Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The People Have Spoken

And they have said "Duhhhhhh...."

To be honest, the election results had little power to depress me further; it would have been almost equally dispiriting if Schwarzenegger had come in second. Either result would have been equally compelling evidence that millions of Californians think government is of absolutely no importance--knowing specifically how many Californians think so doesn't make it that much worse.

California is not a trivial state, contrary to its apparent self-regard. If it seceded from the rest of the United States, it would be the fifth richest country in the world, all by itself, and the 30th most populous, roughly tied with Poland and Spain. It leads the world in technology, culture and entertainment, has vast agricultural resources, timber, oil. Bitterly divided between the liberal coast and conservative central and southern areas, it has a government of extremes: though dominated by democrats at the moment, its political structure (requiring, for example, a two thirds vote in the legislature to pass any budget, and a two thirds vote of the electorate to increase most taxes), ensures that the republican minority will continue to wield considerable power. It takes phenomenal executive skill to manage a state like this effectively.

And Gray Davis has, on the whole, done an okay job at it. So we dumped him for a man with absolutely no executive experience whatsoever, who refused to answer a single policy question substantively and wouldn't even debate his opponents unless he could prepare scripted answers to questions submitted in advance. A man with a history of gross sexual harassment, and a "playful" enjoyment of humiliating those who are less powerful than he is. A man who, as the pampered multimillion-dollar-per-picture star, has always been given absolutely everything he wanted, and is reputed to throw temper tantrums when he isn't. Shit howdy, I can't imagine anyone better suited to assume the mantle of leadership in Sacramento, can you?

It's not like politics requires a person to know what the hell he's doing or anything, right? Or to be able to win people over by the power of ideas, build consensus when possible and compromise when necessary. Or to understand different perspectives. Shoot, you can get anything done in government if you just look and act really tough. Just ask the people of Minnesota how well their little experiment with Jesse Ventura turned out.

Okay, enough with the sarcasm. The simple fact is, most voters didn't care whether Schwarzenegger had any of the background or qualities necessary to make him an effective political leader--not enough to look beyond the surface. And that is very discouraging.

I take a little black comfort in the knowledge that they'll regret it, after he drives the state into a brick wall--but not much, because it's my state, too. But at least we can feebly hope that after the inevitable disastrous failure of Schwarzenegger's governorship, Californians will (however temporarily) learn a lesson about what sort of skills a person should have before they hire him to take care of their money, police, fire departments, highways, schools, libraries, universities, etc, etc, etc.

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