October 08, 2003

Time to Suspend the Suspension of Disbelief

Pundits from all directions seem to be making the most common mistake imaginable regarding the meaning and existential import of the California recall election, taking a single data point and extrapolating a trend from it as far as they eye can see. You know, there's a reason all those who stand in the way of some dreamy utopia are called entrenched interests. All the evils that existed six months ago, or six days ago are still there -- well, except for one, but, come to think of it, he's still there too. It is natural, but foolish, to imagine that the scales have suddenly fallen from the eyes of all those who have built California's government-industrial complex, their vision restored, nay, enhanced, in a road to Damascus moment inspired by a relatively thin majority of a few percent of the voters. And to then extend this overnight transformation (and as yet unrealized reformation) of the promised land of milk and honey immediately to the national level reveals the romantic victory of sentimental feeling over reason.

Bold predictions of a political New World Order are more than a little too optimistic at this point. Like the ubiquitous zeitgeist of the impending demise of the Republican/Democrat Party after each general election, proclamations that Arnold's victory heralds some new transformation of power politics ring as hollow now as they did after each of the electoral "surprises" that have happened before in my lifetime.

There is one significant change to politics as it has been played, though I think Arnold surfed this wave of change, rather than causing it by any tectonic shifting of the body politic through his exertions. Tip O'Neill once famously said, "All politics are local." In these days of Big Media and with the burgeoning dominance of our celebrity culture, I wonder if perhaps this is no longer true. Certainly Arnold has no connection to "local" people or "local" politics except through the commercial transaction conducted just before we sit passively in the dark quietly absorbing the images presented to us. This is certainly no more a legitimate basis for wielding supreme executive power than having some watery tart throw a sword at you.

Arnold is a blip. I wish him well. But, eventually, the honeymoon will be over. Soon enough, the owners of the gored oxen and the sycophantic worshippers of the butchered sacred cows will be lamenting long and loud -- as they have always been -- and that's assuming that Arnold has the will and the savvy to actually follow through on his good intentions. After all, the next election is just around the corner. And I don't even want to think about what any of this means if the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution takes away the requirement for a president of the United States to be a natural born citizen.

Posted by Charles Austin at October 8, 2003 02:00 PM