Whither techno-populism?

It strikes me as odd that techno-populist Larry Lessig and his many disciples (Weinberger, Searls, Gillmor, Ito, Winer, et. al.) are are bitterly opposed to the recall. If you believe in grass-roots democracy, emergent democracy, and self-organizing movements, why stomp your feet and hurl angry insults about right-wing coups when the people have mobilized to make their voices heard? It just makes no sense. Lessig even tries to use some fuzzy math to invalidate the successor election:

So if this California recall succeeds, then more likely than not the Governor who replaces Gray Davis will have received fewer votes than Gray Davis. Davis could get, say, 49.9% of the vote, and would be “recalled.” But his replacement is chosen with a simple plurality. Thus, in a field of 200 candidates, it is more likely than not that the replacement governor will have gotten fewer votes than the governor he replaces.

This is what we call an “apples to oranges” comparison, since we have one election with a field of one and another election with field of a hundred or so. But even accepting Lessig’s handicap, Arnie’s polling better than the governor right now, 48 – 26.

One upside of the recall is that it’s taken both Kobe Bryant and the Nine Dwarves of the Democratic Party off page one for a while, and maybe that’s what’s got the TechPops upset: they’re mainly hardcore Deanies, after all.

5 thoughts on “Whither techno-populism?”

  1. They’re a typical group who are all for “the people” unless, of course, the people are against them. Then it’s the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, yada yada . . .

  2. Tom –

    if you note, no one on Lessig’s blog is pro-Davis, only questioning the recall. Big difference. For the most part, they are questioning the recall mechanism.

    I have yet to see a good answer to one comment there:

    “WHY aren?t recall laws on the books of other states ? What are the reasons they give for defeating any ideas of recalls ?”

  3. About a third of states have direct democracy laws, a historical anomaly arising from the limited reach of the Progressive Movement in the 1910s.

    So the question is why the people who now claim the progressive/populist mantle are so scornful of the achievements of their forbears. It’s as if modern feminists were scornful of the 19th Amendment.

  4. I’m aware that North Dakota Gov Lynn Frazier was recalled in 1921…just learned that. But that’s the only instance of a governor recalled.

    “direct democracy laws” — by that, do you mean the ability to recall a governor before his/her term ends ?

  5. In many ways, California represents the epitome of Progressive reform. The Progressive reach was limited, as Richard notes, but California embraced the silliness more than most states (the impact of the movement on American constitutionalism more broadly, I would contend, was not so limited, unfortunately). So yes — isn’t it interesting that the liberal progeny of the Progressives find it so distressing when their instruments of direct democracy are put to work AGAINST liberal ends (Prop 13 comes to mind, as does this recall)?

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