Sack Octavius and Newsom! The Recall Is as Old as the Roman Republic

The Tool for Removing Elected Officials Has Had Centuries of Champions—from the Levellers to Lenin

The recall—the tool being used in an attempt to remove Gavin Newsom as California’s governor before his term is over—might seem strange or novel. It’s neither. The recall is nearly as old as democracy itself.

It’s older than Montesquieu, the famous 18th-century French nobleman and philosopher, who argued that elected representatives “should be accountable to those that have commissioned them.” The recall also pre-dates Montesquieu’s contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in The Social Contract wrote, “the holders of executive office are not the people’s masters but its officers [and] the people can …