Total Recall: California’s Political Circus

Total Recall: California’s Political Circus

It reads like a movie script. The year? 2003. The mission? Defeat hundreds of challengers to save the state of California and become its leader. But this wasn't a movie... it was a real-life election for governor that featured adult film stars, sumo wrestlers, comedians, and ended with the election of action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Total Recall: California’s Political Circus, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash will unpack the scandal, partisanship, and celebrity of the Golden State’s 2003 recall election – and explore what it might have forecasted about politics today.

Episodes

October 13, 2021 25 min

And just like that, we’ve arrived at the final chapter of our story: The 2021 California Recall. There are plenty of echoes of the 2003 recall in the latest effort to oust Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. It was a complete circus... but with a completely different result. In this episode, we’ll take you through Newsom’s recall win, the lessons learned from 2003, and what the results can tell us about future elections. 

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After months of learning about the 2003 recall —talking to candidates, reporters, and experts —we finally get to speak with the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And as you might imagine, he wasn’t exactly shy. In this episode, we take you inside his Los Angeles mansion, meet his eclectic pets, and let the Governator himself tell you all about his historic victory in 2003. 

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September 29, 2021 22 min

Less than a week before the recall election, it seemed as though Arnold Schwarzenegger was sailing toward a smooth and definitive victory – but of course, what’s an election without an October Surprise? And in this case, more than one. It was five days of bombshells -- reported allegations of groping, sexual harassment, and comments about Hitler sent the Schwarzenegger campaign into damage control. In this episode, we’ll walk you t...

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September 22, 2021 21 min

In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger was arguably the most famous person in the world, which made him an unstoppable political force. And though it felt like a unique moment in history, celebrity and politics have a rich and complicated history. In this episode, we dig into the origins of the “celebrity candidate”, the challenges fame brings to a campaign, and how Schwarzenegger used his larger-than-life persona to find political success.

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September 14, 2021 21 min

Despite the celebrity power of Arnold Schwarzenegger - the origins of the 2003 recall are hardly glamorous. Believe it or not, the movement started in the back of an old roller skating rink by a rumpled anti-establishment crusader. It was a “peaceful revolution” that ended in disaster for the incumbent Governor Gray Davis. In this episode, we’ll walk through how the 2003 recall started in the first place - what political factors we...

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September 8, 2021 24 min

You probably remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California. But do you remember how it all happened? The blackouts, the budget and of course, the car tax! CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, takes you back to the origins of the 2003 California Recall and talks with Schwarzenegger and the man he beat, Gray Davis to learn why this election became such a circus.

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August 20, 2021 2 min

Join us for the stranger than fiction story behind the 2003 California recall election that replaced a sitting governor with America's most famous action hero. We'll unpack the scandal, partisanship and celebrity surrounding this circus and explain how it may have influenced our current political reality. CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash talks to key players including the two men at the very center of it al...

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