Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger struck his then customary
conciliatory pose with his party’s anti-government faction at last
January’s state Republican convention, in this NWN video.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t exactly solved his Republican problem. In many ways, of course, it’s not a problem for him. California’s Republicans, out of step with the state’s mainstream, and in some cases their own voters, are contracting rather than expanding, locked into a permanent and in many ways self-selected minority status.
The California Republican Party is in the grip of the state’s anti-government faction, even more than California’s Democrats are dominated by the state’s ultra-government faction. They cleverly refuse to allow independent voters, the state’s fastest growing political tendency and the future of California politics, to participate in their presidential primary, and have fallen so far as to have to cut back their own local organizing efforts due to the party’s incipient anemia.
Writing last month at the Flash Report, a right-wing web site with few comments that nonetheless has become a clubhouse for politicians from the Republicans’ far right faction, one of the faction’s leading theoreticians, Fresno insurance man Mike Der Manouel, noted that his party’s cutbacks point up the fact that it has become “a party with nothing to do. California’s demographics,” he lamented, “have stampeded right over the top of the GOP and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Which is the sort of thinking that Schwarzenegger derides as a “losers’ mentality.”
Of course, had the former action superstar paid more attention to dealing with his party’s anti-government mentality, and to reining in the Democrats’ ultra-government faction, he might not be facing the latest outbreak of California’s chronic budget crisis.
When Schwarzenegger came into office four years ago following his landslide victory in the spectacular California recall election, he had a mandate to kick ass. But he had, let’s say, an incomplete plan. On the then enormous state budget problem, actually bigger than today’s, he had a soundbite and polling data indicating that most voters thought that as much as one-third of state spending was waste. Which, as it happens, is false.
He also had a commitment — thanks to the championing of the concept by state Senator Tom McClintock, the distant third place finisher in the gubernatorial replacement election and darling of California’s far right — to cut the state’s car tax. Which Schwarzenegger promptly did.
Today that cut amounts to about $6 billion a year. Absent that, the state government doesn’t have much of a fiscal problem.
What Schwarzenegger might have done in 2004, as I pointed out, was drag his party out of the 19th century and the Democrats into the 21st by adopting a temporary tax hike and a ruthless effort to root out governmental inefficiencies.
Instead, he placated the anti-government faction and the ultra-government faction. Though he insisted he would not, he let his own California Performance Review die — with nary a peep from Republicans, mind you, in fact killed by Republicans in his administration — and passed on the tax hike. Though he had the clout to do both.
Instead, he constitutionalized, through passage of a popular initiative, massive deficit borrowing on the bond markets already undertaken by the Legislature and former Governor Gray Davis.
Then, from a political standpoint, he alternated between indulging — to the extent of nearly ending his political career in 2005 with his ill-conceived and disastrously executed “Year of Reform” special election initiatives — and ignoring the right-wingers who make up most of the Republican apparat in California.
As recently as this past January, as seen in the NWN video above, Schwarzenegger was still placating the purveyors of a politics that can’t win and which he had already eschewed. Only earlier this fall, when he addressed the party convention outside Palm Springs, did he air his obvious differences with the anti-government faction.
Not that that has affected their behavior. With the state’s chronic financial woes deepening in the midst of an economic slowdown driven by a housing crisis and near record oil prices, the anti-government faction calls for big cuts in state spending.
What do they want to cut?
They won’t say.
Were this coming from one of those Young Americans for Freedom conventions, it would be irrelevant. Coming from a still major political party which does have relevance — thanks to California’s highly unusual two-thirds legislative vote requirement on fiscal matters — it is absurd.
Schwarzenegger could have short-circuited these highjinks in 2004 and 2005. In 2007, he’s been busy elsewhere, with climate change and, of course, the year-long effort to produce a universal health care program for California. Along with a decent start at reforming California’s long ridiculous prison system and a so far fruitless bid to jump-start the state’s stalled water policy.
Yesterday, Schwarzenegger at last got a version of universal health care through the state Assembly. Along with a number of business and labor leaders — including, most notably, national Service Employees International Union chief Andy Stern — there was exactly one Republican politician, Fresno Mayor Alan Autry. Schwarzenegger doesn’t really need Republican pols to reform health care, though he is still far away from actually doing that with the current Rube Goldberg contraption. And perhaps he should have settled for “merely” providing health care to all children and stopping the insurance companies from denying care to people with pre-existing conditions.
But because of the state’s anachronistic requirements for super-majorities on key fiscal matters, he does need to bring more Republican pols into a governing consensus. That hasn’t happened. So unless the right-wing Republican pols are hiding their light under a bushel with regard to their refusal to spell out the massive program cuts they are insisting on — in other words, unless they have identified the governmental efficiencies that the California Performance Review they so meekly let die was not allowed to ferret out but for some odd reason have chosen to become Alfred Hitchcock’s successors as masters of suspense — California is going to be subjected for at least part of next year to a particularly absurd form of deadlock.
** NOTE: NWN is on a reduced holiday publishing schedule. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some columns and updates and videos; just not nearly so many. The Forum will of course be open. The relative break is coming sooner rather than later because of the frankly insane presidential campaign schedule, which sees Iowa and New Hampshire within a week of New Year’s Day. For some perspective, when I did first-in-the-nation Iowa for Gary Hart, it was on February 20th.
Two days after Christmas, NWN throttles back up full bore through the February 5th presidential primaries in California and elsewhere.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil is trading around $92 per barrel on reports of a Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq. Northern Iraq, which really is not governed out of Baghdad, is one of the world’s major oil sources and a safe haven for Kurdish separatist guerillas who carry out attacks inside Turkey.
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