With Arnold Schwarzenegger’s overwhelming popularity in both in California, and across the nation, political leaders of all factions are rushing to portray his gubernatorial victory as an endorsement of their own brands of politics. At a time when the stakes could not be higher voters turned out in droves to proclaim their faith in an action hero who promised to restore California to its former glory and remove it from the hands of the bad guys.
Why was Schwarzenegger so successful, and what does it mean, if anything, for the 2004 presidential election? First, one must consider Schwarzenegger’s battleground. California bears little likeness to any other place on earth. California’s distinctiveness is the reason that the state provides a testing ground for one who is trying to push himself as the candidate of the times. Every candidate who is running in the 2004 presidential election has his theory as to why Schwarzenegger was such a successful candidate. There are countless theories, and most of them are accurate.
1. Take No Vote For Granted
For Republicans across the country, there was no more inspiring aspect of the election than the fact that Schwarzenegger cut deep into Democratic territory. The Democrats and the Republics both learned that they can not take any historically conservative or liberal territory for granted.
In blue-collar households, where Democrats have historically had an edge, Schwarzenegger won a roughly equal number of votes. Schwarzenegger fared far better among women than was expected in the wake of scandals over allegations that he groped women and cheated on his wife.
In addition, minorities, which typically tend to vote Democrat, came out in support of Schwarzenegger. Hispanics, in particular, voted in unprecedented numbers for Schwarzenegger.
2. Never Underestimate the Power of Angry People
It is clear to many that the recall election was about neither Gray Davis, Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt, nor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was about the frustration of the people, and their desire for change.
A year ago, when Davis was reelected, many Californians could have never imagined that they would be voting in a recall election. It does send a message that when people are displeased, they can do something. This election has been a lesson to the both the Democrats and Republicans alike – what killed one candidate could help them all in the future.
California and other United States citizens are angry at the condition of their state. Politicians, especially George Bush, should take heed. Exit polls suggested that Schwarzenegger’s fresh appeal and personal qualities mattered more to voters than his stance on issues. Voters are fed up with the status quo, and they’re fighting for change.
3. Repeat After Me – Swing Voter
A traditionally liberal state ousts their Democratic governor for a Republican. That is the work of swing voters in action. California elected a Republican who had the social policy of a Democrat. Candidates for the 2004 presidential election are capitalizing on the fact that the country seeks a more moderate candidate. Democratic candidate Joe Lieberman is one such candidate. He is a conservative Democrat.
Legislative boundaries have traditionally been drawn to polarize areas and cut down on the number of swing districts. California is part of this trend. Districts have been created in such a manner, that it is extremely difficult to for an incumbent candidate to lose.
The California election proves that this districting is one more piece of the “business as usual” pie that they are rebelling against. They have proved that when pushed, they will cross political lines and vote against the status quo as opposed to for or against a specific candidate.
4. Don’t Laugh, Because You’re Next!
Is this the start of a political revolution, or is it just another Hollywood story? Is this just a battle between the terminator and the bad guy, or is it something a little deeper? Surprise! The answer is: all of the above.
California’s recall was mocked by people outside of California, and around the world. Washed up celebrities, a terminator, a porn king, and basically anyone else who could pay the filing fee have provided Saturday Night Live with enough material to fill seasons to come. But by the of the election, the recall turned into something bigger than sketch comedy.
There may not be one single lesson that can be taken away from the recall. With a flailing economy, social injustice, and problems overseas, the most important lesson that the election suggests is that the nation is ready for change.