Schwarzenegger wins

In the end, the election wasn’t a farce. Everyone thought that Arnold Schwarzenegger

would win with fewer votes than Grey Davis, and that didn’t happen. In fact,

it looks as though he got

an outright majority of the votes, despite running against more than 130

opponents, a large number of whom were members of his own political party. An

impressive showing by any measure.

The knee-jerk reaction across the pond (and, indeed, in many liberal enclaves

in the US) will be to start talking about how the US is a laughingstock once

again – this crazy so-called democracy where the president got fewer votes

than his opponent, where the election was decided by the Supreme Court, where

Clint Eastwood and Sonny Bono and Jesse Ventura and now Arnold Schwarzenegger

win elective office.

But in fact there were good

reasons to vote for Schwarzenegger, and a lot of those who bemoan the fact

that Davis wasn’t allowed to serve out his term are the same people who would

desperately love to see the same fate befall Hugo Chavez, in Venezuela.

For me, though, the most interesting parallel is with Argentina. Schwarzenegger

was clearly the beneficiary of a general disgust with politics as usual –

a sentiment which will resonate strongly with the vast majority of Argentines.

In California, as in Argentina, politics is dominated by two enormous political

parties, both of whom are desperately constrained due to their debts to special

interests. And in California, as in Argentina, the voters shunned a once-in-a-generation

opportunity to elect an independent candidate.

I’m not saying that Arianna Huffington would have made a better governor of

California than Arnold Schwarzenegger, although it’s entirely possible. And

I’m not saying that Elisa Carrio would have made a better president of Argentina

than Nestor Kirchner. But I am saying that both of them got comprehensively

steamrollered by political machines which were, by all accounts, completely


The people who voted for Schwarzenegger yesterday are the same people who voted

for John McCain the Republican primaries in 2000, or who are going to vote for

Howard Dean in the forthcoming Democratic primaries. They’re protesting against

the status quo by voting for candidates who talk tough yet still stand firmly

within the two-party system, and who will do nothing to change it. For the two-party

system is much bigger, and much stronger, than any candidate, and it will outlast

them all.

That, of course, is a Very Bad Thing. The special interests will continue to

rule Sacramento (and Washington, for that matter), and the prospects for meaningful

reform are distant at best. But the irony is that the alternative is even more

chilling: the only thing worse than strong political parties is weak political

parties. A large part of the problem in Venezuela is that Chavez used popular

hatred of the political parties to tear them down and construct a new system

where there basically isn’t any coherent political opposition to him at all.

And one look at the list

of Italian prime ministers since the war tells you everything you need to know

about a system where everybody spends their entire time fighting everybody else:

after decades of chaos, you end up electing a spectacularly corrupt businessman

who is so rich he can buy an entire country.

The ideal, I think is somewhere in between. I’m no expert on Canadian politics,

but I have a feeling that they have it pretty much right. An entire political

party (the Conservatives) can self-destruct and it doesn’t seem to matter very

much; meanwhile, for all the craziness and shouting, Quebec is still, somehow,

part of the country.

Plus, of course, Canada had the most dapper

premier that north America has ever had. I can’t imagine Arnold in

a tuxedo, doing the tango.

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One Response to Schwarzenegger wins

  1. Jim Bean says:

    Have you seen the commercial where the “enviormentalist” is working in the Alaskan Nature preserve and then they say “She IS the oil company”. Money and advertising can cover and sell a million sins and stupid people are hoodwinked . Now here is the movie start talking what he talks and idiots think he is a superman politician. I wish him well but it is distrubing. God save us all.

    (I do like his movies though)

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