After too many weeks of hype, hysteria and hoopla, the voters finally had their say in California Tuesday.
Those who make their living getting slimeballs elected to public office should be taking notes.
By convincing margins, the voters tossed incompetent incumbent Gov. Grey Davis out on his ass and replaced him with a political novice, action star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
California voters pull this kind of stunt from time to time – tossing political hacks out and replacing them with an anti-politician. Ronald Reagan comes to mind.
This time around, however, the voters sent more than one message to those who get elected to office and immediately forget that they are there to serve the people and public interest.
When defeat looked certain, Davis turned to his political stock and trade – the smear campaign. His handlers, with the help of an all-too-eager Los Angeles Times, orchestrated a series of allegations that Schwarzenegger abused women – groping them, suggesting sexual activity and acting like an outright cad.
Such tactics worked for Davis in the past, but Democrats forgot that one of their own – a tail-chasing, honesty-challenged rogue named William Jefferson Clinton – had numbed voters to such activity by elected officials. Nobody really cared if Arnold pinched some young thing’s ass. It wasn’t the same as getting blow jobs in the Oval Office.
Conservative Republicans tried their best to lose the election – throwing one of their own, State Senator Tom McClintock, into the crowded field of candidates. Arnold, the conservatives whined, wasn’t a real Republican. He’s a moderate for Christ’s sake, pro-choice and even married to one of the Kennedy Clan.
On conservative bulletin boards, those whose political expertise consists of watching Fox News Channel predicted a McClintock victory, but those were the same people who predicted Pat Buchanan would beat Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000.
In the end, McClintock fell short, even though he did get more votes than Mary Carey, the stripper and porn queen.
What voters did say was that they’ve had enough of business as usual in Sacremento where Davis fiddled while the state’s economy melted down. They wanted something different and different didn’t mean another politician. Rather than take a chance on Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamonte or McClintock, they were willing to risk the state’s future on an Austrian-born former body builder whose primary claim to fame is playing a robot on the big screen.
While the politicians played their usual partisan games, Schwarzenegger ran his own, media-driven campaign, avoiding debates (he did just one), avoiding the political talk shows (he announced his candidacy on the Tonight Show) and apologizing for his lurid past (something a “real” politician would never do).
Back when I practiced political trickery for a living, the guru who taught me the business offered this advice to anyone seeking political office:
“In the end, if the voters like you, they’re gonna vote for you.”
In the end, the voters liked Arnold Schwarzenegger.
They didn’t like the politicians.