Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Donald Trump reminds me of the other celebrity politician who won

Gray Davis was a well educated man, with an undergrad from Stanford and a law degree from Columbia.  He then served in Vietnam, during some of the intense conflict years, and returned as a decorated veteran.  Davis, like John Kerry and John McCain, turned to politics after the Vietnam experience and served California in various capacities.  And then was elected as governor.  A wonderful story, right?

Except that the story did not end there.  "California erupted in an anti-government, anti-establishment convulsion unlike any ever seen" and Davis was recalled less than a year into his second term as the governor.
The October 2003 ouster of Davis, a Democrat, was a primal response to the gridlock, partisan warfare, overweening special interests and mushrooming budget deficits that made the state capital a slough of dysfunction.
You can perhaps begin to see where this post is going.  For a few years now, Washington DC has been characterized by gridlock, partisan warfare, overweening special interests and mushrooming budget deficits that made the state capital a slough of dysfunction.  Voters are pissed off.  Right?

What did Californians do?  (Not me--by then I had already moved to Oregon!)  They held a special election for Davis's replacement.  Who were they?
The spectacle — a snap election featuring a color wheel of 135 candidates, including a former child actor, a porn star and a handful of professional politicians — shook California from its usual political slumber and captivated an audience that watched from around the world.
Haven't we had quite a spectacle of candidates this time around!

The eventual winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was not the porn star, though he could have been one!
In the interview, Schwarzenegger, then 29, acknowledged using "grass and hash, -- no hard drugs." He described participating in group sex with a group of bodybuilders and a "black girl" at Gold's Gym in Venice (Los Angeles County), saying "having chicks around is the kind of thing that breaks up the intense training. It gives you relief, and then afterward you go back to the serious stuff." 
So, with that kind of old stories, and with boastful claims of the outsider life that he led, with statements like ""I never lived my life to be a politician. I never lived my life to be the governor of California," Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor.  What had he ever done in politics?  Nothing as an elected official. Nothing as any kind of a cabinet officer.  Nothing as a member of a regulatory body.  Schwarzenegger was a political nobody.  And he won the election.  He won as a Republican in a state where the demographics were rapidly shifting in favor of Democrats.  His celebrity status carried the day.

The voters didn't care that Schwarzenegger knew nothing about politics--they figured that he couldn't be any worse than the clowns who had paralyzed politics in the state.  Heck, even Warren Buffett came forward to be Schwarzenegger's advisor, and then promptly spoke the truth about property tax and the actor had to quickly silence the gazillionaire.  So successful he was that serious Republicans even explored loopholes in the Constitution that could allow the Austrian-American to run for the presidency.

For the most part, replace the last name of Schwarzenegger with Trump and the story sounds all too familiar now, right?

In the old country, Bengalis prided themselves on how Bengal thinks today what the country will think about only tomorrow.  California, similarly, has been a leader in political revolutions in many ways.  More than a decade later, the country is tempted to follow California's lead by electing a celebrity businessman with no political experience whatsoever.  They both have Germanic heritage as well.  I wonder if their fingers also match in size! ;)


Mike Hoth said...

If you're trying to reinforce the idea that President Trump is a bad idea by comparing him to Schwarzenegger, you're doing the opposite for me. Governor Schwarzenegger may not have left office as a popular man, but I rarely disagreed with his political decisions. He chose a Democrat as chief of staff, worked across the political aisle and refused his salary because he didn't need it.

Mind you, I don't see any of these traits in Donald Trump, but I am still an undecided voter!

Sriram Khé said...

That's precisely my point--Arnold's success in CA points to the distinct probability of the Donald winning in November.
While way early in the process I dismissed Trump as a candidate, into last fall I started thinking that the guy might happen. Which is also why I have been on such a anti-Trump mode; I wouldn't care if I didn't think the Trump presidency is a real possibility.

Ramesh said...

The comparison is completely off, partly for the reasons Mike has said. Gray Davis is no Obama, please. Incidentally, the annual budget deficits are falling; not rising in your country. Despite all the gridlock, your growth rates are not too bad, unemployment figures are low. You lot simply seem like the grumpy French who never believe that things are actually better.

Yes, Trump may win, but Schwarzenegger isn't remotely like Trump.

Most read this past month