Carol Platt Liebau: Back on Track?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back on Track?

The LA Times is happily spinning a narrative about Arnold Schwarzenegger's "comeback" -- quite a change, the paper informs us, from "all last year — as Schwarzenegger stumped stubbornly and stridently while promoting his failed 'reform' initiatives — [and] voters fretted about the state's direction" (note the scare quotes around "reform").

There's no point in rehearsing the various failings of the Schwarzenegger campaign for what were, in fact, real and necessary reforms that would have lessened the iron-fisted grip of the unions over California politics and restored some semblance fiscal accountability, among other things. The point is that Schwarzenegger's numbers are back up -- not because, as the Times implies, he's following a more liberal course policy-wise, but because he's essentially caved in. That means that the unions and the Democrats are no longer running negative ads about him. It also means that he's not really achieving anything besides the salvaging of his own popularity ratings.

The LA Times notes that Schwarzenegger's numbers are "up" among Republicans. That's because they've seen Schwarzenegger's putative opponent emerge, and know they have no alternative. Indeed, as long as Schwarzenegger continues to cower before the unions and the legislature, he'll romp pretty easily to reelection. His opponent is an unappealing, far-left liberal. What's more, other powerful Democrats in the state (e.g. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) have no incentive to see an incumbent Democratic governor thwarting their own gubernatorial ambitions for the next eight years.

Ultimately, the moral of the story isn't that Schwarzenegger's new, "moderate" policies are making him politically popular -- as the Times would have readers believe. It's that, once you kneel in aject subjugation to the unions and liberals who defeated you, you lessen their bloodlust and gain some breathing room. After all, nobody kicks a dead dog.

The strategy is effective perhaps, but hardly inspiring.


Blogger wrabkin said...

Schwarzenegger has learned that the majority of California doesn't want a hard-right Republican governor. When he tried to govern that way, his popularity plummeted. And Arnold, an actor before all else, is driven by a need to be loved. He's discovered that being an old-school, Rockefeller Republican is acceptable in California's politics, and that's what he's going to be.

The odd thing is that now that he's cooperating with the legislature and actually trying to govern, instead of aiming at sweeping, radical changes, the state is working pretty well. We've got a budget on time for the first time in recent memory. God knows it's not an ideal budget, and if it weren't for an uptick in tax revenues it would never have worked... but it's a budget.

There are still lots of serious problems looming ahead, of course. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our tax system is insane, our public education is falling apart.

But odds are all that stuff won't completely collapse in the next four years. Arnold can preside over the state until it's time for him to step down, and leave office a bigger celebtrity than when he came in. Maybe he'll even decide to run for the Senate.

And in four years, maybe we can have a real election. I don't know what the prospects are like on the Republican side, but at least the Dems have two exciting, non-machine candidates who should be seasoned enough to run for governor -- the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco. (They may both self-destruct before then -- four years is an eternity in politics -- but I'd bet against that.) I'm sure Carol despises them both, but I think even she would have to agree they're not the same kind of dreary tools as Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamente, and all those other seat-fillers who seem to think they get to be governor if they wait long enough.

Maybe the four years will also bring another Republican like Richard Riordan who can reach across party lines and appeal to Democrats, who are the majority in this state. And maybe then we can have a real debate about what we want the future of California to hold.

12:20 PM  
Blogger fetching jen said...

It is a travesty that Californians, in order to get a Republican into the Governors office, must compromise with such a moderate. But that is the only way it can happen. However, be grateful because your alternative is a screaming lib as Governor... I'll take the moderate any day of the year!

3:41 PM  
Blogger LQ said...

The main complaint I had about ex-governor Gray Davis was that he was not a visionary or a statesman but just a vote-seeking pol. I'm beginning to feel the same way about Arnold.

7:15 PM  
Blogger wrabkin said...

Why is it a travesty that California can't elect a right-wing Republican? California is a majority Democratic state. In what world is it a travesty that the majority of a populace can't elect a leader they feel reflects their values?

8:39 AM  

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