Several weeks ago, when Gary Coleman and a stripper were hotly debating important economic issues, Gov. Gray Davis made what was, for him, an astute and dramatic point. In cool sound-bite style, he noted that if people didn't like guys who oversold the budget and raised the deficit, they'd better start hoofing it to Kmart parking lots to get signatures to recall the president.
"Right there is the paradox of Gray Davis," said Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show. "He's right, but he's a dick."
In every way, it was a campaign best covered by Comedy Central, the only race in America that would make Arianna Huffington seem like a sage voice of reason and fairness. People seemed to forget that 10 years ago, she was pushing then-husband Michael Huffington in a vicious race for the Senate, positioning him as a butt-kickin' fundamentalist Republican.
All the candidates, in one way or another, were counting on the public to suffer from severe short-term memory loss. Schwarz-enegger was hoping that people would forget that he liked to randomly ask women to suck his pee-pee. Davis hoped people wouldn't remember he's a dick.
At best, the campaign revealed the pitiful remains of the two major parties in California, which continue to show all the political savvy of Mission Beach crack addicts.
On one hand, Republicans were forced to dig into the vaults of bad action movies to trot out a guy who, after 30 years in the United States, still can barely speak English. Even Rotary Club Republicans had to cringe, recognizing that the boorish body builder was really the best they could deliver to solve the complicated economic issues of the day.
Meanwhile, Democrats were forced to rally behind Davis, a guy who had clearly managed to annoy the hell out of a good chunk of the state. Democrats from all over the country, from Al Gore to Gen. Wesley Clark, were placed in the fairly awkward position of supporting the "dick."
In typical fashion, Democrats couldn't hold the line. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante flipped the party the bird and opted to run, stealing votes from his drowning fellow Democrat.
Then Bustamante shrewdly positioned himself as the candidate committed to raising taxes, the type of mantra that makes Democrats so beloved by the hordes of middle class suburbanites. Bustamante called it "tough love," which translates as "political suicide."
Like deaf kids sitting through a Stephen Hawking lecture, California Democrats have learned nothing in the last 30 years. Republicans have managed to position Democrats as the party of opium-smoking dopeheads and serial tax raisers, and Democrats counter by promising to raise taxes and throw toga parties for lesbian Communists.
With major issues facing the state, California Democrats botched the game so thoroughly they were fighting for the governor's office as the party that supports driver licenses for illegal immigrants and increased car fees. Go Dems!
Just to show off his inner soul, Davis, at the height of the campaign, signed the immigrant driver's license bill, even though he earlier opposed it, proving to everyone that he is, in fact, just as Republicans claimed, a political hack who would dry hump the postman for a vote.
So Democrats found themselves supporting the tax-raising weasel and Republicans, fighting their image as the party of rich, cigar-chomping white guys, backed the guy with Nazi issues.
For Republicans, Schwarzenegger was considered better than the rest of the Republican greedheads, including Rowdy Bill Simon, who managed to lose Davis two years ago.
While many Republicans withdrew into their shells from embarrassment, even as they voted for Schwarzenegger, the Union-Tribune hit new levels of toadyism, eagerly endorsing the Terminator early and often with the type of boot-lickin' that would have made Nixon cringe.
The hard-hittin' journalistic firebrands of the U-T editorial page wrote that they were "troubled" by Schwarzenegger's own accounts of "unorthodox sexual exploits," but decided they "apparently were untrue." Following their own logic, the Union-Tribune editors would have balked if the candidate really was participating in gang bangs, but since he was only lying about it, they decided, Schwarzenegger "offers the best hope" to create "a government free of corrupt influence."
This put the Union-Tribune in a slightly awkward position a few days later when Schwarzenegger was forced to admit he liked to grope the honeys in his younger days. This, too, troubled the furrow-browed U-T editors, who apparently had never read any articles or listened to the man talk in the course of their deep research of candidate qualifications.
Faced with their man's own admissions, the cloistered monks at the U-T were overcome with angst, shocked by the hot, panting, sweaty hedonism of the movie world. "What was it about his basic character that made him ever think such behavior was appropriate and acceptable?" the U-T editors wrote, their tears practically staining the newsprint. "Was it just that that's the way it often is in Hollywood?"
So if you live in the fairytale land known as Mission Valley, where daily editors think rhetorical questions "is dang good 'ritin'," you can blame it on the evil smutrakers of Hollywood. But for the rest of California, this election was about Republicans and Democrats, and it wasn't pretty.
Shame took a holiday on this one. Hypocrisy ruled the land. It will go down in history as the Election About Dick. ©
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com