A renowned author and journalist came to Santa Barbara for a discussion focusing on two men who made the move from Tinsel Town to California’s governor’s mansion.
Lou Cannon spoke to a near-full Victoria Hall downtown Tuesday evening in a lecture titled “The Rise of the Celebrities: Republican Politics from Reagan to Schwarzenegger.” The lecture focused on the similarities between Ronald Reagan’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state administrations, rise to power and appeal among the California public. Though Cannon said it is too early to judge whether Governor Schwarzenegger will prove to be the next Ronald Reagan politically, it is clear that the two men’s roots are similar.
“Our state is the embodiment of the American dream … and nowhere more so than in Hollywood, the great American dream factory. So it’s quite natural that politicians turn to Hollywood in time of need,” Cannon said.
Cannon wrote Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power, published in 2003, as well as four other books on Reagan. He began working for The Washington Post as a political correspondent in 1972 and remained there for 26 years.
Cannon said generals were the original U.S. political heroes, and the trait they share with modern celebrity-politicians is “their ability to fire public imagination.”
He said the Republican Party’s support of Schwarzenegger, a moderate on social issues, was an attempt to appear less conservative and appeal to normally liberal Californians. He also said changing state demographics, which introduced a larger Latino and mainly democratic vote, also pushed the Republican Party into supporting Schwarzenegger.
The 30-minute lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. When asked about the direction of Schwarzenegger’s policies so far, Cannon said he considered Schwarzenegger to have good intentions for state government.
When asked by an audience member about the changing demographic scenery of the state of California, Cannon said he is not at all disturbed by an increase in immigration and is instead excited concerning the influx of immigrants.
“I think that immigration … was the source of America’s greatness and California’s greatness,” Cannon said.
Another audience member asked Cannon’s opinion on Schwarzenegger’s plans to raise state university fees. Cannon replied that he is not worried about the increase in university fees since they were still relatively low when compared to those in other states. He said he is more concerned with the budget for the disabled and poor in California.
“I much prefer a small income tax raise to the wealthiest Californians to cutting the budget for the disabled. To me that’s a bigger issue, with all due respect, than the increase in the fees for the students,” Cannon said.
Freshman law and society major Nick Dusevic said he was not impressed with Cannon’s lecture.
“I think he offered an extremely Republican view, as the normal view I’d expect to hear from a Republican who’s a Reagan supporter,” Dusevic said. “I personally thought that he didn’t give enough of the other side, stuff that I think is bad about the Reagan presidency.”
Brad Proffitt, a 52-year-old systems analyst for the county, said he knew Cannon’s work and enjoyed his lecture.
“I like living history and I like listening to people who have lived history,” he said.