We have seen this movie before.
A larger-than-life figure in entertainment and business struts on to the political stage and captivates an audience of disaffected conservatives. Never mind that his personal politics are fairly liberal — it’s the appearance of control and command that pushes the conventional candidates out of the way.
Once the momentum is established, no personal flaws or guffaws can get in the way.
For Californians, the stunning rise of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes looks a bit like a replay of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to power in the 2003 election to recall Gov. Gray Davis.
Using talk shows and free media appearances, Schwarzenegger built a lead that carried him to the nomination. He pushed aside Republicans deemed too connected to the establishment and eventually defeated Davis, who was associated with California’s energy crisis, a lethargic leadership style and deals that brought the state to the brink of insolvency.
Of course, Schwarzenegger promised a lot and delivered relatively little. He didn’t find missing billions in the budget but instead relied on billions in tax windfalls from Google’s IPO to temporarily balance California’s books. After him came the financial crisis, the housing collapse and another brush with insolvency for California.
Now the race for the GOP nomination for president is far different. It requires stamina, money and endless debates. There’s the delegate count and convention rules and a long spring campaign season. It’s not yet clear whether Trump can gain the nomination and, if he does, whether he can defeat the Democratic Party candidate.
However, the disaffection that Trump has tapped into is real. And, in Schwarzenegger’s case, that disaffection was deep enough and long lasting enough that it produced his signature achievement: real political reforms. Redistricting and the open primary, the twin pillars of that reform, have shaken up California politics and opened up the process.
The message that Trump and surprisingly successful Democratic Party nominee Bernie Sanders appear to be sending to the establishments of both parties is that another Bush-Clinton matchup is simply unacceptable. The process needs to be opened up with small donors and individual voters playing a bigger role.
To drill or not to drill
Speaking of sequels, the purported oil spill No. 2 off the Santa Barbara coast was not a spill at all.
A sheen that developed off Goleta in late July turned out to be nothing more than the sort of natural seep that’s put oil and tar on beaches dating back to the days when the Chumash pretty much ran things.
Of course, the national and local media went crazy with speculation. But the wider question about the seeps remain.
Is it better to let the seeps naturally burp methane for the next few hundred years and make a slow steady contribution to global warming or take a calculated risk and reduce the undersea pressure through drilling the remaining fields offshore and make a meaningful contribution to methane gas reduction?
That’s an interesting question for political, business and environmental leaders.