Of girly men and bully boys

Nursies and schoolmarms beware: Arnold has just begun to fight

Photo Illustration by Don Button

Our governor has gotten a lot of mileage out of his tough-guy image. Voters seem inclined to confuse the actor with the roles he’s played, and they like the thought of a muscular governor taking on all our problems with the strength of his mighty arms. The Guv milks this for all it’s worth, of course, posturing and posing just as he did back in the day when he was a greased-up contender in bodybuilding contests.

When I first moved to California, there was a slice of real estate near Santa Monica known as Muscle Beach. It was the place where all the bodybuilders congregated. These were men of outsized pecs and even more outsized vanity who spent their hours striking poses that accentuated the curves and bulges they could make by flexing various muscles.

Suffice it to say this was not a place where anyone went for intellectual stimulation or political leadership. In saying this, I don’t wish to engage in stereotypes. Muscle mass does not preclude intelligence any more than blond hair causes stupidity in women. But, as a lifestyle choice, it may be fair to say that people who are attracted to steroids and Speedos seldom are found in lab coats or libraries. And, until recently, guys who spent their lives in the pursuit of muscle mass took little interest in political affairs, and other guys who liked to play “let’s pretend” for the benefit of moviegoers were not seen as the best candidates for leadership roles in real life. These were, after all, men who took direction for every move they made and every word they spoke onscreen, so leadership hardly would have seemed a natural attribute for people trained in such a profession.

But vanity knows no bounds, and once the body begins to decline, or the star power starts to dim, politics can make a fairly strong appeal to egos nourished by years of fan worship. Plus, a bodybuilder/film star can trade in all that goodwill and name recognition in lieu of political experience or knowledge of governance. He can use the favor and fortune he’s earned from working men and women and convert that box-office coin to political capital.

Now, when such a man uses all that goodwill from the moviegoing masses to launch himself into public office, and when he gains that office with the promise of using his muscle to take on the special interests, just what sort of special interests might such a courageous reformer set as his primary targets? The big bruisers of American capitalism, perhaps? Those mighty advocates of private wealth over public interest? The polluters, the exploiters or the merely crooked? The gougers, the scammers and the parasites? Cheesy real-estate developers, perhaps? Or lending institutions whose credit-card rates gyrate like the needle on a Richter scale? Oil and gas companies who routinely stick it to consumers? Wouldn’t such a big, strong fellow with all that backing go after the baddest of the bad?

Apparently not.

So, whom does such a tough guy define as his most fearsome adversaries among those dreaded special interests? When he says he’s going to “kick their butts,” just whose butts is he talking about? Well, nursies, for a start. And right after nursies, he’s going after the schoolmarms, those pillagers of the state budget, those piratical raiders of public funds. Then it’s on to the state workers, those wicked cubicle dwellers charged with administering the will of the politicians in Sacramento who are grinding out legislation down the hall or up the block. Paper-clip thieves, the lot of them.

Clearly, these gobblers of taxpayer dollars must be taken on, pushed back and vanquished. And who better to teach them the true meaning and value of work than a man who has earned his millions by playing make-believe? A few months before the cameras is surely worth an annual salary of roughly $60 million per year, but the daily slog of teaching children, or tending the sick, or minding the business of the state—from roads to child-protective services—must be very closely monitored, lest the people who flocked to these get-rich-quick professions rob us all blind.

So, it’s good to have a tough guy at the helm, a take-no-prisoners reformer who knows just where the bad guys are and how to bring them to heel. Just as soon as he’s done with the nurses, the teachers and the marauding state workers, rumor has it he’s going after school crossing guards, florists and the insidious ring of Mary Kay dealers.

Rejoice, Caleeforniyans. We are saved.