The Pathetic State of Politics in America

by Harry Browne

September 27, 2003        

I realize how absurd the California recall election is. But it's also very instructive. There's a lesson to be learned there.

No, it has nothing to do with the large number of candidates. That's to be expected in such a situation.

The lesson is simple: No matter how low you think politics has sunk, it can always sink even lower.

Take the Republicans. They're so desperate to get the governorship of California that they're rallying around Arnold Schwarzenegger.

No, "rallying" isn't the right word. They're falling all over themselves lavishing praise on him. Last year's Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon said on Thursday, "Arnold Schwarzenegger is the right man to be governor of California."

But the only thing Schwarzenegger stands for is wanting to be Governor of California.

This isn't meant to condemn Schwarzenegger. Few people would pass up a chance to become the Governor of the most populous state in America.

But by supporting him, the Republicans have demonstrated that their only remaining principle is an unshakable conviction to do anything necessary to win an election.

Money, Money, Money

No one in last week's California debate, and no TV commentator I saw afterward, reminded us that the recall election came about because California has an enormous budget crisis. Except for Tom McClintock, every candidate was too busy touting new budget-busting government programs.

The Democratic and Green candidates made it clear that the state must increase taxes. Arianna Huffington made it clear that well, she didn't exactly make anything clear but she had all sorts of ideas for upsetting the lives of Californians.

Schwarzenegger made it clear that he was going to lure business back to the state by spending tens of billions of dollars on new "infrastructure" (government boondoggles). And why is it important to bring business back to the state? Because "when you bring them back to California, it brings revenue back to California. And when you have more revenue, you then can afford to take care of all those programs that need to be taken care of."

(It wasn't so long ago that California had a $1 billion annual budget, and the state didn't fall into the Pacific Ocean. But now it seems $100 billion isn't enough to fund "all those programs.")

Ah, the Children

While promoting "all those programs," Schwarzenegger claims to be a fiscal conservative (meaning someone who doesn't want government to be as big as Josef Stalin would). And as a good fiscal conservative, he wants to lavish every kind of welfare benefit he can think of on (you guessed it) the children.

Everything is for the children. Schwarzenegger keeps talking about taking care of the children. As though children would die in the streets if the government didn't spend lots of money on them.

In that he reminds me of another famous politician. And his name was hold on, I'll think of it in a moment ah, it's coming to me now.

Oh yes, it was Bill Clinton.

In fact, the similarities between Clinton and Schwarzenegger are numerous. Both have gotten into trouble because of the way they deal with women; both will say anything to get elected; both will justify new government programs as being for the children.

Maybe the similarities don't end there. Perhaps after Schwarzenegger becomes Governor, the Republicans will impeach him.

On the Other Side . . . 

The Democrats are no different, of course.

For President, many of them are now rallying around General Wesley Clark, a man who's already flip-flopped enough times to qualify for the Olympics gymnastic team. The Democrats have only one principle, the same one the Republicans have: to get elected.

And next year we'll be told that the future of the republic depends on our vote when it's big-spending George Bush vs. big-spending Howard Dean, big-spending Wesley Clark, big-spending Hillary Clinton, or big-spending someone else.

It will be one more meaningless election in the tradition of Clinton vs. Dole, Bush Sr. vs. Dukakis, Ford vs. Carter, Nixon vs. Humphrey, FDR vs. Hoover-Landon-Wilkie-Dewey. The only election in the past 75 years in which the two major parties seemed to give us a real choice was Reagan vs. Carter. But it turned out that Reagan was as big a spender as Carter or Mondale.

What Are You Going to Do?

When the NFL Packers play the Vikings, the rivalry is intense. But no one tries to picture it as a battle for the future of America. It's just a football game.

When the Republicans face the Democrats, the rivalry is even more intense. The politicians try to make us think America will survive or die depending on the outcome when in fact it's just as much a game as a football contest.

No matter who's elected Governor, no matter who's elected President, government is going to get bigger, more intrusive, and more expensive.

So in any modern election, you have three choices:

      1.    Vote Libertarian, knowing your candidate won't win, but at least giving you the satisfaction of being able to tell the politicians you don't want to play in their games.

        2.    Don't vote at all, refusing to pretend your vote is going to alter the future of the republic.

          3.    Vote Republican or Democrat, and try not to look at yourself in the mirror for a week or so afterward.