Home > Archived > Headline News

Headline News

October 8th, 2003

I believe that the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California is, to say the least, a travesty. Here are the reasons:

  • Democracy Amok. The success of the recall in California will lead to anarchy in the short-term; I am certain a new recall process is beginning this moment, and I know many people who are eagerly awaiting the chance to sign the petitions. A new recall would be carried out for no better reason than to demonstrate how much of a sham the first one was. A majority of the Californian people do not want another recall, but there will be one. That’s the whole point. And you can be certain that politicians elsewhere in the U.S., especially Republicans (who have shown a recent pattern of trying to grab power in any way possible), will start working on them right away in every state that allows a recall. We will have endless campaigning that will only subvert the Democratic process, as Walter Cronkite warned. This will disrupt the workings of government and be abused relentlessly until people find the good sense to either vote out recalls or rework them so they cannot be exploited as they have in California.
  • Moral Bankruptcy. This was not “the will of the people” or the proper execution of a check or balance, it was a base, partisan political grab for power. There was no intent to do what people wanted–the people’s will was demonstrated last year when Gray Davis was chosen by California in normal elections. The recall is a subversion which those who drafted the recall law did not envision or intend. Furthermore, it is hypocritical in the extreme: the idea proffered by the Republicans was that we have to recall Davis because of the budget deficits–but Bush has far greater deficits, and he is more responsible for creating them. But Republicans love him for it, because it means tax cuts for the wealthy and the advancement of the conservative agenda.

    In short, the recall was not by any means a democratic process, it was, in effect, a gigantic dirty trick. Speaking of which–

  • Dirty Tricks. There were dirty tricks in this campaign, to be certain. But Davis was not behind them–Schwarzenegger was. The first was blaming the deficits on Davis, an untrue charge. Most of the budget is California is mandated and untouchable; much of the rest is unavoidable. And the greatest part of the deficit came from things like the deregulation of energy–something put into effect by a Republican governor, which allowed the energy companies in Texas and elsewhere to overcharge Californians to a ridiculous extreme. Most of that money came out of the state budget. The only agency which could have stopped it was the federal government, but Bush refused to do a thing to stop the shakedown–brought on by his oil buddies, surprise surprise–especially when we’re talking about a blue state here.

    Then Schwarzenegger blamed Davis for not telling the people of California about the deficit until after the election. But that was beyond Davis’ control–even he didn’t know it. The numbers for the budget are a public matter in any case, and cannot be “hidden.” This is in contrast to Schwarzenegger’s economic plans, which he decided to hide until after the election, along with an explanation about how he groped all those women. Talk about hypocrisy!

    Then Davis got slammed for the car tax. However, Davis was not to blame for this–it was an automatic readjustment which was created by–you guessed it–a former Republican governor. The tax had been cut to 1/3 of the original amount, and the law required that the fee rise again in case the state had a shortfall of funds and could not pay for the tax cut. That tax hike kicked in, automatically, when the deficit came along. Again, not Davis’ fault–but Schwarzenegger vilified him for it, the same way he vilified Davis for the loss of jobs (can you say “national recession”? “Tech bubble burst”?).

    Then Schwarzenegger pulled the biggest dirty trick of all: he blamed Davis for his own misdeeds. Schwarzenegger obviously has a problem with groping women; this was not a secret before he entered the election. But Schwarzenegger knew that this would hurt him, so from the outset, he started crying “dirty tricks” and “puke politics” before anyone else even had a chance to say anything. And when the L.A. Times, not Davis, came forth with the story of 6 women, and when 9 more women came forth of their own volition, what was the charge? Davis’ dirty tricks. Even the out-of-context Hitler story was by ABC–does Davis control ABC? No, but that wouldn’t stop Schwarzenegger from blaming Davis.

    In short, Schwarzenegger pulled a laundry list of dirty tricks, while Davis himself behaved in a more exemplary fashion than ever before, and certainly conducted himself in a far better manner than Schwarzenegger.

  • The Success of the Non-Campaign. Schwarzenegger demonstrated how one can win an election, not by discussing the issues, but rather by making carefully controlled appearances, manipulating the debate system, and promising to explain himself only after he is elected. He appeared in only one debate, and the questions were released a week in advance, allowing for scripted answers. Schwarzenegger and his people claimed he was answering questions all over the place, but in fact, every “town meeting” or campaign stop was carefully controlled so that only Republican supporters could attend–and, predictably, he was thrown a continuous stream of nice, easy softballs. Compare this to Davis, who allowed non-scripted questions and stood up to criticism against him. Less glitzy, but ballsy and honest.

    Schwarzenegger also ran as a Hollywood star, with one-liners and movie references galore–but no substance. No realistic plans–he borrowed a page from the Bush campaign book and told us we would find after the election how he would cut taxes, increase spending, balance the budget, and bring in all those nice, juicy jobs. Yeah, right.

And the galling thing is that Schwarzenegger will have an easy time from here–Davis has already done a lot of work to ameliorate the budget crisis (for example, rush-building lots of new power plants, which Schwarzenegger will happily take credit for), and much of the deficit will disappear on its own as the energy crisis abates. Schwarzenegger can get away with doing absolutely nothing and the deficit will fall a great deal all on its own–and again, he will shamelessly take credit for it.

Worse, the liberal social policies credited to Schwarzenegger are most decidedly not held by his political advisors and patrons, who are the people who will wield the real power in Sacramento–do you really think that action movies and after-school programs have prepared him to govern a state? He’ll be mugging for the cameras and super-charging his ego, while the Bushite power players will be doing the real work outside the spotlight. Expect a hard-core conservative agenda at all levels of the executive branch to predominate in this mostly Democratic state.

This is nothing but a complete sham, an utter disgrace to the state of California, partisan politics and dirty tricks at their most damaging. The only thing to hope for: over the next several months, evidence and perhaps charges filed by many of his victims will take the luster out of his image (perhaps before Davis’ remedies take effect to Schwarzenegger’s benefit), and he won’t have Davis to blame for his scandals any more (though he may well try anyway). And by that time, the next recall will have its signatures and may be forced on its way.

Sometimes, one can only fight fire with fire, as repugnant as the recall process has come to be. Best-case scenario: another recall ousts Schwarzenegger, and the recall embarrassment is itself recalled, and we can go back to a system where the guy with the most votes wins.

Categories: Archived Tags: by
Comments are closed.