Photograph Courtesy of Art Streiber
A ompelling book called California Crackup describes this problem more generally. It was written by a pair of journalists and nonpartisan think-tank scholars, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, and they explain, among other things, why Arnold Schwarzenegger’s experience as governor was going to be unlike any other experience in his career: he was never going to win. California had organized itself, not accidentally, into highly partisan legislative districts. It elected highly partisan people to office and then required these people to reach a two-thirds majority to enact any new tax or meddle with big spending decisions. On the off chance that they found some common ground, it could be pulled out from under them by voters through the initiative process. Throw in term limits—no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it—and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials. Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. “The vicious cycle of contempt,” as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.
But when you look below the surface, he adds, the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.” As much as they claimed to despise their government, the citizens of California shared its defining trait: a need for debt. The average Californian, in 2011, had debts of $78,000 against an income of $43,000. The behavior was unsustainable, but, in its way, for the people, it works brilliantly. For their leaders, even in the short term, it works less well. They ride into office on great false hopes and quickly discover they can do nothing to justify those hopes.
The lesson Arnold learned over the years is simple. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer (by buying them).
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks after accepting an award during the 63rd Israel Independence Day Celebration at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles in this May 10, 2011 photo. Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that he fathered a child more than ten years ago with a member of his household staff, the Los Angeles Times reported on May 17, 2011
To prove his case, Pecker cites an “Arnold exclusive” that ran in The National Enquirer with the headline “Arnold’s Love Child Scandal.” The Enquirer posted the story on its Web site on October 5, two days before the recall election, and published a heavily revised version in its print edition 14 days after the election. Certainly it was an incendiary story, but because it was posted so close to the election, the mainstream press had little time to follow up the account and confirm it. As a result, the story remained on the margins. Moreover, the Enquirer article cited as its source a story by a reporter named Wendy Leigh that appeared in the British tabloid The Daily Mail, indicating it was a lift-and-clip job.
The Enquirer story, which was picked up by The Boston Herald, The New York Daily News, and The Drudge Report, claimed that the former bodybuilder had fathered a son with a woman from Orange County. She had worked as a stewardess on his Gulfstream jet for more than a decade. The Daily Mail also mentioned that one of the woman’s two sons has the same unusual name as one of Schwarzenegger’s film characters. The Daily Mail even ran a photo of the 11-year-old boy. The paper published a denial from the woman that Schwarzenegger was the father. (An attorney representing the woman said in October that he would file a libel suit against The Daily Mail in English court, but the paper has yet to receive a letter demanding a retraction or to be sued.)
Read all of the story about the Tabloids protecting Schwarzeneger in his run for California Governor and their deals for Body Building Magazine endorsements.
The 2003 Recall Election of Gray Davis has proven to be a disaster in so many ways. It is only now that Californians are seeing the chickens coming home to roost.
Be prepared for more.