Gray Davis, the unGovernor of California, managed to survive last November’s vote by proclaiming the California budget crisis solved. He lied, of course, and with a $38 billion sinkhole staring the state in the face, voters are flocking to to sign up to help toss Davis from the train.

Congressman Darryl Issa has financed the largest portion of the effort to place the recall vote before the electorate – which probably will occur in the early fall barring mischief by Davis allies or the Democratic Secretary of State.

Thus far a few office holders who could have challenged Davis have issued tepid, “how can it get worse” condemnations of the recall, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, but these declarations have an air of “my fingers were crossed” about them. If Davis loses the up or down vote, the bottom of the ballot asks who replaces him, and the plurality winner is the new chief executive. Will California’s power hungry Democrats risk not having any candidates below the line?

Davis appears doomed. Just last Friday he pushed through a tripling of the state’s much despised car tax. Some estimates put the average tax hike at around $150 a car, but surely more than 50 percent of the state’s drivers are going to pay substantially more than $150 in new taxes on their vehicles. My radio producer Duane – an avowed motorhead – saved and saved to purchase a Trans Am in 2001. It is his selfish pleasure, his indulgence, his passion.

Duane paid $230 in California car tax in 2002. He will be paying $690 in 2003 – and every year thereafter that Gray Davis stays in office. Try telling him or any other new car purchaser in the past few years what the “average” driver will be paying. Ask instead what their family will be paying total. This massive hit on ordinary Californians is a political disaster for the governor, which is why he made the move on a Friday. He was hoping that the state media might downplay the story.

The Los Angeles Times obliged, omitting mention of the $4 billion tax hike from the first section entirely, and headlining the section two story with the title, “State Triples Vehicle License Fee.” Although the story began by noting that the “Davis administration” had triggered the fee – not Davis, of course, but his administration – the paper did not even mention that the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst had opined on Thursday that the tax could not be raised. In short, the paper of record bounced the story into the second section, gave it a headline that covered for Gray, and left out the key argument about the hike – that it was considered illegal, not by partisan opponents of the governor, but by the analyst of record for the state.

Therein lies Davis’ real hope of retaining his hold on power – the blocking power of a sometimes blatantly biased, and at best supremely supine state media. Most of the television stations in the state couldn’t care less that the job losses in California, which at 21,500 jobs in May alone was higher than the rest of the country’s losses combined, shows no sign of abating. It took the New York Times on Monday of this week to run a story on the worker’s comp fiasco in the state. When the Los Angeles Times even bothers to look up it seeks the evil hand of the state’s eight Republicans everywhere.

California is a test-tube for rule by one party – the Democrats. Its chaos and its collapse are Democratic storylines, and the tiny band of Republican legislators who are trying to hold back a proposed tide of new tax hikes pushed by Davis are routinely identified by the left as the problem, even though only a crazy man or a socialist would raise taxes on a state where businesses are fleeing.

This is the problem with California: Its lame-duck governor, its hard left legislative majorities, its wildly biased or indifferent media are an awesome combination of willful ignorance and ideological vehemence. It is an epic of political self-immolation, and Gray is the No. 1 guy, California’s fiscal Nero.

He will be removed though the partisans of the left and the Times fears this change. A Republican governor, probably Issa, though Arnold may jump in, will provide a crucial check on the nuttier laws that have been streaming out of Sacramento for five years. Reconstruction can only begin once a serious chief executive is in charge with a willingness to take an axe to a bloated public sector and a veto pen to the wish list of the trial lawyers It cannot come soon enough.

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