not entirely on the right, the recall of Democrat Gray Davis and the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger mark a tectonic shift in California's political makeup. Over the past decade, as Latinos have voted in greater numbers and independents have trended Democratic, California has become just about the most reliably Democratic state in the nation. Since Davis became governor, at the prodding of a liberal-dominated legislature, he's signed landmark legislation establishing the state as a progressive beacon in a reactionary time.
LOS ANGELES -- In the end it came down to touching. No, not Governor Arnold's three decades of alleged sexual harassment; that seemed of little moment to California voters. The touching problem in this election was all Gray Davis'.
"You've got to touch people, relate to them, tell them what you care about," one Democratic politico told me at Davis' sparsely attended election eve rally in Los Angeles. "Gray's never been able to do that."
Davis, in fact, has long been just about the unhappiest warrior on the American political battlefield. The normal business of politics -- negotiating with legislators, enunciating his principles, building support for his programs -- repelled him.
In the presidential candidacy of Wesley Clark, the Athenian party in American politics may just have found its Spartan.
The meteoric ascent of the former NATO commander is scrambling all the normal alignments within the Democratic Party and some of those without.
Whether Clark can sustain his initial momentum is anybody's guess; his first week as a candidate was a triumphal parade interrupted by the occasional self-inflicted wound. But for now, many of the longstanding battlements that have divided the Democrats for decades seem to have crumbled before him.
There's separation of powers for you. Just when Democrat Gray Davis looks like he might survive the October recall, along come three Democratic-appointed judges to postpone the vote.
Monday's decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit didn't merely scramble the already jumbled electoral situation in California. It was also a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's Gang of Five, the justices who plunked down George W. Bush in the White House three years ago with their ruling in Bush v. Gore.