As reports confirmed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s win in a historic recall election Monday night, Yale’s large constituency of Californians expressed mixed feelings about the newly-minted governor.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, defeated Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and 133 other challengers in Tuesday’s recall election to become California’s governor-elect. The prospect of the movie star and former bodybuilder in charge of a state with the world’s fifth largest economy was terrifying to some and welcomed by others. But none said it would affect their California pride.
Some Californians said they are looking forward to seeing what Schwarzenegger will do for California. But others said they are skeptical of the celebrity’s abilities to serve as the leader of a state.
Matthew Louchheim ’04 cited Schwarzenegger’s record as an active citizen.
“The people of California elected a governor whose name they can’t even spell, who they can’t even understand, and nonetheless he won with a huge mandate,” Matthew Louchheim ’04 said.
Louchheim said he is optimistic about the newly-elected governor.
“I’ve never been prouder to be a Californian,” he said.
Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 agreed that Schwarzenegger had a chance to do some good for his home state. He said he has faith in the caliber of the new governor’s advisors.
“I’m putting my money on anyone Warren Buffet [advises],” he said, of the billionaire investor who has been guiding Schwarzenegger in his bid for governor.
But other California residents said they were not as pleased with the result of the election.
“He’s clearly not qualified and many more hundreds of thousands of people voted to keep Davis than for Arnold. It’s just kind of disgusting,” Cameron Arens ’07 said. “It’s too bad that lots of people are laughing and calling it the ‘embarrassment state.'”
Serena Retna ’07 said she was in disbelief after she heard the results, and worried that Schwarzenegger’s win was based more on commercial appeal than on actual substance.
“I was really shocked,” she said. “I didn’t think people would actually vote for him — the idea was entertaining in itself. His campaign was based on movie lingos rather than any serious concrete issues.”
Regardless of their opinions of Schwarzenegger, most Californians said they did not think the new governor would hurt the state too much.
“I’m not sure how much time he’ll have to make any significant changes,” Chelsea Purvis ’06 said. “I think [the state] may just continue on the path it’s on until the national economy gets better.”
Most agreed Schwarzenegger would look good in comparison to Davis.
“He can’t do worse than Gray Davis,” Rosenfeld said. “That guy was an idiot.”
The leaders of both the Yale College Democrats and the Yale College Republicans said Schwarzenegger’s victory did not represent an overall weakening of the Democratic Party. Both regarded the election as a unique occurrence.
Yale College Democrats President Alicia Washington ’05 pointed to the fact that democrats still control most of the state’s congressional delegation, as well as the lieutenant governorship.
Alnawaz Jiwa, executive director of the Yale College Republicans, agreed.
“I believe that this election is less about declining democrat power and more about the incompetence of Governor Davis,” Jiwa said in an e-mail.
Despite their mixed opinions on the recall, Californians concluded that their governor-elect would not stack up to the man with whom he is often compared — Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler-governor of Minnesota. Some believed “The Terminator” has an inner softness. Others suspected he has grown weak since weaning himself off steroids. All agreed Ventura would trounce him in a wrestling match.
“Despite his appeal of being this really macho guy on television, I really don’t see him accomplishing much, other than flexing his muscles,” Retna said of a bout between the governors. “He’s more of a show than an actual do.”