Wednesday, October 08, 2003

All eyes to Cahleephoneya. Cahleephoneya uber alles. We've got a bigger problem now.

Congratulations to our new governator. Yes, I'm stunned by the size of his victory, but not that he won. And, yes, I truly wish him (and All of Us) the best.

So - what happened here yesterday? Was it a great victory for the Republicans? A great defeat for the Democrats? A blow against the system? Most of the pundits I heard last night or read this morning are saying that it's a Republican upset against the Democrats - And they are all wrong.

Oh, it was a defeat for the Democrats alright. But I'd caution Republican leaders from taking too much credit for it. Arnold's victory was not a Republican victory, and it was not a conservative victory, it was a personal one. People voted for a man, not a party. More importantly, they voted for him as a (perceived) outsider.

I believe this by contrasting the gubernatorial vote with the vote on proposition 54, the "racial privacy" initiative. Had this been a conservative victory, had the typical Republican voter in this state been the one to create change yesterday, prop 54 would have passed. Instead it went down to a decisive defeat (62% no, with most districts reporting).

Watching his victory speech last night, on a stage filled with Democrats as well as Republicans, I came to realize a few things. At first I was disgusted as Jay Leno introduced the governor-elect (I think using the Tonight Show to promote your favorite candidate is a bit unfair). Then I stared in disbelief as Eunice Kennedy and Sargeant Shriver stood smiling at a Republican victory. Then it hit me:

Here in the Bay Area, we saw things differently than the rest of the state, and voted accordingly. In the Bay Area we saw the recall as a right-wing political power-grab and voted against it. The rest of the state saw it as a means to shout, "We're mad as Hell and we're not going to take it anymore." In the Bay Area we saw Arnold as a Republican tool and voted for others. The rest of the state saw him as an outsider and potential leader who could get things done by rising above the political din.

About Arnold's margin of victory: First, it's amazing that in a 135 candidate race anybody could garner nearly 49% of the vote. Yes, it's a mandate, and there's no reason to challenge the results. Let's certify the election, start the transition, and get on with the business of the state.

But, I do have to question whether that commanding lead was all Arnold's doing. I believe the media had a lot to do with it (even beyond buddy Jay's politicizing his little show).

I feel that democracy was the real loser yesterday. We had an opportunity to see a multi-candidate, multi-idea race, and the media couldn't handle it. In the last week they determined to make it a two-man race, and they succeeded. Multiple headlines in each of the papers declared that the recall was now a "referendum on Arnold."

To read any of the final week's coverage would lead a voter to believe that this was a one question race, choosing between a failed governor and a "randy" outsider. If that were the only issue here, I'd have voted for Arnold myself. But the questions, and the issues, were much larger than that.

I'm sure I'll write more about the failings of the press, and the need to open up our democracy to more citizen candidates, later. This morning, however, I'm pleased that proposition 54 failed, and I'm trying to look on the positive sides of Arnold's victory.

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