Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been advocating “Post-Partisanship”. Now, it is time for him to walk the walk by abandoning his Republican label and re-registering as Decline to State. This move would make sense not only for his remaining time as Governor, but also for his ability to make an impact once he leaves office.
Here are the reasons why:
The middle is where the action is. It was Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter who were in the driver’s seat in shaping the final Federal stimulus package. Senator Specter single-handedly got a $10 billion windfall for biomedical research into the final bill, while insisting the total package be cut back.
Californians will vote on an open primary amendment because moderate GOP State Senator Abel Maldonado was the swing vote required for passage of the State Budget deal.
Decline to State voters are the fastest growing segment of the electorate. The real power is in the middle. Without party label, Arnold Schwarzenegger can emerge as the leading moderate voice in the country—speaking for moderate Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The reformer mantel doesn’t fit a partisan. The open primary, budget reform and the rest of the Governor’s agenda to revamp the way California does business require “independent” leadership and the building of broad coalitions. Party ties can only get in the way of that. The Governor has less than two years to cement his legacy. He’ll need all the help he can get.
He is no longer welcome in the Republican Party. Governor Schwarzenegger is viewed as a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He has long been out of step with the GOP activists and the rank and file on social issues and the environment. Now, his acquiescence to raising taxes in the face of a massive Budget deficit has become the last straw. Yes Republicans forgave Governor Reagan for his tax increase, but there is no sign that Arnold will be forgiven. Schwarzenegger’s influence within the Republican Party is now virtually nil—whether it is the party machinery or the Republican legislative caucuses.
It will be easier to deal with the Democrats in Sacramento. Although the Governor has done reasonably well in working with John Burton, Fabian Nunez and other Democratic leaders, there is still a tendency for Dems to view a Republican Governor as the enemy. Without the partisan label, Democratic lawmakers may be more prone to be collaborative, since they won’t be giving anything to the “enemy.” Hell, Bob Mulholland might event cut him some slack.
The Republicans will still need him. Like it or not, Republican lawmakers would still have to rely on the Governor as their last line of defense on a number of issues. His veto is the only thing standing in the way of public employee unions, trial lawyers and anti-business types getting everything they want. As long as he doesn’t become a Democrat, the Governor’s relationship with Republican lawmakers is not likely to deteriorate further.
This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with President Obama. The Governor has stood with the new President on the stimulus package, environmental issues and now Stem Cell research. During the Bush years, California suffered from a political drought in terms of White House influence. Now, with California’s enhanced Congressional clout and an electorate that overwhelmingly backs the President, there is an opportunity to leverage real help when we need it most. Look for the Governor and the President to be joined at the hip on most issues over the next two years. After that, Arnold could end up in the Obama Administration as a Cabinet member (unlikely), a special ambassador, or maybe a policy czar. Czar Arnold has a certain ring to it.
It would probably make Maria happy. With Senator Ted Kennedy ailing, Arnold is the most prominent politician in the Kennedy clan. How embarrassing to have a Republican as the family standard-bearer, even if it is just by marriage.