Ever since he began his leftward move in the immediate wake of his special election defeat last year, many Republicans have wondered aloud what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to do for the party’s base voters. For months it continued as he promoted environmentalism, social spending, and the biggest infrastructure package in California’s history. Now he is pivoting to an area of “red meat” concern for the base, crime.
Even as he was quelling a rebellion on the right at last February’s California Republican Party convention, Schwarzenegger gave little rhetorical attention to issues that stir up more conservative voters. He mentioned his support for the “Jessica’s Law” anti-child molester initiative only in passing during his speech to convention delegates, for example. That’s changing now. With his centrism re-established, the former action superstar is zeroing in on the crime issue, taking advantage of having an opponent, Treasurer Phil Angelides, with little track record on crime and even less of a policy profile.
Team Arnold has been dogging Angelides on crime of late, having prominent law enforcement figures in the regions the Democratic candidate campaigns in challenge him to take a position on Jessica’s Law. He has yet to do so, and for liberal civil liberties reasons, is not seen as one of the initiative’s likeliest supporters.
Today Schwarzenegger appears at an event trumpeting his endorsement by six law enforcement organizations: The California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the National Latino Peace Officers Association, the California Narcotics Officers Association, and the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.
Later in the day, his campaign will also announce its public safety coalition, consisting of prominent individuals such as various district attorneys around the state. Schwarzenegger struck up an alliance with county prosecutors when he intervened, with the assistance of former Governor Jerry Brown, to defeat the three-strikes sentencing reform initiative, which had enjoyed a wide lead in the polls, in November 2004. When he needed a friendly forum for his prison crisis speech on Monday, the California District Attorneys Association provided it.
Angelides is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and only one district attorney, from liberal Marin County on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the event at Sacramento’s Sheraton Grand Hotel, the remarks of Schwarzenegger and others will, I’m told, focus on his policies, although references to Jessica’s Law and Phil Angelides are not unlikely.
Although Angelides supports the death penalty, he and his campaign are not making it difficult for Team Arnold to pigeonhole him as a classic liberal Democrat. Not only is his still vague program of closing corporate tax loopholes and tax hikes on the rich, not to mention past advocacy of a raft of broader tax increases, making it easy to type him as a tax-and-spend liberal, his lack of a profile on crime further outlines the picture.
Indeed, the issues page on the Democratic candidate’s web site remarkably makes no mention of Angelides’ views on criminal justice issues. His Republican foes need merely paint by numbers to fill in the blanks. It’s the sort of oversight one can get away with running for a down-ballot office, as the treasurer has three times in the past. But not running for governor, something he has planned for many years.
As Schwarzenegger pivots to “red meat” concerns for the base which are also popular with more moderate voters, we can expect to see more visuals of him with cops and other law enforcement figures. The former action superstar has told of his popularity with cops ever since his first Terminator movie in 1984, in which he first delivers his trademark line: “I’ll be back.” Which is intriguing, since he says the line in a police station, just before assaulting it and massacring every police officer in it.
But probably not a wave of such pictures. Unlike most politicians, the former Mr. Universe doesn’t have to do much to invoke a high-testosterone image. That’s why you may see more of him with the victims of crime, playing up his well-defined cinematic image as a protector. (By an odd coincidence, “Protecting The California Dream” is his re-election campaign slogan.)
In fact, Schwarzenegger is also this week, on the gubernatorial side of his operation, rolling out his new program for crime victims. Setting up a crime victims advocate in the Governor’s Office and pushing new rights for crime victims in a bill carried by Democratic Assemblywoman Nicole Parra of Bakersfield, ironically one of the legislators he unsuccessfully tried to unseat in November 2004.