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Saturday, October 11, 2003

No Coke, Pepsi!

The election of Schwarzenegger as governor reminds me of an idea I heard a couple decades ago.

Remember the taste tests between Pepsi and Coke? Those really weren't about Pepsi and Coke at all. They were a self-organizing strategem to reduce the market to two rich players. Other brands were clobbered, and barely could survive at the low-end of local markets.

So it is with Democrats and Republicans. Tens of billions of dollars of accumulated advertising is behind them. Voters got tired of Coke. Instead, they chose Pepsi. A drink that will prove equally ineffective in providing nourishment. Nothing will be accomplished.

In this race, Peter Camejo, the Green party candidate, was like soy milk. Good for one's health, but hopelessly uncool. Not a possible choice at this high school party.

Some exercise of power the voters have displayed! Please call me when our new governor rallies the people around bold goals that compel the legislature to comply.

Some of you seem to be supporters of politicians without a plan. The vast majority of the time, this choice seems all right. Bad things usually don't happen when policies don't change in government. We assume that technology will save us, or the economy will come around, and that government should not be innovative. Innovation holds more risk than inaction. Thoughtful experimentation? What we'll get is demagoguery against a backdrop of voters who have returned to their usual disengagement.

Arnie served a psychological purpose for the people of California: a pretense of power. Will schools get better? Will people be more prosperous? Maybe. But it will have damn little to do with this governor. You can be sure, though, that credit or discredit will be liberally doled. Coke or Pepsi? It won't make a difference. There are no serious ideas here. Just sugar water. Those who think this was some tour de force are delusional. It was a popularity contest.

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