Before We Forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Vanity Election, Some Unfinished Business
Governor Arnie Schwarzenegger promised the November 8 election would be “judgment day” for his opponents. Voters spoke, sending all of his propositions down to a crushing defeat, and on Friday Arnie accepted “full responsibility.”
While Arnie runs away to “polish his image” with 80 business owners and lobbyists paying for his vacation in China, there’s still some unfinished business before things can return to normal-money. The L.A. Times estimates that the special election, which could have easily waited until June, cost California taxpayers $55 million. In real terms, the fiasco cost much more; the L.A. Times estimates that $225 million was spent to influence the outcome of the election.
In October, the Capitol Journal declared, “a large majority of voters continues to disapprove of Schwarzenegger’s job performance and thinks California is headed in the wrong direction.” His true-believer aides claim that although voters rejected his initiatives – in the latest San Jose Mercury News poll, 75 percent of voters say they would not re-elect Arnie – they support his call for reforms, so don’t expect an apology from Arnie, who provoked his opponents by calling them “girlie men” and threatening nurses by “kicking their butts.” He only concedes that voters want him to “work it out at the Capital” and offers no reconciliation. Expect the partisan rancor created by Arnie in the election to linger for some time.
Dan Walters, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee and an Arnie cheerleader, predicts Arnie will bounce back because it took him 12 years to recover from a terrible first movie and film the moneymaking “Conan the Barbarian.” Walters urges Arnie to drop his tough guy image, move to the middle and rebuild his popularity, but his communications director, Rob Stutzman, told the New York Times that Arnie would continue to “govern from the right,” and raise money “in the business world.”
Here’s a different proposal: Arnie should pay back Californians the $55 million the special election cost. In 2000 and 2001, he made $57 million and his net worth is estimated at between $200 million and $1 billion, including the special “moonlighting for millions” deal with muscle magazines that he set up while Governor. Arnie can easily afford the expense, resign as Governor and get on with preening his ego in the business world.
Californians were reluctant to endorse the special election from the beginning. Even Maria Shriver – a sad disappointment considering her family’s background – told her testosterone-pumped husband not to pursue the special election. But Arnie, emboldened by business interests that chafe under regulatory control, desperately sought to push through “reforms” to undermine Democratic power and give businesses lower wages, poorer working conditions, lower taxes, and less environmental regulation.
Arnie won the recall election by claiming Gray Davis was under the influence of “special interests,” but he raised twice the money in his first two years that Davis raised in four years. Davis’s “special interests” represented working people, while Arnie’s supporters represent corporations and investors, including mortgage lender Ameriquest Capital (Arnie’s largest donor, at $1.58 million, since 2003), Univision, oil investor T. Bone Pickens – all three are also Bush’s moneybags – California Business Properties, Public Storage, Dreyer’s Ice Cream and DHL.
Arnie was sadly out of touch in his vanity election: he carefully controlled attendance at his political rallies and mainly addressed loyal ideologues – big business, GOP stalwarts and reactionary right-wing talk-show groupies. His administration hasn’t been any better as he cozied up to the California Chamber of Commerce, attacked consumer or union concerns as “job killers,” and pushed California government to the right.
Although Arnie drained some potential donations to defeat the increasingly reactionary and out-of-touch GOP in the upcoming national elections, he galvanized unions and progressives to a degree seldom seen in California. According to the Sacramento Bee, “The national story of Tuesday’s election was how California’s public-employee unions demonstrated that labor, if sufficiently unified and motivated, remains a powerful force in American politics.”
The election also called into question California’s out-of-control initiative process, which has fallen prey to wealthy crackpots, entrepreneurs and business interests to push through expensive campaigns that benefit only themselves. Rarely can consumers or workers afford the process originally created to protect the people from their government. The initiative process is no substitute for governing, and some predict that a vote-weary electorate may support initiative reform.
Arnie was slow to publicly endorse Proposition 75, although opponents claimed he supported it from the beginning. Cast as a question of individual choice for public workers who saw their dues being used to finance candidates they opposed, the so-called “paycheck protection” proposition went down in defeat. Supporters denied that 75 was a political ploy to put stumbling blocks in the way of union contributions to elections.
Now it’s time for a “shareholder’s protection” act which will protect shareholders from having their corporate dividends diverted to pay for lobbying and candidates that they oppose. The large segment of business and GOP faithful who supported 75 are invited to work in a bipartisan fashion to require that shareholders individually approve every political expenditure proposed by corporations. It’s a question of fairness and keeping money from corrupting the political process.
Lastly, the election proves Lincoln’s proverb, that “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” California’s boy-toy, action-figure hero Governor is a fop.