Jewish World Review August 11, 2003 / 13 Menachem-Av 5763
Total California Recall
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | From the outset, the California recall was a bad idea for Republicans. It was a lose, lose, lose situation. Without the recall Republicans would have contended for an open seat in 2006 against a non-incumbent Democrat running on a crippled legacy. The recall introduced three basic possibilities into this mix, all of them bad.
The first of these would be a defeat of the recall and hence a win for the Democrats. The second would be a victory for the recall but the election of a Democrat to replace Davis, forcing Republicans to face an incumbent in 2006. The third would be a victory for the recall and a Republican governor. Ironically, this would have created the possibility for the worst scenario of all.
The victory of a Republican would have meant a conservative governor with a plurality of 20%. Even this is probably optimistic since Republicans notoriously lack discipline, guaranteeing a full Republican field. Thus a conservative victory would set up a conservative disaster.
If Issa, Simon or McClintock had indeed won the recall with 20% of the vote, he would have absolutely no mandate to govern. He would inherit a $38 billion deficit. He would face an overwhelming Democrat majority in the state legislature and the press. Moreover, being an isolated conservative with a small constituency, he would be unable to counter these disadvantages by going over the heads of the legislature and the media to the public to get his agenda through. He would have no popular base in the state. Thus, he would have no option to reduce the deficit by cutting the programs and payrolls fattened in the Davis years as the economy and state revenues were bottoming.
In other words a Republican victory would have led to the discrediting of fiscal conservatism and the prospect of twenty years of unchallenged liberal Democratic rule.
But the entrance of Arnold Schwarzenegger into the race has changed all that. Suddenly Republicans have an opportunity to take back the governorship, revive their all but dead party, and make themselves competitive again in the Golden State.
To understand this one must first understand that Schwarzenegger is above all a "modern" candidate (I borrow this term from Democratic strategist Michael Berman, who wickedly defines it as being pro-choice, anti-cigarette companies and believing that God is a tree). The last Republican Governor, Pete Wilson, if not entirely modern in this sense, was nonetheless a pro-choice, social moderate, He put together an electoral majority by taking two conservative issues which some modernists covertly support -- opposition to racial preferences and illegal immigration and forging a winning majority behind them.
Nearly a decade of statewide electoral contests since Wilson's retirement have shown that no candidate can win statewide office in California -- any statewide office -- who is not "modern." The insipid Gray Davis beat a pro-life typically starched Republican conservative, Dan Lungren, in a 1996 landslide election that took down the entire state Republican Party. In the wake of the Davis's tsunami, Republicans were left with two minor statewide offices. One of the offices was held by a crook who had to resign. Now Republicans hold none.
Four years later, Barbara Boxer -- unpopular even with Democrats -- beat Matt Fong over the gay issue and with a phony but effective attack that represented him as an anti-environmental extremist. George Bush who is pro-life and does not believe that God is a tree, lost to Al Gore by a million votes in the same election despite a campaign of "compassionate conservatism." The Gore camp did not have to spend a penny in the state to win. Then in 2002 a hugely unpopular Gray Davis thrashed conservative Bill Simon despite droves of Democrats who sat on their hands because they could not bring themselves to even hold their noses and vote for the incumbent. These results should show anyone who looks that the California electorate does not resonate with social conservatism and will not vote for anyone who isn't "modern."
Another term for "modern" might be "cool." John McCain is a cool Republican and could have carried the state in 2000 if the Republican primary electorate had not preferred George Bush.
Now comes Arnold Schwarzenegger a fiscal and national security conservative who is the epitome of cool. Suddenly Republicans have become people that Hollywood not only wants to know, but already does know. And respect. With Arnold's entry into the race the political landscape of California -- and beyond it the nation -- has changed.
I am amazed at Democrats who have been quoted saying that Schwarzenegger can be damaged with references to possible amorous indiscretions and dalliances with Sixties recreational substances. Californians will love him for that -- or forgive him. I am more amazed at Dick Morris who thinks that Arnold's celebrity has peaked. It is only beginning. He is one of the few actors in Hollywood that the American public regards as a serious person, a shrewd businessman and a master of his own image. Perfect credentials for a prospective governor.
I am less amazed at conservative Republicans who still don't get it (because that's actually what Republicans are famous for) and are still in the race. As previously noted, even if a Republican candidate like Tom McClintock or Bill Simon could win the plurality to become governor, which they can't, their administration would be a disaster -- for them, for Republicans and for their conservative cause. If conservatives want to make California a conservative state they need to lay a lot more groundwork for that to be possible.
Arnold's is a dream candidacy for the Republican Party, which he alone can rescue from the dead. He has already made Republicans more user friendly to the public at large. He will make it easier for media talent in the state to relate to the Republican Party, which has ramifications for campaigns beyond California. He will inspire significant numbers of independents to vote for his party. And if he is elected -- unlike the conservatives biting at his heels -- he will be a formidable counter-balance to the Democratic legislature, which means he could actually improve the financial condition of the state.
If Governor Schwarzenegger were to do the right thing -- for example veto Democratic attempts to protect their expensive programs -- he would be in a position politically to resist their override. He could just take his enormous popularity and media presence into their individual senatorial and assembly districts and immediately threaten their electoral futures. So great is his popularity and media presence. Of course politics has its uncertainties and unseen pitfalls and no one knows if Arnold will be able to navigate them successfully. But if he manages to do so and win, he will actually have a chance to revive the state and run for a second term.
Even more important, Governor Schwarzenegger would change the political equation for the next presidential contest in 2004. A Bush 2004 campaign with Arnold as the President's point man in the state would unquestionably turn it into a competitive affair. This means that even if Bush does not ultimately win the state, the Democrats will have to pour big dollars into the state to contest the election. The drain of money and resources will impact close races across the country.
For all these reasons Republicans of all factions should rejoice at the Schwarzenegger candidacy. It offers the only possibility of a win for state Republicans or for the Bush campaign in California. It will help to revive the California Republican Party. And it could reshape the politics of the nation.
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JWR contributor David Horowitz is editor of Front Page Magazine and the author of several books, including, The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits, Hating Whitey, Art of Political War, Radical Son : A Generational Odyssey . To comment, please click here.
08/05/03: Challenging the racist Dems in California
08/05/03: Challenging the racist Dems in California