Hasta la vista, Davis

Nicholaus Krichevsky

[email protected]

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2003 –

8 p.m.: The polls in California close.

8:35 p.m.: Bubble, bubble, bubble; long exhale; cough. Repeat.

Something has happened. Something strange and exciting, and even slightly unnerving, because the horizon has changed and nobody can say for certain what it looks like.

But you should have seen it coming. Really, you should have. You should have known when the Left became so desperate at the end. You should have known when the Red Sox and the Cubs both won series in October. You should have sensed it when the whole lunatic affair began.

For it is true: Arnold is now the governor of California.

And even I’m surprised. Not that he won, but that so many of us are suprised. C’mon people, it’s California. They’ve put actors in office before, and surely (and hopefully) will again.

Now hold on! I know you want to throw up your hands, drop the paper and call me crazy for that “hopefully” comment, but don’t. This isn’t a column on why celebrities should be in office, even though it may turn out that way regardless of my intention. This is a column about that changed horizon and the promise it holds.

Predictably, there were major concerns and strong rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum about what could happen if and when Schwarzenegger took the governorship form Gray Davis. Both sides have been spinning in circles trying to figure out what it would mean if California did go through with the recall.

And neither side is or was happy about it.

So, also predictably, there was a lot of bullshit surrounding the campaigns, and about that, I say this: One thing that kills both the Right and Left around election time is the finger-pointing, mud-slinging and conspiracy-theorizing. It’s annoying and has unfortunately become a salient feature of the political landscape, especially in this election.

But the Left screaming “Republican conspiracy” at the outset of the recall was just as futile as the 11th-hour allegations of sexual misconduct against Schwarzenegger. I’m not suggesting that the allegations are unfounded, indeed I’m quite sure they’re for real, but they were also more than convenient in their timing and just further illustrated for the citizenry the debasement of our modern political structure’s modus operandi. And the people’s response to the tactic was in good measure: We don’t care.

That’s the first lesson neither side will learn from this.

Now the Republicans aren’t exactly thrilled about Schwarzenegger’s accession either. This guy, no matter how much the Left vilifies him, is not your daddy’s Republican. He’s a real Republican, as I like to call the few still out there, seemingly free of the clutches of fundamentalist Christians and special-interest groups, a problem with politics in California.

He’s made it clear that he’s an outsider and not a friend of special interests, and being in the financial shape he’s in helps to stay true to those claims. This makes neither side happy because special interests have dominated political activity for a long time now, and his election shows that the people are fed up with it and are going to begin looking for alternatives to the standard politician. Even if the best alternative is a man with an Austrian accent preaching “power to the people.” (I’m just pointing it out.)

This is the second lesson that neither side will learn from this.

California is a mess, right? And that’s not a good thing, not for Californians and not for the world. Economic stability in the Golden State is too important to be left to chance, as Gray Davis was letting happen.

He was more than reluctant, it seemed, to make and push policies. And when he finally did come up with one, it ended up being that damn proverbial straw. And the result: The people of California decided they wanted a change, and they’re going to get it one way or another.

They always do.

I don’t sympathize. Whoever let that car-tax idea get off the drawing-room floor sure screwed the pooch, and a politician of Davis’s caliber and experience should have seen its flaw.

Or maybe, just maybe, there were other interests Davis was looking out for.

Whatever the case, don’t be surprised that California traded Gray for his antithesis, the one known as Ah-nold. If you want a change, you want a change, and trading one slick, well-versed politico for another isn’t what California has defined as change.

I just hope the idea catches on.