August 14, 2003

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if just turned over the keys to our government to celebrities? It is becoming painfully obvious that the political game has transitioned well beyond the concept of the best man for the job to the person with the best name recognition. No longer are we concerned about a candidate's platform, their stance on key issues and their political affiliations. These political values have been replaced by good looks, acting ability and a spot in the limelight.

Now I'm not just saying this because the people of California are soon going to elect the Terminator as the next governor of California. There may be a handful of Californians that will vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger because they have actually seen his stance on important tax issues or other true governmental topics. But most of them will cast their ballot for the action hero from so many movies because he was on Jay Leno the other night and told them if elected that he would go to Sacramento and clean house. I suspect the image of a machine-gun toting super hero doing battle in the halls of the state legislature against the evil lobbyists, special interest groups and corrupt politicians would make a good movie and likely will get Arnold elected.

Let's face it, the guy is a publicist's dream. Besides he already has the roadwork in place for his re-election based on the number of sequels he has filmed. He also has a pretty simple re-election slogan courtesy of his Terminator movie success - "I'll be back." If he can single handily defeat 109 bad guys (we counted them in the movie Commando) without ever having to reload his gun, then surely he can resolve the nation's worst stage budget dilemma.

Okay as I sit atop my high moral ground here looking down on all of the common folk that will vote for a movie star instead of a "real" politician, it hit me. While the bulk of politicians are not movie stars, a good number of them are better actors than they are representatives of the people. Just like movie stars, many politicians simply are playing a role. They go to the box office, tell the people what they want to hear and then collect a paycheck the whole time with their eye on the next big block buster film to come their way. Most start out in small parts waiting for the big break to move up the ladder of fame. Meanwhile all of us spectators in the crowd get caught up in the make believe world they create with their acting. We believe them when they say no new taxes, or promise us better roads, more school funding or improved economic opportunities. The difference is that movies usually have happy endings and right now our state is doing anything but riding off into the sunset after saving the day.

Just like you can't lump every one of us journalists into the negative media stereotypes that circulate from time to time, you can't pile up every politician and say he or she is an actor. Obviously we have plenty of people in Jefferson City that are good politicians and bad actors, and they know who they are. So if for some strange reason they got their hands on a copy of the Memphis Democrat they would not be offended because they know I'm not talking about them.

Still there seem to be enough characters involved in government that maybe we could get Bruce Willis of Die Hard fame or some other "shoot 'em up star" similar to Arnold to move to the Show-Me State to save the day.

Fortunately (or unfortunately for those of you that are not big Bob Holden fans) Missouri officials for the large part are not subject to recall like they are in California. Short of impeachment there is no way for the citizens to remove the governor or any other high ranking official. Some of the bigger cities can recall aldermen, fire districts can recall directors and if a school fails to meet governmental standards then board members may be recalled by a vote of the people. But as far as those who would like to recall Governor Bob, you're stuck with him for at least the remainder of this term.

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