Am I the only one who secretly longs for California to break loose from the Lower 48 and quietly slip beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean? For decades, pundits and tacky Frankie Avalon movies lauded California as “America’s state.” But now, the state has been reduced to the role of “Late Night” fodder and is a prime example of why democracy doesn’t work. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor-elect of the Golden State. But will this really mean much for California politics? Probably not.
Ironically, Gov. Gray Davis would have been out of office in just a few years anyway; not because of voter discontent, but because of term limits. That’s when, generally, elections should be held for a new governor.
But that’s not how they do things in California. You see, way back in 1911, Gov. Hiram Johnson put a recall provision in the California constitution, for the people (key phrase) to recall their governor. Hiram probably never expected that 92 years later a rich Republican Congressman would use the law to buy another election nary a year since the routine, or should I say legitimate, one.
The reasoning for recalling Davis was specious at best. The state is $8 billion in the hole, but people expected deficits when they re-elected Davis. People complained Davis taxed them back to the Stone Age, but said little about a decade of mindless propositions that have consumed much of the money available for spending in California. And we thought the bullet train was a bad idea.
But the recall went ahead and promptly spun out of control. Child actors, porn stars and Arianna Huffington joined the circus, 135 people in all. In the end, it was bodybuilder turned barbarian turned cyborg assassin from the future Schwarzenegger who defeated Davis, whose young Monty Burns impression is the best I have ever seen.
The short campaign was laughable, at best. Huffington threw supercilious Hollywood fundraising soirees where her “liberal” friends — I swear if some of these people are liberal, I’m changing my affiliations — touted her as “a great Democratic candidate,” even though she ran as an independent.
“Ahnold” drove around the state in buses named after his movies, touting an agenda full of ambiguous positions, just so long as he told people he was anti-Davis. I’m glad he has a detailed plan to fix the fourth largest economy in the world.
In the middle of this circus was Davis, whose mismanagement made famous the term “rolling blackouts,” among other debacles. What more could he do but go around and meekly tell people “I swear I’ll do better?” “Heck no,” said California, “we want you out! You’re going to take away my SUV! Ahnold is our man!”
But the former Mr. Universe has little wiggle room before California becomes unsalvageable. If he doesn’t stay moderate and maintain fiscal responsibility, California voters will be saying “hasta la vista” the next time around.
When politics deflate in Florida, it resembles a BBC comedy: a bit pretentious but still promising. Politics in California are anything but promising. It more closely resembles one of those car chase and crash shows on Fox. It was ugly, it was gut retching, and by the end we’re just glad it’s over.
Joe Roma is a senior majoring in political science.