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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.

Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 2003 is against a neon background containing the Hollywood sign and palm trees
Hasta La Vista Gray Davis Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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 all: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis.
Trailer
Welcome to the Circus Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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.
Sep 8, 2021
Throwing the Governor Overboard Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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 were stacked up against Gray Davis, and how a movie star became the GOP’s best chance for victory.
Sep 14, 2021
Lights, Camera, Politician Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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.
Sep 22, 2021
Bombshells and Damage Control Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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 through the wild final days of the election and how Schwarzenegger managed to come out on the other end unscathed and victorious.
Sep 29, 2021
The Arnold Interview Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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.
Oct 6, 2021
Same Circus, Different Result Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
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.
Oct 13, 2021