Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics

By Steven J. Ross | Go to book overview

9
GOVERNOR ARNOLD AND THE
AGE OF CELEBRITY POLITICS:
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

The 2003 California recall and gubernatorial election looked like a flashback to the 1960s. An actor with seemingly no political experience was trying to win a major office. Columnists breezily compared Arnold Schwarzenegger to movie-stars-turned-politicians George Murphy and Ronald Reagan. Such comparisons were inaccurate. Murphy and Reagan spent several decades toiling in the political trenches and perfecting their ideological messages before running for office. Arnold, as he liked to be called, was a relative newcomer. Although he campaigned for George H. W. Bush in 1988 and 1992, he had no deep ties to the Republican Party infrastructure. If history was any guide, he should have lost the special election to entrenched party stalwarts such as Republican State Senator Tom McClintock or Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.

But Schwarzenegger defied history, and in so doing elevated celebrity politics to unprecedented heights. Throughout the twentieth century, Democrats and Republicans used movie stars to attract crowds to political rallies and bolster the fortunes of party candidates. Schwarzenegger took this a

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