I was glued to the T.V. for most of the night this past Tuesday. It was election night, an event that for people like me tends to be more exciting than the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the World and Stanley Cups combined.
Everything else pales in comparison to election night. It is the perfect sport. This is largely because even if you don’t have money riding on the outcome, you’ve still triumphed or destructed in a tangible way once the numbers come in. The only people who stand to lose or gain during the World Series are gamblers and steroid fiends and the eager young groupies, who, for a quick buck, readily attend to the needs of the major players in both of the preceding categories.
But politics is different. Sure the gamblers and steroid fiends and groupies still pervade, but beyond them, we’ve all got something to lose—be it faith or innocence or a way of life—and when we do we lose big. But there are winners too… and this year I am glad to be counted among them. This is the first election since I became eligible to vote seven years ago that has substantially broke in my favor. Simply put, I am the Boston Red Sox of politics and finally winning feels pretty good.
But for a winner who is not used to losing, this election’s outcome must be a pretty hard pill to swallow. Especially for Schwarzenegger, since the last time most of us saw him meet defeat was when his character was destroyed without accomplishing its mission at the end of The Terminator.
And make no mistake about it, his name might not have been on the ballot, but Schwarzenegger’s political power was up for re-election. In one simple ill fated special election, our governor managed to become a lame duck, going from Terminator to Last Action Hero, over night by attaching his name to a package of bills that might have passed easily had he only had the sense to pass them off during the regular election cycle.
But waiting for the election cycle isn’t Arnold’s style. He rode his wave to power during a freak election, so he thought it would be a good idea to exercise that power during a freak election. But he underestimated the contempt that it would embroil in his constituents.
There was a fatal flaw in Arnold’s message, and that flaw was that he basically called us all idiots who are incapable of properly choosing politicians who would represent our interests in the state legislature. He assumed that he was elected because of some promise of reform and not for the novelty of having an action superstar from Austria head up California’s executive branch—and the voters have punished him for it.
Schwarzenegger’s political capital is all spent now and aside from veto power he is pretty much at the mercy of the same largely democratic legislature that he has brow beaten and abused for the last two years.
This is not an enviable spot for any executive to be in, especially not one who just tried to wrest power from the legislature and consolidate it in the executive.
From now on if Arnold wants to get anything done, he’ll have to compromise big—and even then he just might wind up being a sort of twisted whipping boy. That is, as long as the legislature keeps their fun reasonable.
If election turn outs in this country tell us anything, it’s that Americans only like to vote if they’re pissed off—and right now Californians appear to be pissed off in the legislature’s favor. The last thing legislators should do is inadvertently flip that coin… other wise it might give our Last Action Hero the political capital to waste a whole lot more of the taxpayer’s money by holding another one of these goofy special elections.
John Patrick, a senior journalism major, is editorial director of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.