Bring On The Clowns!

Fans of government may be frowning at the events in California: more than 130 people have filed for the governor’s race in that state, leading at least one would-be governor — Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi — to drop out of the race, declaring it to be a circus. A two-ring circus may be OK, but 130 rings? Don’t these people know that the sappy aphorism "Any little boy (or girl) can grow up to be President (or governor)" is just opium for the masses? Still, 130 candidates! It’s undignified!

Sure, but so what? Either you want to be governor, or you don’t. So what if your fellow-candidates resemble the cast of a Ringling Bros. side show? Do you fear losing to a "candidate" named Angelyne, whose principal occupation seems to consist of wearing skin-tight outfits, and leaning slightly backwards to counterbalance the weight of the over-ripe melons on her chest? If you’ve nothing more to offer than she, you most definitely should drop out!

Or could it be that Mr. Garamendi worries about being beaten by the likes of Larry Flynt, who recently re-appeared in the news — like rat droppings in the tapioca — urging his "fans" to pray for the death of fellow statist Bill O’Reilly? Flynt’s obvious piety and religious faith makes one pause: could God be on his side? After all, His ways are mysterious and beyond our comprehension. Or is it someone named Gallagher who intimidates Garamendi? Gallagher is described as a comedian; presumably his candidacy is his best joke yet.

Of course, until the election, Gray Davis is still governor, as he recently reminded Californians while signing a bill at a health clinic in Santa Monica. "I am the governor. — I am going to do my level best to improve (Californians’) lives every day I have," he declared. The eminence gris clearly has no idea of the purpose of government, and perhaps the people of California have come to realize that they, not he, will be the ones to improve their lives. Indeed, maybe their recall election is an attempt to do just that — but don’t bet on it.

The problem is that, with the exception of the pneumatic Angelyne, most, if not all, of the candidates have programs, probably as bad as Davis’s. Arianna Huffington, for example, arrived at the recorder’s office to file as a candidate simultaneously with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was quick to point out to the crowd that Arnie had arrived in a gas-guzzling SUV, while she had come in a gas-sipping hybrid. Fortunately, no one seemed to care. Of course, they might change their minds if Huffington should get herself elected, and the people of California find themselves fined, in effect, for exercising their freedom in choosing SUVs instead of other vehicles more satisfactory to Arianna.

Schwarzenegger himself promised that, if elected, he would be a governor for all the people. "I will be there for everybody, young and old, men and women alike, it doesn’t make any difference." A strikingly un-original, but tried and true political axiom which, of course, misses the point entirely. The governor isn’t supposed to "be there" for anyone. His job is to administer the corporation instituted to guarantee justice, and as such, his job is relatively hum-drum, and removed from frequent contact with the public. The fact that Schwarzenegger’s arrival at the recorder’s office was greeted by the shrieks of his fans suggests, sadly, that the people regard their politicians as a celebrities: powerful figures who can "do something" for them, at the expense of someone else, less well organized.

It’s early days yet; perhaps, as the election progresses, we might hear a candidate say something relevant about the job. He or she could promise to disentangle the government from its many illegitimate activities, reduce its size and expense, and grant Californians control over their own lives. Had Mr. Garamendi decided to stay in the race, he could have said it himself, and thus distinguished himself from the rest of the circus. Perhaps he considered it, and realized that such a simple position "If elected I promise to uphold the law, and let you alone" wouldn’t stand a chance against the promises of his opponents. How could it compare to Angelyne’s pectoral prominence, or Larry Flynt’s devout appeals to the Almighty!

Bring on the clowns!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

Paul Hein Archives

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts