Peaceful revolution and recalling politicians


John F. Kennedy once remarked, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Think seriously about JFK’s words as the recall effort against California Gov. Gray Davis continues.

Oregon voters passed an initiative 95 years ago that helps remove the inevitability of a violent revolution. On June 1, 1908 Oregonians put into place what is now Article II, Section 18 of the state Constitution: “Every public officer in Oregon is subject … to recall by the electors of the state or the electoral district from which the public officer is elected.”

According to Jim Puzzanghera at the San Jose Mercury News, “The first recall law in the country was a municipal measure enacted in Los Angeles in 1903 for local officials.” In 1911 California followed Oregon’s lead and became the second state to allow the recall all of public servants.

Some argue that the attempt to recall Davis is an abuse. However, the recall really is akin to a parliamentary “vote of no confidence,” a common occurrence in England and other countries with similar governmental systems.

Puzzanghera notes, “Although 18 states permit the recall of state officials, only one U.S. governor apparently has ever been thrown out of office because of it, North Dakota’s Lynn J. Frazier in 1917. Frazier was recalled over a political dispute about state-owned industries.”

In 1983 recall petitions were circulated against Michigan’s then-Gov. Jim Blanchard and numerous state legislators. Citizens took action because of an income tax increase, eventually ousting State Senators David Serotkin and Phil Mastin from office.

The recall effort against Davis is simply a peaceful political revolution. The alternative is not desirable.

Kurt T. Weber is vice president of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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