Plitics of Entertainment

November 2003


Thoughts and reflections on entertainers as leaders. Is Arnold in politics because of Jesse Ventura?

A good friend of mine commented recently that he thought the candidacy of Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger was due to jealousy. My friend supposed Mr. Schwarzenegger to be jealous of his good friend, Jesse Ventura, who is also an actor and lately the governor of the State of Minnesota. I'm not so sure. Not that I know anything about Mr. Schwarzenegger, apart from his very public persona and the fact that he has gotten much better at sort of acting than when he started out.

There are comparatively few places in the world where an actor with no political experience whatsoever could aspire to, let alone achieve, an exalted post, such as governor, of a very major state like California. Those who dislike the man on spec, fear that he will prove to be a reactionary Republican of the worst kind -- for sale to the highest bidder. Others point to his personal commitment to the welfare of children and to his support of some governmental programs for people, as being at least hopeful signs that their worst fears won't be realized.

I am not sure which is worse: to have political novices who may mean well but who are easy prey for the political wolves or to have a political wolf. We seem to be in a condition where we have a choice between one or the other of these extremes for just about all lofty offices in the land. People who don't fit the profile need not apply. Good intentioned people of real personal conscience are especially discouraged from high office. Thomas Moore, who was for a time Chancellor of England, said, "A minister who forsakes his private conscience for public expedience leads his country by a short route to chaos." From our recent history, I'd have to say he was dead right.

So, what use is politics, if it is impotent or incapable of implementing real solutions to grievous dilemmas that plague the nation? We spend enough time and money on politicking. It ought to have some value. Perhaps it's a sport, somewhere between professional wrestling and bowling-something many people like to watch, but not many people are proud to be seen doing. There are many contests that virtually no one pays any attention to, and a few that get top billing by virtue of issues or big names.

I do feel right sorry for Mr. Davis. Here's a man who can't really claim to have been the cause of everything he's been blamed for. I know, the buck stops there, but they didn't impeach Herbert Hoover and as bad as California's problems are, they aren't as bad as the Great Depression. And there's some part of me that wants Arnold to succeed. Not for any good reason, but he's held in such naked contempt by almost anyone with any intellectual pretensions that he has earned almost the aura of an underdog. It would be a pleasure to see some of those smug experts discomforted by his really accomplishing something worthwhile.

Not that I hold out much hope of that. Even if Mr. Schwarzenegger is a saint with the brains of a second Einstein, California is in a royal mess and it will probably take more than half a dozen governors of any kind to drag it away from the brink. Still, with his friends and other connections, Arnold has some unusual possibilities. California is home to a larger number of multi-multi millionaires than just about anywhere. I'd imagine that many of these men and women feel a fondness and gratitude for their good fortune and the state that gave rise to their success. If each of them would make a simple (but substantial) one-time gift to the state, as a thank you to California and all that it has been, the state could be in the black by the end of next week. And he is (or was) Austrian -- a people with a deserved reputation among the Germanic peoples for thrift. The current Austrian Chancellor has made major cuts in education and old age pensions. Doubtless, if Arnold follows that example, we'll be treated to yet another recall election.

I hope Mr. Schwarzenegger has a lot of fun and does relatively little harm. His buddy Jesse Ventura grew bored with governing after a short while and, by most accounts, did it as little as possible for most of his term. Perhaps that will be the example Arnold will follow. Pity, I'd rather see him delousing the universe on the big screen.

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