California Recall

THE CALIFORNIA RECALL ELECTION Critical Analysis By Lara Maupin, formerly a social studies teacher and student government adviser at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia

Overview: California is the nations most populous state and its economy is a large part of the nations economy. In recent years, Californians have endured an energy crisis, budget shortfalls, and other economic troubles. Frustration over the state of the economy as well as a trend toward direct democracy, exemplified by numerous propositions and ballot initiatives, and 1.7 million dollars spent by Congressman Darrell Issa to get the recall measure on the ballot have resulted in the California recall election.

On October 7, California voters will have the opportunity to recall Democratic Governor Gray Davis and replace him with one of 135 candidates. The field of replacement candidates, most of whom have no relevant political experience and some of whom are famous or even notorious, has caused many analysts to call the recall a joke. Others, however, maintain that the increase in citizen interest and participation generated by the recall is positive.

Is the California recall election an example of democracy in action or have Californians taken citizen activism to a ridiculous extreme? In this lesson, your secondary students will attempt to answer this question. This lesson requires 1 - 2 class periods. It is especially relevant in a government or civics class, but may be used in any social studies class in which current events are examined. You may extend your study of the California recall elections with one of the suggested activities given below.

Materials: Students will need copies of the background handout and articles from the Online NewsHour coverage of the recall election cited below or computers with Internet access. No special textbooks or materials are required.

Give your students the following handout (teachers key) and ask them to use articles from the Online NewsHour coverage of the Gray Davis Recall Election (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/local/davis_recall/) in order to complete it. Students may work individually or in small groups.

Key Terms: You may wish to review the following key terms with your students.

Discussion / Debate: Ask your students to consider the costs of the recall election, the amount of media coverage it will get, and what they have learned about the number, range, qualifications, and goals of the replacement candidates. Then, have your students debate the pros and cons of recall elections. Questions such as the following may be used to spark debate:

Ask your students to imagine that they are television or radio commentators or political analysts and to prepare 2 - 3 min. political commentaries reflecting their views on the California recall election. In their analyses, students may either discuss the election as a whole or urge one or more candidates to pursue a particular strategy. They may write their commentaries in class or for homework. Students then share their commentaries in small groups. Each group selects one to be shared with the entire class. You may wish to evaluate student work as they share orally or you may collect their written work. Finally, students are encouraged to submit their commentaries to school or local radio stations or newspapers. Extension Ideas:

National Standards: National Council for the Social Studies Thematic Strands: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions Power, Authority, and Governance Civic Ideals and Practices

Author Lara Maupin taught social studies at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. She has a Masterís Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from George Washington University and a Bachelorís Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College.

To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at extra@newshour.org.