Sunday, April 30, 2006

How Arnold Won the West * *

How Arnold Won the West is a documentary about the recall vote in California that ousted Govenor Gray Davis a month after he had been elected to his 2nd term. It is an often hilarious look at the spectacle of this highly unusual election in a state that by itself has one of the largest economies in the world. The recall vote came about because of an obscure law in California that allowed a recall with enough signatures. After the Republicans lost to Davis, a rich Republican senator -- who made and makes his fortune on the ViperKing, a car alarm -- put up about 1 1/2 million to get the signatures. And the recall was started. The Democrats in this film spend a lot of time whining about the injustice of this senator buying the signatures, even Bill Clinton makes a speech about political leaders never being able to make hard decisions if they faced recalls -- which he knows is B.S. since most of the world's democracies are parlimentary and under that system leaders always are under threat of a no confidence vote.

There is no primary and anyone can enter the race. 135 candidates do. Many of these are real characters (that includes Arnold BTW). The best is the adult movie star -- she is campy, witty, funny, irreverent and completely uninhibited (there is nudity in unexpected places in the documentary; I'm serious, she is completely uninhibited). In fact, she and Arnold seem to be birds of a feather (that's not meant as an underhanded insult to Arnold). The director and narrator, Cooke, is biased towards Davis and her strident outrage at the recall (and that Arnold wouldn't talk with reporters) added yet another humorous character to the mix.

As a life-long Democrat, I was appalled by this film. Not because Arnold won. The Republicans ran a very intelligent campaign with a unified team effort. It was optimized to WIN. They put forth a candidate with the best options of winning, and importantly other good Republicans candidates withdrew. After settling on a candidate, they ran an optimal campaign. The Democrats come across, first as a bunch of boring ideologues. Gray Davis is dull, even his wife says so in a speech, no less. That someone with zero charisma could get elected is a true testament to the power of the Democratic party machine in California. Mainly the Democrats in this film seem to whine. Even as a Democrat, I felt like "Please lose already, you are really annoying and I'd rather vote for the adult porn star." This film captures one of the big problems with the Democratic party, in my opinion. The people behind the scenes in power put forward candidates that can't even inspire the base. Come on nerdy, political-wonks don't win anymore. Get over it!

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