Friday, September 17, 2010

Voting for Governor

Back in 2003, my liberal friends were appalled that I could find good in Arnold Schwarzenneger and that I intended to vote for him in California's gubernatorial recall election. He was a Republican, for crying out loud, didn't I realize that he was, therefore, the spawn of the devil? There was no room for discussion - I had strayed from the path of righteousness and deserved to be flogged.

I remember standing on the Bill Williams Trail on Mt. Tamalpais, hands on my hips and fury blazing from my eyes.  "Girls, he's a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights Republican. Maybe there are three of them left in the world.  We have to support him.  He's an endangered species."  They were unmovable, unshakable, adamant in their conviction that he was nothing more than The Terminator, a groping, muscle bound idiot without the credentials or the gravitas to lead the Golden State.

Here we are, 7 years later, and he's term-limited out of a job.  In the interim, he tried to clean up the mess left by his deposed predecessor, Gray Davis.  A bland, professional politician, Davis failed the state in a number of ways, not the least of which was being suckered by the felons at Enron into locking California into ruinously expensive energy expenditures.  It will be decades, if ever, before the state can find its way out of the financial morass in which it is mired.  For now, roads go unpaved, government workers are furloughed, and a once proud education system is gasping for air. 

I liked watching Arnold govern.  He was spot-on, dead-right, absolutely accurate when he called the legislator girly men.... they were whining and whimpering like pre-pubescent teenage girls every time Arnold tried to whip them into shape.  It wasn't a sexist or anti-gay slur coming from him - it was an Austrian speaking idiomatic English with a swashbuckler's air surrounding the whole conversation.  It made people laugh, it put people in their place, and it demonstrated where the power lay. 

Watching a political neophyte wrestle with governance was interesting.  Like most state legislatures, California's is an abominable mess.  Power grabs and re-election gambits have given way to a gimme mine and gimme it quick mentality.  Special projects whoosh through the approval process while the larger whole, the quaking and quivering mass of jello that was once a robust dot-com-and-build-me-a-new-home economy, lies writhing in the dust.  There's an interesting cycle of serving, retiring, raising money and then serving again which is going on amongst a certain percentage of the elected officials.  Jerry Brown, who's been Secretary of State, Governor, Attorney General, mayor of Oakland and a presidential and senatorial candidate, is, once again, running for the governor's office on the Democratic ticket.  It's been hard to keep track of exactly what he was doing at any given moment, but his principles seem to be the same as those he learned at the Sacred Heart Novitiate while studying to become a priest. 

Meg Whitman, former CEO of ebay and possessor of her own fancy degrees from Princeton and Harvard, is his opposition.  She's spent $119 million of her own money to finance her campaign.  Since she's worth about $1.3 billion that's really not that much.  A little more research discloses that the charitable foundation she established and named after herself and her husband was started with a donation of approximately $9.4 million worth of ebay stock.  It's now valued at $46 million.  She turned down Warren Buffett's call to make his Giving Pledge.  I guess giving away half of her billions just doesn't float her boat..... at least   It's hard to extract policies from her campaign site - create jobs, cut spending, blah blah blah.  The most notable tidbit there was this scary photo of Nancy Reagan endorsing Meg and Carly Fiorino (who's running for U.S.Senate)

Still and all, I am captivated by the race.  I have to be.  It's self defense.  Here in Arizona we have incumbent Jan Brewer facing off against Terry Goddard, our Attorney General.  The difference between the two states could not be greater.  There is no educational background on Governor Brewer's site, but there are these fun facts:
  • Religious Affiliation: Active member of Life in Christ Lutheran Church in Peoria    
  • Best Political Advice She Ever Received:  "Your Word is Your Bond"         
  • Favorite Book:  "Reagan Diaries" by President Ronald Reagan
  • Favorite Arizona political figure, past or present:  Former Congressman Bob Stump
  • Hobby:  Gardening
  • Favorite Music Group:  ABBA    
  • Favorite Candy:  Snickers
  • Favorite Drink:  Coke Zero
There's no mention of her tenure at Glendale Community College; I had to dig deep into the bowels of the interweb to find a school that would claim her.  

Terry Goddard is possibly the sleepiest candidate I've ever had the misfortune to be destined to vote for.  He's a Harvard guy, with a local law degree from Arizona State University. Having served as Mayor of Phoenix for four terms he must have done something right, but I'm hard pressed to come up with an example of exemplary governance from the website.    While he didn't suffer a bout of aphasia during the debate

It gets really awful at 41 seconds.... 

and his answers were cogent if incredibly somewhat boring, the Rasmussen poll taken after the debate showed Brewer's lead growing.  

Yes, growing.  Up 3 points to 60% while Goddard remained stuck at 38%.  So, what does that tell us?  Can it possibly mean that 3% of the people who were formerly undecided are now thinking that a woman who looks to the moderator for help with such pleading in her eyes has the emotional chops to govern our state?  Come on, people..... the woman is just not smart.

I'm sure that there are legacies and donors and politically connected students who are accepted at Harvard.  I'm certain that not everyone who graduates from Harvard is brilliant or qualified to become my governor.  But everyone who's gone to Harvard has experienced being in a room with people who think and speak and read and have more to offer than interesting facts.  There is a real benefit to be gleaned from such exposure.  Even if you can't follow the arguments, you can watch as they are made.  Eventually, something has to sink in.  

I want my elected officials to have a sense of nuance and modicum of depth to go with it.  I want someone who could take a deep breath, say Let's start that over again, shall we? and laugh at herself before coming back from what has happened to most some of us at one time or another.  It's not the brain freeze that freaks me out.  It's her look for an out, for rescue from the guy to her left, for the floor to open up beneath her and let her escape.  I don't want someone like that deciding what I'm going to have for breakfast, let alone how my state should be run.

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