It’s late September and I really should be back in school –Rod Stewart (in Maggie May)
Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. –attributed to Vince Lombardi
Now maybe I’ll be able to get that song out of my head and concentrate on “The Arnold.” It is late September here in California, and while it is early to do a post-mortem with the election a week away, it is my last chance. Politics long considered one of the last bastions of geeky, pale, weasel-faced, high school debate club presidents is about to fall. By the time you read this, Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely be bench pressing a podium — Gray Davis–or he’ll be challenging reporters to punch him in the stomach as hard as they can. Oh yes, and he will be Governor-elect of California.
The Minnesota connection makes us unindicted co-conspirators. Schwarzenegger is frequently compared to Jesse Ventura, the other freewheeling, steroid-using, self-confessed 70s wild man. Californians do this to cite precedent and to reassure themselves that what they are doing makes sense. The first time some co-workers earnestly suggested this to me I was eating lunch and milk came out of my nose. I attempted to explain the continual limit-testing Jesse had done. Whether it was moonlighting on weekends for the XFL, talking to Playboy magazine, or the use of the mansion, Jesse forced us into the role of parenting our petulant political prodigy.
Jesse really wanted unicameral government and mass transit. One of which is still a good idea. Arnold is richer, tanner, bolder, and far more dangerous. We are consoled that he cannot constitutionally become president and will have to settle for California, the world’s fifth largest economy. He is Machiavellian, ego-driven, ambitious, and cunning. Unfortunately his narcissism seems to be an end and not a means. He appears to have no ideology beyond winning. Granted, the list of selfless politicians is short, but Schwarzenegger seems to take particular glee in subjugating others to his torrid will.
The Arnold has completely revised his early steroid use, womanizing, and questionable business ethics. He is a Hummer lover, and the metaphor is perfect, particularly if you have ever sat next to one while in a Miata at a stop light. A quirky short term race for Sacramento is perfectly geared to garner him mass exposure. It is form over substance: “Getting Elected Governor For Dummies.” Perhaps we are all ADD, and this is as long as we can concentrate. I fear my adopted state is making an impulsive decision we will all regret, and the poor will pay. In which case I will be back as soon as Minnesotans disarm.
I may be overreacting, and Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, Richard Simmons (accountant), Mary Carey (porn star), the 105 year old woman, or even Gray Davis may have won. In that case, let me echo the words of Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live: “Never mind.”
Tom H. Cook is missing a real Minnesota autumn. He also remembers–all too clearly–what comes next.