California Governor Election Circus

Manila Bulletin, August 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

California Governor Election Circus


Byline: DUNCAN CAMPBELL The Guardian News Service

LOS ANGELES STANDFIRST: Candidates with no experience of political office, who are also better known for their work in the arts, are running for the top California job.

Nearly 70 years ago, Upton Sinclair the socialist author of The Jungle, an expose of the harsh conditions endured by workers in the Chicago slaughterhouses ran for governor of California. His aim was, literally, an epic one. End Poverty In California (EPIC) was the name of the coalition to which he belonged and he was so incensed by the inequities of the time that he felt compelled to abandon his writing career to stand for office in 1934.

Now, once again, candidates with no experience of political office, who are also better known for their work in the arts, are running for the same post in a race that starts this week. The candidates in a field of 158 include the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is best known for impersonating androids; Gary Coleman, a former child actor; Gallagher, a comedian who would ban loud talk on mobile phones in public; and Larry Flynt, a publisher of pornography. So far this California governors race has been portrayed as a circus, bringing shame and embarrassment to a state already mocked for consisting of fruits and nuts.

But what is happening may, in fact, be a very healthy political reaction to a very unhealthy political world. Like so much than originates in California, it may also be a harbinger of what could happen elsewhere in the US and indeed the world as people become more disillusioned with career politicians.

The present depression is one of abundance, not of scarcity, wrote Sinclair during the 1934 gubernatorial race. The cause of the trouble is that a small class has the wealth while the rest have the debts. How much has changed since then?

Last week, one of the first candidates to confirm her name on the ballot was the syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, who, 30 years ago, was the first woman to preside over the Cambridge Union where at least she was not taking on an office with a budget deficit of $38bn, as Californias now is. In the best traditions of California, Huffington has transformed herself over the last decade from a conservative Republican into a libertarian Independent, lambasting the corporations for their greed, criticizing her erstwhile Republican chums as rightwing zealots and attacking the war in Iraq. In June, in recognition of her transformation, she was presented by a liberal LA-based foundation, Liberty Hill, with the Upton Sinclair award. …

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