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Politics Gone Hollywood

Not necessarily a bad thing.

by James Leroy Wilson
October 16, 2003

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Politics Gone Hollywood_James Leroy Wilson-Not necessarily a bad thing. One thing I like about Arnold Schwarzenegger being elected governor of California is it makes many of his movies more realistic. His accent, thick as if he learned English as an adult immigrant, didn’t quite fit in roles where he played American cops, soldiers, and spies. But if the governor of our most populous state could have such an accent, these roles seem more plausible.

I don’t know what else there is to like. I didn’t follow the campaign. It appeared from the distance that his fame entirely explains his election, not anything he said or stood for on the issues. I’m not sure if he said anything at all.

Which distinguishes him from Jesse Ventura’s election in Minnesota. Ventura, it is said, actually was able to win a debate. And also from Ronald Reagan, who became governor of California by running on the issues. Their fame in show business certainly helped, but it wasn’t everything.

But I think it is telling, that they all came from, or at least leaned to, the Right, and were reform-minded. Such a candidate is key for an uprising at the polls. It catapulted Reagan to the White House. More than that, they had a certain kind of personality, what Ayn Rand called a “self-sufficient ego.” They liked themselves, were comfortable with who they were and what they were doing, and were essentially self-made men.

Such personalities differ from what Rand calls the “second-hander.” By the very nature of government and of the political process, most politicians are second-handers. Their ambitions and their self-esteem are not driven by doing what’s right by their conscience, but in gaining an office and either staying there or seeking a higher office. Their entire lives, and their sense of themselves, are largely based on what *other people* think of them.

That’s why they tend to look at the short-term fix for whatever mess government got us in. The insolvency of, say, Social Security, and the burden of the national debt are problems of the future, not of now. The second hander would not tell, as Ventura once did to a single mother seeking help, the it isn’t the government’s fault that she got pregnant while unmarried. The self-sufficient person can be honest, even blunt when need be. The second-hander looks at the polls, more so than even special-interest money.

More than that, Reagan, Ventura, and Schwarzenegger carry a persona, not as a humble man reluctantly agreeing to step in to serve his state or his country, but as a the disgusted outsider who has to come into government to clean up the mess because no one else will.

The Left tends to cater to second-hander rhetoric. Its theme is that everyone has the right to live off of the wealth that other people produced. Because of this, even the self-made and tough-minded leftist politician will talk like a second-hander, so it’s often hard to distinguish the honest leftist from the phony leftist, second-hander career politician. Elected Leftists who might have self-sufficient egos, who are not second-handers, and who are not career politicians, tend be gazillionaires who bought their offices, like Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and New York’s phony-Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while wealthy and maybe even well-known locally, they weren’t what one could call a celebrity.

No woman, person of color, or open homosexual from the Left will ever become President. I think we could add “celebrity,” as in “show business celebrity” to the list. What would Alec Baldwin or Barbra Streisand do or say in elective office, that isn’t already done and said by many dime-a-dozen career politicians? Moreover, why do they even want or need elective office? Don’t they get enough adulation as it is? Don’t they have self-sufficient egos?

The reason right-leaning celebrities have done well and will continue to do well, is because they use their fame in order to try to shake up the political process, not to expand government’s powers and budgets. Right-wing policy wonks and intellectuals may not be able to appeal directly to the people the way a likeable celebrity can. And the people are attracted, as they should be, to well-known, self-made men who succeeded in something other than politics. If these guys can’t fight or change the political establishment, then who can?

I don’t know if Schwarzenegger will accomplish his goals as governor, or even what those goals are. And I’m not suggesting that Ventura was a success as governor, nor am I defending Reagan’s record. But I think there were good reasons for the people to elect these men just for who they were, and not necessarily what they stood for.

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Everett Wilson from Rural Wisconsin writes:
October 16, 2003
JLW wrote in reference to liberalism: Its theme is that everyone has the right to live off of the wealth that other people produced.

That cannot stand alone. Apart from the fact that on a world scale most wealth is actually produced by the working poor at desperation wages, even granting that people do not have the right to be supported -- I can go along with that -- the balancing fact is that those who control the wealth have, at least in the Christian ethics that many rightists trumpet, the unrelenting responsibility to support the poor, whether deserving or not.

JWilson from Chicago writes:
October 16, 2003
Indeed, there is a huge difference between producing the wealth and controlling the wealth. I agree with JLW that the wealth probably should not be controlled by the government, who does not produce it. The alternative has been, and probably should be, that the wealth is controlled by those with the vision to take personal financial risk and assemble an enterprise to meet a market need. But ELW is absolutely right about where and how the wealth is produced, which is always by labor rather than by vision, and seeing that the needs of the laborers are met with dignity is the inherent obligation (Christian or not) of those who by vision control the wealth that others produce for them. I don't think JLW would disagree.

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