Inside 'The People's Machine'
Title: The People's Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy
Author: Joe Mathews
Publisher: Public Affairs, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-1586682725, 368 pages
Review: The People's Machine
By Thomas Bergen, getAbstract
Joe Mathews' book vividly describes how the confluence of a European childhood, bodybuilding, movies, popular culture, politics, history and ambition shaped the life of a remarkable public figure, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Highly detailed and readable, this is an informative account of how California's best-known modern political leader improbably rose to power. He portrays Schwarzenegger as a complicated, talented politician whose attention to detail in building and managing his persona has consistently paid off in money and power. Mathews uses Schwarzenegger's saga to show in great journalistic detail how being exposed to opportunity and the right social networks can produce remarkable results; of course, working hard and being lots smarter than people think helps too. It should be required reading for all California voters. Or maybe for all voters, period.
The groundwork for Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to power in California was laid more than 100 years ago by populists fighting against the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad.
In the early 1900s, California suffered political machine cronyism and powerful organized efforts to preserve the status quo and set back populism. The railroad was the most dominant commercial force against popular democracy. The train linked thousands of small towns to the rest of the United States. Its freight rates dictated how much or how little merchants and farmers could earn. Two groups, the anti-union Populists--mostly farmers, laborers and former Republicans--and the metropolitan Progressive Party, challenged the trains and the corrupt government. They pushed western states to adopt innovative government reforms that had begun in Switzerland-- notably recalls, initiatives and referendums. Ten states adopted the reforms but not California, yet.
Also at the turn of the century, the movie business migrated from New York to California. The weather drew filmmakers fleeing Thomas Edison's strong-arm monopoly on equipment.
In 1902, millionaire socialist Hiram Johnson, the new mayor of Los Angeles, again pushed the city to allow referendums, initiatives and recalls, but politically powerful railroad interests beat back his efforts. Johnson then moved his battle to the state level. An entertaining, powerful speaker who vilified the railroad's stark power, he was elected governor in 1910. Within months, he shepherded the popular reform amendments into law. Within a few years, the process of proposing and managing statewide initiatives had become a business. By 1923, a state committee even wrote that the initiative process was endangering the electoral system. Johnson also recognized the power of movies. In 1914, he made movies about his programs offering shorter working hours for women and free textbooks to kids. By the middle of the 1900s, Hollywood had begun to capture America. From 1910 to 1912, the number of U.S. moviegoers increased from 10 million to 20 million.
The Political Blockbuster
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was born in July 1947 in Styria, Austria. His father, Gustav, was a WWII military policeman and a Nazi Party member. After serving throughout Europe, he became a postal inspector in Austria. Postwar investigations showed that he did not participate in war crimes. In time, he became police chief of the village of Thal, a position he held for more than 15 years. He died in 1972.
Gustav raised his sons, Meinhard (who died in an alcohol-related car accident at age 25) and Arnold, under strict military discipline, including corporal punishment. By 1955, a two-party coalition ran the country and dictated patronage jobs. A top local bodybuilder who lost his patronage job formed a new gym and recruited Arnold, 16, already six feet tall. Drawn by the unconventional sport, he began working out five days a week. He also began attending political gatherings where people discussed the need for more democracy to counter Austria's emerging right wing...
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