'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Schwarzenegger Syndrome: Meltdown 

As all of you probably already know, Schwarzenegger suffered a defeat of catastrophic proportions yesterday, one that probably signals the end of his career in politics. All of the propositions associated with him, Propositions 73 through 78, lost.

None of the margins were even close enough to place the outcomes in question because of the substantial amount of ballots that invariably remain to be counted around the state. Most embarassingly, it appears that Proposition 73, the parental consent measure, and Proposition 75, a measure that would have required unions to get approval from their members individually before using their dues for political purposes, actually ran worse because of Schwarzenegger's support. One wonders how Christian fundamentalists are going to respond after their campaign consultants tell them that Proposition 73 might have won if not for Schwarzenegger's endorsement.

Yesterday's post described how Schwarzenegger and his Republican mentor, former governor Pete Wilson, sought to manipulate the special election process to impose a conservative political system on a progressive state. It almost succeeded. It failed primarily because progressive unions unaffiliated with the state AFL-CIO, such as the California Nurses Associaton and the California Teacher's Association, refused to be intimidated by Schwarzenegger's purported aura of invincibility. They confronted him repeatedly through aggressive public protest over his attempted implementation of a corporate friendly, anti-education agenda for this state.

People slowly began to recognize that he was nothing more than a public relations shill for his corporate donors, as he paraded around the state, participating in Hee Haw type stunts like his recent "Count Cartaxula" one, where he claimed that the defeat of his budget initiative, Proposition 76, would result in the return of an increase in the vehicle license fee, before attending evening fundraisers with corporate executives, where, one suspects, they readily displayed contempt for the voters they were trying to reach through such contrived events. Challenged during his town hall apperances about the substance of his measures, he could do nothing but nastily attack teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public sector workers as "special interests" dedicated to the state's destruction. The public responded to this confusing mixture of insincerity, cheesiness and apocalyptic, overheated rhetoric in the most brutal way possible: they transformed him into an object of derision.

Significantly, Schwarzenegger also planned to slowly strangle public education financially, by obtaining almost dictatorial powers to continue to cut the state budget. Proposition 76, if it had passed, would have empowered him to do so. It is an important aspect of the Schwarnegger agenda, with serious implications, because it reveals his core constituency, upper middle class and upper class Californians, many of them living in suburban subdivisions specially designed to create the illusion of separation from the rest of the populace. Capable of educating themselves and their children privately, they seek insulation from competition by degrading the public sector alternative. Clearly, there are additionally troubling racial dimensions to this phenomenon as well, possibly reflected in the reliance upon whites in Schwarzenegger campaign literature. Yesterday, we resisted this onslaught, at least for awhile.

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