Properly explored, however, there may be pathos in Schwarzenegger’s story, as well as triumph. Because it begins to appear the story of the current governor of California -- or should that be “Kauli-fornia”? -- helps crystallize the story of the one place in the world where that success story was possible: America.
And today’s America is a different place from the one to which young Schwarzenegger dreamed of traveling, all those decades ago in an industrial backwater of mountainous Austria.
Graz is not Vienna. There must have been some snickers if the child of a policeman in this blue-collar Austrian town ever admitted to his boyhood friends how large were his ambition and his vision.
Most of the story is well-known. With little else to work with, Schwarzenegger made his own body the tool of his ambition. Few have the persistence to even reach the Mr. Universe competition, let alone triumph. Five times.
Mr. Olympia? Seven times.
Schwarzenegger was to body building as the yacht America was to her British competitors, as the winning boat ran into view around the headland and the queen had to be informed “Majesty, there is no second.”
For most men, that triumph would have been the peak of a career. Open a chain of gyms, sell some vitamins, what else do you expect?
But for Arnold Schwarzenegger it was just the beginning. He was going to be a movie star.
Critics laughed. Funny name; funny accent; fat chance.
They were wrong. Schwarzenegger made himself over as the biggest action hero, ever. In his spare time, he earned his B.A. in Business from the University of Wisconsin, and became a U.S. citizen.
Then, when it became obvious he couldn’t play Conan the Barbarian forever, he insisted on showing his versatility in comedies like “Kindergarten Cop.”
Meanwhile he invested well, and married well. A movie star, a self-made millionaire, raising a family with a wife who hailed from the Kennedy clan -- as close to royalty as America has to offer, in the view of many. What more could any man want?
We did mention he’s now the governor of California, didn’t we? Only the birthplace requirement has cooled talk of his following the rest of the way in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan.
And, most admirably of all, Arnold Schwarzenegger reached the governor’s office on a platform that clearly indicated he knew how and why he achieved success -- because of a free market economy that does not seize the bread from the mouth of labor, but rather allows people to succeed based on their own efforts.
What a far cry from the socialist sinkholes of Europe, where high taxes and other manifestations of collectivism steal away the incentive for hard work and innovation -- for “exceptionalism,” for trying things that everyone says are impossible.
When the new governor who wanted to help Californians return to their free-market roots found himself stymied by a corrupt, largely socialist state Legislature, he went directly to the voters with a series of initiatives, asking their help to curb the power of the state employees unions, to help him cut budgets and cut taxes and reverse course from the Golden State’s suicidal rush toward the very kind of redistributionism that destroyed Eastern Europe, and that now holds far too much sway west of the Oder, as well.
California voters didn’t get it. Terrified of losing government handouts and “benefits,” they failed to support the very man who they’d elected to set things to rights. Betraying Schwarzenegger and cutting the ground from beneath his feet, the voted down almost all his proposals.
Is that the tragedy of our story? No. For it would be no tragedy for an already great man to go down to defeat while standing by the very principles which he knows from his own life to be the principles which California and America need to re-discover and again embrace.
But as I said, Mr. Schwarzenegger is a survivor, willing to remake himself in whatever ways prove necessary to succeed.
Thus it is that we now read that the favorite politician of most of the foot-dragging reactionary Democrats in the Legislature in Sacramento is not Democratic Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is challenging Schwarzenegger for the governorship, but rather ... Arnold Schwarzenegger!
The governor once opposed raising the state minimum wage, a step which only outlaws the jobs of those with lesser skills? No, no, you must have misunderstood, boys! Gov. Schwarzenegger now favors this inflationary union-backed measure. How high do you want it? Eight dollars? No problem!
Gov. Schwarzenegger was once properly skeptical of the notion that the state’s economy should be sacrificed to cut the emission of man-made “greenhouse gases” in this country (not in China and India), gases which make a tiny contribution to a minor global warming which many climatologists doubt is even a meaningful trend -- now, at the end of a 10,000-year interglaciation, when the most likely prognosis for long-time world climate change is in fact a new Ice Age?’
Forget that! All a big misunderstanding! Color me Green, boys!
The governor used to balk at punishing drug manufacturers who insist on charging full price for their products, instead of backing a state bill to require them to offer discounts to politically favored groups (which only means the rest of us will pay more?)
Hey hey hey! The new Arnold will punish those darned greedy capitalists all you want! He’s here to “play ball”!
“He’s absolutely willing to prostitute himself on anything,” complains bitter Angelides advisor Bill Carrick. “How humiliating it must be to be a Republican in this state.”
Not really. Republicans make up only 38 percent of the California electorate. Appealing to socialists, labor unions, greens, whale-huggers, Gaia worshippers, and others who learned their economics from folk songs and Captain Planet Saturday morning cartoon shows is an excellent way for Arnold and the California GOP to succeed ... in the short run.
In the meantime, of course, the governor is betraying the very principles which allowed him to come to this country 38 years ago and live out the American dream.
That dream will now become less and less available to future immigrants -- and native-born Americans, as well -- thanks to the course of action for which the California electorate and their legislative delegates now applaud their governor in Sacramento.
That’s the tragedy.
But can anyone blame Arnold? He listened, and he’s giving Californians what they say they want.
Good and hard.