The Daily Beast reported yesterday that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger considered switching political parties.
A few months ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few close associates discussed whether he should leave the Republican Party, according to two people familiar with the conversation. His friend Mike Bloomberg, the New York mayor, had become an independent. Maybe Schwarzenegger should, too. But the governor and his people quickly concluded that Californians already saw him as independent of the Republican Party. So what would be the point of a switch?
The point would be a matter of honesty.
The most consequential political divide in America’s largest state is not between Democrats and Republicans but between the centrist GOP governor and his own party.
Exactly. Out here in the population, Republicans haven't liked our governor since he lost his special election and then quit fighting the Legislature. Since then, he's been a rubber stamp for the Democrats and their agenda for the state.
Throughout Schwarzenegger’s five years in office, California Republicans, despite being a minority in the legislature, have used the state’s requirement of a two-thirds vote on fiscal matters to thwart his agenda. A majority of GOP legislators routinely oppose his budgets. Republican opposition helped doom the governor’s top second-term priority: legislation to establish universal health coverage in the state by requiring the insurance industry to cover everyone and requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance. GOP lawmakers stood in the way of major Schwarzenegger initiatives on water, prisons, and the environment. Republican objections also contributed to the downsizing of the governor’s proposal of $200 billion in infrastructure investment. (The eventual package passed by the legislature and approved by voters was $40 billion.)
Good for our GOP legislators!
Schwarzenegger himself is responsible for many of his problems. The governor did not devote much time to building deep personal relationships with Republican lawmakers. At a rare meeting last year with the governor, some of these lawmakers wore nametags. After a marriage to a Kennedy and a long career in Hollywood, Schwarzenegger seems more personally comfortable with Democratic leaders. Worse still, Schwarzenegger in private could talk insultingly about Republican lawmakers. They were “foreheads,” “the wild bunch,” or “out there.” Such comments spread quickly in the gossipy Capitol.
Without close personal ties, Schwarzenegger’s political differences with Republicans loomed larger. The governor has appointed Democrats and Republicans in roughly equal numbers to state jobs. His chief of staff is a Democrat. On policy, he tangled with the Bush administration on a variety of environmental matters. His declaration, in his second inaugural address, that he would govern as a “post-partisan” was considered a betrayal by some partisan Republicans who had held their noses and worked for his re-election.
All this is why Schwarzenegger’s recent apostasies—supporting Obama’s stimulus and pushing for a budget with tax increases—have drawn mostly silence from national Republican leaders. Schwarzenegger’s dissing the party? That’s just Arnold being Arnold. Republicans could hit back at him. But what would be the point?
Again, the point would be that Arnold would finally be coming clean. He's not a Republican, no matter how long he keeps that "R" after his name. It's about time he admits it to himself and to the rest of us. Isn't that the first of the 12 Steps?