And strangely enough, in California’s current politics, that’s refreshing. Where Arnold spent the last couple of decades fighting cinematic evildoers, Angelides fought against environmentally unsustainable and poorly planned development patterns. I had to take three No-Dozes just to stay awake while writing that sentence, but you know what? That’s why we have government. When I want entertainment, I’ve got action movies. Hell, I’ve got Arnold’s action movies. But I want my governor to know about, and even enjoy, all the drop-dead boring things that I determinedly ignore. That’s why a guy who went to Harvard, entered politics to “Dump Nixon,” returned to California to spend nearly 10 years toiling in the Housing and Community Development Agency, became chair of the California Democratic Party, and finally got elected state treasurer is so comforting — this state needs a civic-minded wonk for a while.
2. He’s also a geek
And the geek’s time has come. When Angelides refers to his own campaign as “Revenge of the Nerds,” he’s onto something. Sending some lantern-jawed guy out of Central Casting up against Arnold won’t work. He’ll be playing for Best Supporting from the start, because Arnold will always be bigger, tanner and shinier than his opponent. So a guy like Angelides, whose limbs flail out at irregular angles but whose ears look like satellite dishes receiving and transmitting all forms of knowledge and expertise, is the best bet. Californians, after all, just dated a jock, and you know how that turned out. This time around, they’ll want to settle down with the valedictorian.
3. He’s an innovator
And when’s the last time we had one of those? Where Arnold has latched on to the same tired and duplicitous mixture of anti-tax demagoguery and faux-populist optimism that politicians have been regurgitating since Reagan, Angelides made his name doing something genuinely new. As treasurer, he controlled California’s massive pension savings and, rather than sticking them in a mutual fund somewhere, plowed them into inner-city development, alternative-energy projects and socially conscious investment opportunities. In addition, he brought more than a few companies to heel by leveraging the state’s huge investments and demanding shareholder rights. Arnold has stood up to more than his share of devious, fully fictional mega-corporations, but Angelides is the only one to take on real-life multinationals.
4. He’s funny
Archly, at least. Referring to Schwarzenegger’s comment at last summer’s Republican National Convention that he was inspired to get into politics by Nixon, Angelides offered the repartee: “Funny thing, Governor. So was I.”
5. He’s predictable
I’m tired of waking up to new Arnolds. Arnold the uniter, the post-partisan charismatic leader who would end the divisions of Davis. Arnold the ideologue, the petty and vengeful politician whose top legislative priority was weakening the unions that opposed him. Arnold the progressive, willing to break the bank for infrastructure reconstruction, appoint an openly lesbian, Democratic chief of staff and take on health care. Governors don’t get to change characters every few months like actors; they need to offer a consistent vision. Arnold’s only consistent vision was President Schwarzenegger, leaving his policy priorities muddled and opportunistic. Angelides has, through years of workhorse effort, proved not only his principles, but his commitment to them. It’s time to give the nerd a chance.