The Migden Chronicles

One of the last standing Democrats writes the treatment for a flick in which a befuddled sci-fi hero helps California to a better future

Scene 3: (Schwarzenegger's team completes the audit he called for on the campaign trail. Though highly serious-sounding on its face -- the word "audit" conjures images of green eyeshades, scowling accountants, discovery, scandal, renewal, redemption -- the Schwarzenegger version amounts to a delay tactic, allowing the new governor time to realize what he's gotten himself into. Three months later, Schwarzenegger is in the cafeteria. He has befriended the fry chef, Pavel, who listens intently across the table.)

Schwarzenegger: "I'm The Terminator. I'm The Running Man. He's The Predator.This is Total Recall. I'm The Terminator ...."

Narrator: "Really the audit's a long stall, because we're the most audited state in the union, you know. There isn't one thing we don't know that you couldn't get right now from the legislative analyst or anybody else. But if that's what the governor-elect wants, of course he'll be accommodated. So he'll be given a couple of months."

Scene 4: (Shift to an underground hideaway, where thousands of jumpsuit-clad Democratic operatives scurry from one tunnel to another in futuristic golf carts. They're preparing the Budget Accountability Act, a proposition slated for the March ballot that would reduce from two-thirds to 55 percent the majority required to pass a state budget in the Legislature. Under the current two-thirds requirement, a minority of conservative Republicans has typically held out for budgets with no tax increases. At first glance the measure appears outgunned by the anti-tax sentiment that boosted Schwarzenegger to power. But the Democrats have a secret weapon; they'll turn the logic of Schwarzenegger's victory upon itself.)

Rick Wathen, political coordinator of the California State Employees Association, standing before a large underground map of California dotted with five different colors of pushpins, explaining the sci-fi logic of his plan: "When we had a Democratic governor, of course this would have been seen as a measure to raise taxes," Wathen says. Now that there's a Republican governor who has the option of vetoing budgets, he explains, voters will see giving more budgeting power to Democratic legislators as a reasonable option.

Migden voice-over: "It's right now almost November. Schwarzenegger is going to take over in mid-November. Then it'll be Christmas. By January, he's going to present a new budget. I don't think he wants to orchestrate a fiscal fiasco. The ballot initiative for 55 percent approval of the budget is up in March. Chances are that passes, so you can roll it in, and the governor-elect can say, 'It wasn't my idea, but it was the will of the voters and the people.' If there's only 55 percent approval for budget authorization, it will make it easier for Democrats to prevail and make it less likely that Republicans can oppose certain fiscal enhancements.

"My guess is, Schwarzenegger can punt the issue. I guess what I'm trying to say [is], I think there will be a little short-term eclipse."

Scene 5: (The eclipse ends. Light shines everywhere. Golf carts filled with jumpsuited Democrats stream to the planet's surface. The Democrats pass a bill repealing parts of Proposition 13, returning greater taxing authority to counties. They pass environmental legislation stronger than anything Gray Davis would have signed. They repeal the Three Strikes law. The junior college system is re-funded, as are the state's primary schools and universities. Democrats remove their jumpsuits, revealing the suits, ties, blouses, and skirts of politicians boldly in control. They abandon their golf carts. To celebrate, they all order state-issued Cadillacs.)

Fade to dark.

Interview filmed with Migden for DVD Making Of video segment.

Migden (sitting at table in SFMOMA cafe): "I think he's a fairly Democratic guy, don't you, really? In other words, his policy and approach won't be so different from Gov. Davis'. I don't expect much departure. Whereas Davis may have been the most conservative of Democrats -- or the most cautious, I should say -- I expect the new governor will kind of be a moderate-to-lib kind of Republican, what with his movie star background and his Kennedy affiliation. So I don't see, you know, a great reversal -- at least I don't project one."

(Migden leans forward slightly. She's wearing faded jeans, and a blouse that fits close, but not tight. Her blond hair is wound in tight ringlet curls. Schwarzenegger may even be an improvement over Davis, she suggests.)

Migden: "In some ways, yeah, I think it could be improved. You know this last governor didn't ever parole anybody. This last governor was absolutely adamant and unopen to some kind of more progressive approaches with law enforcement issues, and I dare say Schwarzenegger will have the self-confidence to depart from some highly cautious positions Davis took. Davis polled and polled and hesitated to a fault. I think Arnold will get an idea, get his gumption, and do something. I don't know -- we'll see. I wouldn't necessarily conclude there might not be some openings for the kinds of things we are looking to do."

Scene 6: (Migden exits the SFMOMA cafe. She chats a few moments more with her interviewer, says goodbye, turns toward the parking garage, and takes six bouncing steps forward. Without breaking stride she twists her body a half turn, and her head a full turn back.)

Migden: "I love you."

(She continues on her way.)

Camera pans from Migden in a shot whose perspective rockets skyward, taking in first the South of Market neighborhood, then the city, then the state, before fading to credits.

Optimistic music plays in the background.

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