ALL POLITICS ARE LOCO

Is the title of an amusing piece by Michael Lewis in the NYT Magazine. It is the story of a neighbor of California Governor Gray Davis who eagerly donated $2000 toward the recall effort:

Charlotte Goland is 79, elderly without being old. She’s tall and straight, and she laughs enough for two. She apologizes for the bathrobe — she has just had a pacemaker installed. It had never occurred to her to get involved in politics. She doesn’t care all that much about the state’s $38 billion budget deficit, for instance, though she agreed it would be nice if it didn’t exist. In 79 years, she tells me, she has never once given money or put up signs or passed out literature or encouraged politicians in any way.

But that morning in May, when she opened the form letter asking her to sign a petition to recall Gray Davis, she felt a little shiver of delight. Unlike most everyone else in California, she took the time to read the fine print at the top, along with Davis’s rebuttal at the bottom, the stuff about how this was the work of right-wingers and was going to cost the taxpayer millions of dollars. She signed it instantly, and then she wrote out the check for $2,000 and slipped it in the return envelope. She didn’t tell anyone about it — not even Claudia, her daughter, who lives next door.

Charlotte cannot quite put her finger on why she so despises Gray Davis. She met him in 1999 when he moved into the governor’s house. The Lake Wilhaggin association gave a welcoming party for Davis just as it had for his predecessors. Charlotte tried to make small talk with the governor at the party but finally gave up. ”He’s a cold cookie. . . . Wooooo-eeee,” she says. ”Never changes his expression. Deadpan-like.”

The piece is amusing, mainly because of anecdote after anecdote about how detached Davis is from the ordinary life around him. There’s nothing here to indicate Davis is a bad fellow; but he’s certainly not a “regular guy” even by wealthy politico standards. It is also rather enlightening as a window into how most people vote. Even bright, educated people are more likely to vote with their gut than their head. It is rather amazing Davis got elected in the first place. Had virtually anyone other than Bill Simon been his opponent last November, he certainly wouldn’t have been reelected.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Paul says:

    (I hate to qualify this post this way- but I feel I must… ) This is a true story.

    When Perot was running for President, the wife of one of my customers was very excited about his campaign. She told me often how he could solve all the worlds problems.

    While they were on vacation they learned that they would be within about 50 miles of where he was speaking. So they took a drive to hear him speak.

    She came home and went on and on ad nauseum about how she would never vote for him. For weeks she told me the same story and expressed outrage every time she told the story at what Perot did.

    It was so terrible she would never vote for him.

    His crime???

    He shook her hand and his hand was cold. (I kid you not)

    To this day if someone mentions Perot she says (verbatim): “I won’t vote for that man, I shook his hand and it was like shaking hands with a cold fish.”

    How that factored into his ability to run the country is something I never had the nerve to ask.

    But people do the weirdest things with their vote.

    Paul