Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2003 / 17 Tishrei, 5764
So voters rejected him, as voters rejected Bill Clinton's Democrats in 1994 after he campaigned in the center and governed on the left. This ought to be a lesson for the Democratic presidential candidates, most of whom are trying to echo Howard Dean's vitriolic denunciations of George W. Bush. But it probably won't be; Democrats are still complaining about legitimacy of the recall procedure, which has been in the California Constitution for 92 years.
Breaking ranks. In California, the Democratic majority coalition has been shattered. The Edison-Mitofsky exit poll reported that 46 percent of Hispanics, 49 percent of union members, and 24 percent of self-identified Democrats voted for recall. Hispanics voted for Cruz Bustamante over Schwarzenegger by only a 52-percent-to-31-percent margin, union members by only 41 percent to 39 percent. Hispanics especially are a fluid voting bloc, not strongly attached to either party--as Bush strategist Karl Rove well knows. The loyal core of the California Democratic Party is now reduced to blacks, government employees, and rich liberal professionals.
The question now is how Schwarzenegger will govern. Some Democrats are threatening to circulate recall petitions against him in 100 days. But voters are unlikely to respond favorably if Schwarzenegger, unlike Davis, is working to advance the ideas he ran on. Which means getting the budget back toward balance and taking on the special interests--government employee unions, trial lawyers, Indian casinos--that thrived in Davis's "pay to play" Sacramento. Those interests flourished because the news media provided little coverage of state politics and government: None of the Los Angeles or San Francisco TV stations have a bureau in Sacramento. As the news director of one L.A. station once told me, "I suppose if anything happens up there, we could send a crew up for the day."
But the electricity crisis, the budget deficits, and the Schwarzenegger candidacy put the spotlight on Sacramento, and it is likely to stay there. People are interested in him. On 8:30 a.m. the Friday before the election, a diverse crowd of 4,000 people cheered Schwarzenegger in Arcadia, with dozens of cameras and three helicopters overhead. At noon in Long Beach, Gray Davis drew a crowd of 70, mostly union activists and Democratic Party staffers. Look for the L.A. and San Francisco TV stations to reopen Sacramento bureaus and for state government news to lead local newscasts.
And look for Schwarzenegger to use his celebrity to get Democratic as well as Republican legislators to go along with his budget and other programs--reforming workers' compensation, renegotiating state union contracts, restructuring the state debt. He will very likely deal one on one with individual legislators rather than negotiate with party leaders. The Schwarzenegger people say he wants to govern in a bipartisan way. But the unspoken threat is that the Terminator can terminate political careers and take issues to the voters with ballot proposals. Government business in Sacramento has been done in the darkness; now it will be done in daylight. The old rules about what can and cannot be accomplished no longer apply.
Will Schwarzenegger live up to this challenge? He showed steely discipline and a sure sense of timing in his campaign. He has sharp political instincts and exudes a sense of command. He likes to win. I wouldn't bet heavily against him.
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