COME BACK, PLATO! ALL IS FORGIVEN!
The day after
Boy, I could really go for a philosopher king right about now.
Instead, we get this
His very first act
as governor-elect was arrogant. And what was that? He started his victory speech about 30 seconds after Cruz Bustamante started his concession speech. Naturally all the networks cut away from Cruz and went straight to Jay Leno (who is on serious
probation for this) as he introduced Arnold. That's a real classy start there, musclehead. In his speech, which was fine given the circumstances, he talked about reaching out to Democrats and so on. But you just cut one off
! And not only that, one with whom you'll be working quite closely in the next few years. (Cruz will still be Lt Governor during the actor's term)
But more fundamentally than that, his talk about reaching out and being "everybody's governor" sounds a shade hollow when you remember that he became governor through a partisan power-grab.
Nevertheless, I'm going to try
and give Arnold a chance to win my support. As a current resident of Santa Barbara, I'm going to rely on one of my fellow Santa Barbarans: Rob Lowe. He's a Democrat and he supports Arnold. He must know something that I don't. If he gets turned off to Governor Arnold, then we will know that things really went wrong.
Where is Arnold's allegiance? The best we can hope for, articulated well by actor/activist Ron Silver on CNN last night, is that Arnold becomes something of a free spirit, not beholden to Republican or Democratic talking points, reaching out to everybody, and being an actual breath of fresh air in state politics. Looking at his website
, his views aren't that offensive. Pro-choice, pro-gay (to a point), against offshore drilling, and with strong Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate, he couldn't cause that much damage even if his views were identical to McClintock's.
If he had a (D) after his name, I'd be pretty happy right now. Is that superficial of me? Not really. That (R) is really important. It means that he, on some level, will be beholden to the higher-ups of the California GOP. That means they'll pressure him to give that $9 billion in damages back to Enron
after the state got gouged a couple years ago.
On the other hand, the factor that supports Ron Silver's hypothesis is that Arnold is ridiculously famous. Most likely, the Republicans couldn't have won this election without him (though Tom McClintock might disagree with that assertion). They've shown how awful they are at winning statewide elections in recent years. Arnold can say to the conservative wing of the GOP: "look, you couldn't have won without me, we're doing this my way". And McClintock would whine and scream as cooler heads like reasonably-good-guy Warren Buffet have Arnold's ear.
He's going to have a hard time coming through on some of his promises. Well, he didn't talk enough to make "promises", but hey. I'm referring to his pledge to neither raise taxes nor cut services and fix the budget problem at the same time. Good luck! You can reform worker's comp, then rereform it, then rerereform it all you want, that's not going to get you the money you need. Particularly if Arnold listens to his team more than to the GOP, we will see a tax increase somewhere, and the Republicans will be fractured yet again! What a state! Perhaps they can recall him.
THE GREATER CONSEQUENCES
Is this election the sign of any kind of shift to the right in California, or nationwide? In a word, NO. First of all, the Republicans could only win in California with a ridiculously famous celebrity in a short campaign for a special election. That's all they can do, and Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Miller would each get smacked down by Boxer. Secondly, if those Republican-backed ballot initiatives had won, or even came close to winning, then I'd be a bit more concerned. But no, both 53 and 54 couldn't even muster 40 percent. Arnold is nothing more than an anomaly, created by his own celebrity and the media.
Here's something I haven't seen anyone talking about (and I'm writing this post before reading any other blogs or likewise commentary, so I dunno). There is a long-term consequence of the groping revelations, in the LA Times and elswehere, that bodes very well for Democrats, particularly the nine of them who are running for President. Part of the Republican plot that led to this recall, even if they wont admit it, is the idea that a Republican governor would make it easier for Bush to possibly win California in the 2004 election. This would include Bush making appearances with Arnold and so on. But with the sixteen women coming forward, and Arnold acknowledging that some (all?) of the stories are true, Arnold becomes a bit radioactive in terms of conservative Republicans. Bush ran as the anti-Clinton, who was supposed to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House. The second he takes the stage with Arnold, he'll have to answer questions about Arnold's conduct. Thanks to the LA Times, our late-night talk-show hosts, LettermanLenoConanStewartKilbornKimmel, will be telling groping jokes for quite a while. Heck, Leno's still telling OJ jokes! In short, the Republicans wanted the governorship based on an even grander plan, and the saturation of the truth about Arnold's behavior towards women has stymied that plan. So please, everybody, send some flowers
to the LA Times.
THE VOTE ITSELF
The longtime joke in California is how the state Republicans always shoot themselves in the foot, nominate unelectable candidates over electable ones, and become fragmented. Even in this campaign, the potential folly of the Republicans had been the split between Arnold and McClintock. But the real story of the recall was the split among Democrats. From the numbers, it looks like a full 20% of Democrats abandoned Davis, presumably for Arnold (and perhaps, Cruz, I'll explain below). Davis thrives in campaigns on a "look at the alternative" strategy, and it looks like it didn't work this time: Enough Californians, Democrats even, thought Arnold was a substantial improvement over Davis. We'll see if that proves true.
Bigger than that, the Democrats were split on both
questions. On question 1, there were enough Democrats who thought Bustamante was a significant improvement over Davis, that a greater-than-zero percentage of voters actually voted for the recall and then for Bustamante. Latino voters? It's probably more complicated than that. In addition, there was also a split on question 2, independent from that first split. There were also plenty of Democrats, notably senator Dianne Feinstein, who opposed the recall, but on principle
would not support any replacement candidate. So as a result, both Davis and Bustamante had their votes split. And that's even before you factor in Arnold.
Davis was not a popular governor, never really was, and that accounts for the split on question 1. And Cruz was not a great campaigner, and that partially accounts for the split on question 2. Then again, with the media fellating Arnold for two months straight (with consent, mind you), Cruz was in a tough position to begin with.
You can look at the election results here
. Two notes:
--It looks like Arnold got more votes than Davis did (the "no" vote on question one), so Arnold won this election just about as fairly as one could, given its parameters.
--Congratulations to Georgy Russell, who finished in the top 35 with around 2000 votes. She's got a bright future! (selling thongs? getting beaten up by Arnold brownshirts?)