Okay, it was cute when Arnold announced he was going to run for governor. The thought of him saying boneheaded things and passing dum-dum laws and basking in the neverending media attention he’d get sounded like a fun way to mark time until the next real election. But now that the election is less than two weeks away and he’s got a real shot at winning, I’m scared. No, not scared, mad. Who does this guy think he is?
Believe me, I understand the frustration people feel with career politicians. They’re either boring wonks (Gray Davis, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman), incompetent dopes (Davis, George W.), unlikable weenies (Davis, Cruz Bustamante, all Republicans), or corrupt scumbags overly reliant on special interest money (everyone). Many of them are driven by a sense of entitlement, a lust for power, or pure slimy, grimy greed. Even when I agree with their politics, I sometimes find it hard to support them. Something is wrong with our electoral process when we have candidates like these in election after election. But are outsiders really any better?
Sure, outsiders think outside the box, and there’s a benefit to that. Sometimes there are creative solutions to common problems that people who deal with those problems every day just can’t see. But you know what? The box isn’t so bad. A lot of the answers are in the box. Outside the box, there’s a little bit of inspiration and a whole lot of craziness. Remember Ross Perot? Not a box-thinker; not a man I’d want anywhere near Washington, D.C.
What makes Arnold think he’s qualified to be governor? Or, for that matter, what makes Wesley Clark think he can be president? Neither of them has any political experience, which shows constantly as they campaign. They flip-flop on their positions, make stupid campaigning faux pas and dodge questions that they don’t know how to answer. None of that hurts anybody, but what’s really scary about these novices is what might happen when they get in office, when they have actual power to screw up more than just their own public image. There’s a reason there are such things as career politicians, why people like Al Gore spent their whole lives training and preparing and learning before trying to move into the executive office. It’s because neither the presidency of the United States nor the governorship of California is an entry-level job.
For all the flaws career politicians may have, what character traits would make a person with no experience think that they should hold one of the highest political offices in the country, or the world? What kind of person says, “Well, my acting career is over, so I’ll be governor”? Or “Time for a career change. I think I’ll be President”? If either Schwarzenegger or Clark really wanted to serve their country, they’d start small. They’d run for a local office first — hell, at least start at the House of Representatives like Fred “Gopher” Grandy did. If they wanted to make the world a better place, they’d train themselves in their newly chosen profession and work their way up. Nobody applies to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company if they’ve spent the last ten years washing cars for a living. Now replace “CEO of a Fortune 500 company” with “Governor of California” and “washing cars” with “pretending to be a robot from the future”. Does that make any more sense?
Fine, Clark was drafted, so maybe his problem is just believing his own hype. Schwarzenegger’s problem is that he’s all hype. Outsiders running for high political offices aren’t motivated by a desire to serve the public or to fix the problems other politicians supposedly created. They don’t know how to do those things. They’re motivated by ego and hubris and self-delusion.
Is that really better than the motivations of the people they’re trying to replace?