by Seth Sandronsky
October 11, 2003
In California, political power has changed hands with the Oct. 7 recall vote. There’s a new governor in Sacramento with planetary name recognition, Arnold Schwarzenneger.
But even with Gov. Davis recalled, economic power is unchanged. The same small group of people owns and controls the private-sector economy in California.
That’s how American electoralism works. The masses get the illusion of change with their vote, but little else.
Their voting, they begin to learn in elementary school, is an expression of democracy. First, they choose a candidate.
S/he is elected to represent their needs. This shows that free and fair elections are the best form of government for the people, upon whom freedom flourishes.
Meanwhile, market titans remain in control of the economy that decides how people live and work. These giants pull this stunt off in big part by dominating government.
They finance the political campaigns, including Davis’ and Schwarzenegger’s. Then big business lobbies for favorable legislation, and gets it.
Schwarzenegger has said as governor-elect that he wants to represent all 36 million Californians. That statement was political theater for the state’s working people and their families.
His campaign contributors will come first, garnering tax breaks, export credits, and so forth. Most of the rest of the state population, hourly workers and small entrepreneurs, will likely be the prey for budget-cutting of an undetermined magnitude.
One wonders just how many of Arnold’s voters will be the direct targets of state spending cutbacks. Surely, the ranks of the targeted will include state workers whose jobs are cut (a process begun under Davis), plus employees and employers of businesses that depend on state spending.
These people will be fortunate to maintain their living standards as fiscal restraint becomes a tool of social policy to improve business profitability. Big business, that is.
Small enterprises are on their own. One example is the mom-and-pop video shops that are being liquidated by the wave of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video franchises.
Balancing the state budget with tax hikes for the working-class may slow the downward mobility of those who voted for the recall and the governor-elect.
Is that why the LA Times and The Sacramento Bee editorialized against the recall?
On one hand, this anti-recall stance showed concern for the relatively stable investment climate under now-recalled Davis. Despite a boom-turned-bust economy, he provided stability for the state’s squires.
They rewarded him handsomely. Crucially, Davis’ fondness for donors’ dollars was cleverly spun into a liability by Arnold’s GOP strategists.
However, investment stability with the Davis administration is not a sure thing with the governor-elect. Editorials and reports in mass media are noting that Schwarzenneger, too, can be recalled if his performance falls short.
Performance for whom, is the question media should be asking. How in this time of economic weakness does the new governor propose to spur private business spending?
Tax cutting? How exactly would that spur the private-sector to hire new workers, buy new machines, and reap profitable returns on investment?
On the other hand, the editorial scriveners of the state’s leading dailies don’t want increased power distributed downward to the laboring majority who voted for the self-proclaimed GOP populist. A top-down populism runs that risk, however slight, since it requires mass voter mobilization based on the promise of more equal opportunity in the future.
Many people no doubt supported the thespian turned politician because of his promise to bring back a prosperous past that, ironically, last existed during the second term of President Clinton, a Democrat. That period of positive job creation stands in contrast to now, when many Californians live in turbulent times of corporate downsizings and outsourcings.
At the moment, though, many of the state’s voters have high expectations that this rich, powerful Republican will make their lives better. But that is an illusion, spawned by spin and soundbytes, and totally unsupported by American history.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, voting has been one of the main means for the downsizing of the American Dream. The backward policies of elected politicians in both parties of power and wealth are proof of that.
Voting has legitimated this economic restructuring. It has harmed millions of Americans with middle and low incomes.
This is a nearly three decades-long trend. It has built up no small head of steam in 2003 as the legitimacy of electoralism on American culture continues to hold sway.
Voting for positive social change is a little like fasting to gain weight.
That’s what Arnold-ism is all about.