[VDARE.COM note: with the polls closed in California, we resume posting Joe]
Read the rest of the Joe Guzzardi recall campaign story:
10/24/03 - The Modesto Bee Says Sorry (Sort Of)
10/14/03 - Joe's Campaign Diary (With Bittersweet Conclusion)
08/08/03 - Establishment To California: Shut Up About Immigration In This Election!
For eighty days and eighty nights, I was a man on a mission.
As a candidate in California's gubernatorial recall election, the goal of my one-person campaign was crystal clear: to run on a platform to end illegal immigration (www.Guzzardi4Governor.com), I hoped to force the other candidates into an open and honest discussion of the impact of illegal immigration on California.
I also thought: why the heck not?
Of course, my candidacy was a forlorn hope. But remember, that was the name given to the troops who charged first into the breach – of a city that would eventually fall. Hopeless candidacies are usually dismissed by citing the fiasco of Harold Stassen's later career. But Norman Thomas ran six times for President on the Socialist line – and all the planks of his original platform are now law.
Starting with the official date to begin collecting the required 65 signatures to place my name on the ballot – July 21st – and ending with the October 7th election, I disappeared from my regular haunts.
I was a stranger to my friends. Even my trusty dogs despaired.
Even though I was listed among "others," I followed the poll fluctuations as though each blip could mean a move up for me. No Fox or CNN news flash was too trivial.
Today, in the first of two columns about my experiences in the recall race, I'll lead you up to election night. Then, on Friday, we'll analyze the final results.
To begin at the beginning, I supported the Recall Gray Davis effort. The Republicans—led by the ill-fated Congressman Darrell Issa, who financed the movement—were correctly accused of making a power grab. I say, "So what?"
Davis has been monstrously bad on immigration. He signed bills on behalf of illegal aliens authorizing the use of the matricula consular card, approving in-state tuition for illegals and—most outrageously granting driver's licenses without proof of citizenship.
Under Davis, California has been ceasing to work. The citizens are poised on the verge of anarchy because of the endless invasion of illegal aliens and the relentless urban sprawl that is devouring California's open spaces.
Throw the bum out, was my attitude, and let's be quick about it!
The recall election gave me an excellent chance to take the "Reform Immigration!" platform to the people. I eagerly signed up.
But I must confess that I am not a born politician. After nearly three months on the stump, I realize that I am California's "Silent" Calvin Coolidge.
After only the briefest exposure to the masses, the words of Groucho Marx kept ringing in my head: "Hello, I must be going."
Here are some examples of what it is like out there:
Invariably, the person whose signature I solicited wasn't registered. Even though I expected little enthusiasm for the recall process, I was dismayed that so few people are registered.
Time after time, people told me they had no interest in politics. They felt disenfranchised and detached from Sacramento. To get one signature, I had to ask 20 people.
Most disconcerting of all was that of the 90 signatures I submitted, only the bare minimum of 65 were valid.
But, for political junkies, I was pleasantly surprised at the various and often creative ways that the immigration reform message could be conveyed.
One of the most valuable resources: the special website set up by the League of Women Voters of California, www.smartvoter.org. In addition to information about the recall candidates, the website provided overviews of Proposition 53 and Proposition 54 as well as registration and polling place information.
Equally informative: the California Channel, modeled after C-SPAN, which aired 30 minute taped interviews throughout California. Each of us was asked the same questions. And although no question was directly about immigration, I was able to link virtually all of my answers to immigration's contribution to California's social and economic woes. (To see my interview in streaming video, click here.)
The major daily newspapers, while focused on the so-called "leaders," published a complete list of all the candidates and their positions.
Two newspapers that stood out – for different reasons – were the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee.
Times staff photographer Brian Vander Brug took creative pictures of the candidates and taped our statements. The photos and statements are online under "Faces of the Recall."
The Bee's Daniel Weintraub, the California columnist for the newspaper's editorial page, wrote a daily blog about the election that kept interested parties up to the minute.
Gateway sponsored a photo album wherein candidates could take and submit pictures. The albums are arranged alphabetically at Candidate Camera.
For those who prefer to get their political information indirectly, the Total Recall Playing Cards – a full deck of 52 – had me as the Eight of Clubs. And there beneath my picture was my message:
"I'm running because I am very disappointed. In the 15 or so years since I returned to California, no politicians have been willing to discuss the impact of illegal immigration on California or the impact of illegal immigration on population growth in California."
On Friday, I'll tell you why I think my very modestly-financed campaign did make a difference in how immigration was covered.
I'll leave you with this thought: based on my face to face conversations with voters and thousands of e-mails received, the electorate does want comprehensive immigration reform—starting today. I have never understood why professional politicians shy away from this issue. Now, after my campaign, I understand it even less.
I believe immigration reform will play an even bigger role in Senator Barbara Boxer's re-election bid in 2004—and the gubernatorial race in 2006.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.