Dear Big Daddy,
The Governor's recent narrow-minded remarks disparaging Californians ‘from those little towns' feeds into a destructive stereotype of rural California. For the leader of our great state to suggest that rural Californians have no vision — of an airport or of a highway — is demeaning in a very personal way for the people who live in rural California.
–Senator Dean Florez
Ah, the age old equation: small town rubes vs. big city sophisticates. Never mind that we've seen enough big city rubes come through this town to keep a game of three-card monte going until the cows register to vote (which, come this fall in Ohio, they just might). Big Daddy has met enough Fool Yorkers and San Franciscopoops across the years to know that it's not the size of the metro but the motion in the brainpan that really counts. Remember, I came a from place where we didn't have two stop signs to rub together, but it wasn't ‘til I landed in LA that I found people gullible enough to elect me to something.
So keeping this in mind, it really is the slicker/yokel split that is the perpetual motion machine of our political system. Where do liberals come from? Places with at least five digits of population on the sign you see when entering town. Conservatives? Aside from those ensconced in Escondido and its environs, consistently the converse. We'll be town, you be country, and we'll fight over the suburbs like a couple of perky real estate agents with switchblades hidden in their hollow high heels.
Dean Florez, of course, comes from one of these in-between borderlands, a place of purple even when you drill the red state/blue state resolution down to actual street level. A Dem, sure, but one who promises a blue dog lounging in every yard. Flo would never survive representing the party of Billary and Barney Frank in those parts unless he spoke the local language.
And a big part of that dialect goes like this: they discount us, they underestimate us, they mock us from all sides of our backs. This works through some combination of playing to common human emotions and actually being true. The point is, if you're looking for the Lawrence Olivier of small town indignation, you could do a lot worse than a guy who looks sort of like the Oscar statue (Somehow, someday, I'm going to pay for that one).
The irony here is that Schwarzenegger started out as a small town rube himself. Sometimes, like his platform heels and luminous love of tanning beds, it still shows. Though not necessarily in his recent comments. What bothers me about what Schwarzenegger said wasn't his implication anyone from Hickman or Mad River couldn't be much more sophisticated than a burping contest. Because I honestly don't think that's what he meant.
What gets me is that this was yet another time when reality seemed to get channeled through the FANTASTIC!!! filter. The relentless positivity. The enthusiasm for even the mundane. The idea that things will work out because they always have. I suppose when you can do 260 pounds on the bootstrap machine, the world may seem like a benign place. Can't act? Lift. Action career faltering? Deign to become governor. Car fallen on top of your wife? Just lift it off, silly.
In the real world, this plays out in a belief that you can do whatever you want, someone else can foot the bill, and there won't be any repercussions. Because what our governor was actually talking about was legislators traveling the world on the corporate and special interest dime-like Schatzi himself has often done. The good side of having a governor with a nine digit bank balance is that you'd have to take out a bond issue to have enough money to bribe him. The bad side is that sometimes it seems like he can't relate to mere millionaires, let alone the thousandaires and hundredaires that comprise most of our population.
Now about Florez idea that Schwarzenegger should take the High School Exit Exam…are you really sure you want to go there? I don't doubt that Florez would pass, though I wonder why he didn't offer to take it first. But I've known a lot of legislators over the years (read: schooled, abused, sold their ass back to them for the price of some JWR and knew that I let them off easy). And unless they put some smart drugs in the Capitol water supply since my day, I'm thinking that's a challenge some electeds don't want flying around the halls of power.