The most peculiar thing about state politics here in California is that the local news media has abdicated any serious role it may have had in reporting on the issues. Sure, the local stations will host debates among politicians, but not if they are scheduled to interfere with the primetime line up. During the actual nightly newscasts, politics are rarely mentioned because the topic bores viewers and cuts into coverage of today’s car chase or drive-by shooting.
This works tremendously in favor of someone like Gov. Schwarzenegger who has free access – not just to the national media – but to its most popular sector: the entertainment media. If there was a moment that won the election for him last time, it was his appearance on “Oprah,” where his friend the talk show host lodged a bunch of softball questions toward Arnold and Maria. No surprise that questions about groping or call girls never came up.
That’s what we can expect in the coming debate about Schwarzenegger’s “reforms” of the state government. When the going gets tough, he’ll appear on “Entertainment Tonight” and call his opponents names. Unfortunately, this appeals to a large sector of Californians, mostly men, who rarely vote but who love “The Terminator.” This trivialization of politics would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.
From the Washington Post today:
Critics say the governor is avoiding the budget deficit, and even some of his allies question why he decided to take on so many fights. Schwarzenegger said he was elected “to create reform, to fix the problem, fix the broken system,” not to move slowly. “Remember the greatest things that you can accomplish, the more risks you take,” he said. “It’s directly related to risk. Everything like this — investments and everything else. If you’re willing to take risks, then the upside can be spectacular.”
Schwarzenegger has roused widespread opposition. Now when he travels the state, in addition to crowds of enthusiastic supporters, he is met with protesters: nurses, teachers, firefighters, police and correctional officers, PTA leaders. Schwarzenegger labels them all special interests and inflamed matters when he dismissed the protests of nurses at a women’s event last December. “The special interests don’t like me in Sacramento because I am always kicking their butts,” he said.