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by Francisco Frias
Tuesday, Oct. 07, 2003 at 4:03 PM
An article on the California recall process by a Los Angeleno.
I must be an extremist. I write letters to newspapers and they don’t get published. I call radio talk shows and I don’t get air time. And yet, what I have to say is easily understood by rational people. When one is a member of the majority, what one thinks is a luxury. One’s perception of reality is not any more correct or less correct because one belongs to the majority, but it definitely has more leverage, more weight.
A case in point is Cruz Bustamante’s performance in the last gubernatorial debate. According to the L.A. Times October 3 rd edition, he was described as, “A large lump(Fox News);” “A giant sleeping cat(San Francisco Chronicle);” “He would have a great career if radio were the dominant medium(Washington Post);” “Calm and collected but also rude in a passive-aggressive kind of way(Sacramento Bee).” Various writers published by the LA Weekly have described him as “tainted;” “barely passes the so so bar;” and “rotten.” All of the writers quoted are white. Males.
I have a different perspective. I like Cruz’s laid back style. He already holds the political office of Lieutenant Governor. He’s against the recall. He is not in an all or nothing situation. He expects California’s electorate to be intelligent enough to recognize Schwarzenegger’s egregious lies and exaggerations.
Arnold is not just incapable of telling the truth about California’s situation, he can’t even tell the truth about himself. He describes himself as someone who arrived in California with empty pockets and a dream. There have been numerous biographies published on his life, most of them authorized. One of them is Arnold Schwarzenegger: Larger Than Life by Craig A. Doherty. It tells a different story. When Arnold came to California, he had already won the Mr. Universe contest and had already met Joe Weider who set him up with a sponsorship deal which included an apartment in Venice and financial compensation. Quite a difference from “empty pockets” and a “dream.”
Additionally, Schwarzenegger ‘ s exaggerations rely on a psychology of fear. California has the worst business climate in the country, and if the Terminator is not elected, droves of jobs will leave California. Apparently, quite a persuasive argument for his legions of supporters. He repeated this several times during the gubernatorial debate.
Another lie is, “I am providing after school programs for children.” After school programs that Hispanic children benefit from, some will add. As pointed out by Arrianna Huffington during the debate, not a single after school program has been funded through Proposition 49, which he campaigned for, because it lacks a funding stream.
Many Hispanics regard Arnold Schwarzenegger as a racist. A mere nine years ago, Arnold voted to deny pre-natal health care to pregnant women and to throw an estimated 300,000 children, many of them American citizens, out of schools. When he hired Pete Wilson, the architect of Proposition 187, to be his campaign manager, it revealed a giant ignorance about how this would be perceived by Hispanics. Or perhaps he knew but didn’t care. Undoubtedly, he shares ideological bonds with Pete Wilson, the man who a few years ago told us that California was under siege by illegal immigration, and then proceeded to repeat lie after lie about immigrants, in a manner which recalled Adolf Hitler’s statement that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. Arnold has learned well.
Schwarzenegger ‘s opposition to SB 60, the bill which allows undocumented people to apply for a driver’s license, has further consolidated the negative perception which Hispanics have of him. He cites security concerns. Bill Bratton, the LAPD chief, doesn’t seem to share them. He supports the bill. With 10 million people living in the L.A. metropolitan area, I can think of no other person in California who has a greater direct responsibility for protecting the population from terrorism. So which is it Arnold? Security concerns, or do you share with your Republican colleague Tom McClintock, the rhetorical, yet impractical position that allowing undocumented people to hold a driver’s license would be rewarding illegal immigration?
Cruz Bustamante does not need an over the top debating style to convince us to vote for him. He does not need to kick and scream like Arrianna Huffington. He is the most qualified candidate who will actually get more than 3% of the vote. However, I definitely feel that his TV ads could have been better prepared to appeal to a wider range of voters. For instance, in one ad, he is at a rally delivering a speech to supporters. In airing this as an ad, his is literally preaching to the already converted.
Similarly, Gray Davis could have benefited from making better decisions regarding his TV ads. He could have garnered greater support from Hispanics if he would have started running his ads sooner. The one featuring Los Angeles council member Antonio Villaraigosa encouraging Hispanics to vote for him should have been running two months ago, not two days before the election.
The legions of white males who support Arnold believe his lies and exaggerations. He is the savior of California. I have never seen such zest and zeal for a candidate. People who have never voted before have registered. They are having homoerotic fantasies about him. That 15 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment by Arnold Schwarzenegger and that he is having such trouble courting women voters further highlights who his base of appeal is and their struggle in holding on to power.
Win or lose, this is the white man’s last stand. If elected, having Arnold as governor will be a surreal experience, but he cannot alter the course of history. Perhaps, he can accelerate it. According to some estimates, Hispanics are up to 35% of the population of California. Yet, they’re only 16% of the electorate. Combine this with a higher birth rate and immigration, and it becomes apparent that those who wish to ignore this group’s perception of reality do so at their own peril. Since Proposition 187, Republicans have been swept out of state office, and Democrats have established firm majorities in both legislative houses. This should also cause people, including all those writer’s critical of Bustamante’s style, to question their perception of reality.
Through the recall process we can see California’s political future. In the first debate, there were multiple candidates, including Peter Camejo of the Green Party. Arnold was conspicuously absent. It’s as if Arnold is an illusion. If Arnold were not running, who would the Republican candidates be? Tom McClintock? Bill Simon? Darell Issa? Richard Riordan? All unelectable extremists. The term “moderate Republican” is an oxymoron.
The Republican Party has endorsed Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a Hispanic who has been educated in the California public school system from kindergarten all the way up through the university, I object to the election of a racist to the governorship of the state of California in the year 2003. That is my perception of reality. In the future, Republicans will either change their spots, or go extinct.
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