Personally, I find the California recall race very reassuring. It’s nice to know that there are some things that never change, including the fact that elections like these haven’t changed all that much from the days when we were voting for class president in sixth grade. For example, I remember that when I was in sixth grade, we had one of those elections for class president, and this one kid, Jason (not his real name — I didn’t change it out of respect, I just changed it because I can’t remember what his real name was; for all I know, it really was Jason), was running.
Jason was a schmuck. There’s no doubt about that. He was a basketball player (our school didn’t have a football team) and he was strangely popular. He was tall, good-looking, and charismatic, but he was mean to the “nerds” in our school, male and female, and he made passes at the girls, slapping their rear ends and grabbing their breasts in the hallways between classes. And his grades were abysmal.
But he was running for Class President, and because he was popular, he was the popular candidate. He was one of those guys who was popular, in spite of his lack of academic ability or character. And, of course, he won.
Sound familiar to anyone?
I have expressed my opinion on my Live Journal that I don’t believe Arnold Schwarzenegger should be our next governor. Leaving aside the questions about his character and how he treats women, I don’t believe that he is at all qualified to be Governor. He’s intelligent, and there can be no doubt about that; but he has no political experience (and running a charity doesn’t count as experience in elected governorship). Sure, this makes him an “outsider”; but I think that once he’s elected, he’ll find that he’s in over his head as he deals with a legislature that is divided, fractious, and dominated by liberal Democrats. And as the allegations about his character and his shady dealings with Enron continue to surface, resistance to him is probably going to only get worse.
But because Arnold has the charisma, his character doesn’t matter and his qualifications don’t matter, and he’ll be elected. I’m impressed that he was man enough to admit to what he did, though his apology fell just short of admitting that what he did was wrong (I’m probably picking at nits with this; but saying, “What I did was wrong” is still a bit different than “I’m sorry I offended you”).
I’ve already voted, of course. I voted “No” on the recall, as should everyone who values the democratic process in America. People who believe that they can buy an election, or who would like to force the results through quickly regardless of accuracy (and in spite of Constitutional requirements) violate democracy, which is just wrong.
I also voted for Cruz Bustamante, though I felt somewhat violated afterwards (kind of how I felt after voting for Gray Davis in 2002). I voted, then I took a long shower. I still feel dirty. And on reflection, I wish I’d voted for one of the minor candidates — Georgy Russell, perhaps, a Democrat who also has no political experience, but at least has integrity and solid values.
In the sixth grade, the class president really doesn’t have a whole lot of power over anything; over the school budget, over school policy, or the selection of books at the school library. So kids can vote for the schmuck, and the consequences won’t be so bad. The governor of the state can have a large impact, though. It’s almost a shame that the kids in the sixth grade don’t get to live with the consequences of a bad choice in an election, a choice based on popularity and charisma over qualifications and character. If they had gotten that chance, then perhaps the people of this state might start showing some sense.