August 11, 2003
Arnold and stealth democracy
Saturday's Washington Post quotes a California citizen who supports Arnold Schwartzenegger's gubernatorial bid: "His eyes brightened behind his glasses as he discussed how someone like Schwarzenegger would bring fresh ideas and an eagerness to correct the state's problems. "'I'm hopeful that he will be independent enough in his thoughts that he thinks like a citizen and not as an experienced politician,' [the citizen] said, 'so that he can do the right thing." Echoing Schwarzenegger's 'Tonight Show' line that he could not be bought, [he added]: 'Everyone who comes to work with him knows that they're going to get nothing in return except the satisfaction. We know he's not looking for money, and that's a plus.'"
This quote perfectly exemplifies what Hibbing and Theiss-Morse call "stealth democracy" (See my review of their book.) According to them, Americans believe that there is no need for debates about policy, because all reasonable people share the same goals. The fact that heated debates actually take place proves that professional politicians are trying to gain some kind of advantage over each other in a competitive game. And the reason they play this game is that they want to obtain personal wealth from holding political office.
I have no doubt that some Americans believe all this (including some highly sophisticated people whom I have met). We'll see from the California recall campaign whether it's the dominant view in that state.