So, Arnold Schwarzenegger is California's new governor. Yesterday the citizens of our state voted rather decisively to oust Gray Davis after less than a year into his second term, and to opt for Arnold instead.
I won't join the throng of people speculating about the Schwarzenegger governorship. (Not yet, at least!) There are many big problems facing our state, not least our huge budget deficit, and Arnold will have to be smart and work hard with many people to solve them.
Instead, I want to speculate about why he was so appealing. What is it about Arnold that caused so many people to vote against the incumbent, and for him?
That's it. Arnold exudes confidence. He's a winner - he's been a winner his whole life - and when you see this big good looking millionaire with his beautiful wife and kids, you feel like he's going to continue being a winner. And the people of California want a winner to lead them.
California is not like other places. We are used to being bigger and better and smarter -- and weirder -- than everyone else. We are used to setting the pace. We often try new things - some of them work really well, and some of them are disasters - but our appetite for risk-taking is high. We are used to being leaders for the rest of the U.S. and the world. People like to make fun of California and in many cases they have ample justification, but in the end we are admired.
The current set of fiscal problems facing our state are worse than bad, they are embarrassing. The "energy crisis" we faced in the summer of '02 was of our own making - bad policy, bad management, and bad execution - and this, combined with the dot-com bubble bursting and the economic impact of 9/11, have created a perfect financial storm. The impact on our schools, our businesses, and our lifestyle have been felt.
So things are bad, and we are bummed. We look for someone to blame, and there's Gray Davis. In some ways he wasn't responsible for any of this - the energy deals, the dot-com bubble, or 9/11 - but on the other hand he didn't appear to be solving the problems, either, so he was a convenient target.
And along comes Arnold, and poof, we want to believe. He has confidence, and that gave us confidence in him. And that's why we voted for him.