Kathleen Parker

Say what you will about a populist uprising. The California recall was at least partly a backlash to everything soft and fuzzy in the culture. If only unconsciously, The People were motivated more by testosterone and car talk than by budget stats and politics.

Contrary to conventional punditry, they didn't elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has no credible qualifications to solve the state's problems, to send a message to career politicians. They didn't elect a Republican to send a message to Democrats

The People, whom we variously worship or hold in contempt depending on our polling needs, elected the Terminator - the biggest, meanest, toughest, take-no-prisoners son-of-a-cyborg hombre who ever strode the Earth, an Extreme Man who protects women (we're talking movies now) and children, and who, when sufficiently piqued, makes weapons out of household objects and reduces enemies to ash.

And that, as the Bond lady says, is "a real mahn" - the father-king come back (he said he'd be back, didn't he?) to rescue the culture from the tyranny of weak sisters, not to mention the rise of machines.

Not incidentally, they also elected a guy who promised to get rid of the recently tripled car tax even if means increasing the state's $8 billion debt. As Schwarzenegger accurately noted: "The public doesn't care about figures."

The public does care about cars, though you have to have lived in California (as I did in the 1980s) to fully grasp the deeper meaning of automobiles. Everyone knows the freeways are jammed and commutes are torturous, but it's more than that.

Californians love their cars - and invest in very nice ones - because they can't afford houses. If you spend much of your time in transit getting to work (it typically took me one hour to travel 10 miles, twice a day) and collapse in a small rental unit at sundown, a car is more than a ride. It's an expression of self, a second skin, a literal mobile home.

Tax it so people can't afford their portable temples anymore, and you're trespassing on holy ground.

Meanwhile, we've entered a new age of masculinity (see Bush administration), both in reaction to the feminization that has gelded American males and in appreciation of what real men do (see 9-11 heroes). The Terminator is a 3-D specimen made of steel where it counts.

This is not a post-election endorsement, by the way, just an observation that may be biased by my extensive exposure to Schwarzenegger movies, thanks to my son John Connor. Indeed. For the record, he's the fourth John Connor in our family, a lineage begun long before "The Terminator" and introduction of the character by that name.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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