Californias popular governor is under attack and it
could sink his quest for another term.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected by the middle class
who were feeling squeezed, ignored, and/or abused by the state
government under Gray Davis.
They saw ARNOLD as the bigger-than-life Terminator who would
terminate those ugly and insensitive government aggressors
who ignore the little guy and engage in double talk as they
run roughshod through Sacramento. He promised he would look
out for the little guy and ignore the special interests.
As we have learned for the umpteenth time in our lives, the
devil is in the details, not only in what Arnold considers
special interests, but in how he can raise millions
of dollars at out-of-state dinners when he told voters he
was independent and didnt need campaign
The media has become enthralled with the actor-turned-politician,
probably because his charm is so disarming. And he wont
hesitate to blow off a reporter if the questioning gets uncomfortable
or threatens the success of the carefully-staged event.
Well, it is becoming more and more apparent that Arnold,
in the view of many, has become one of those ugly and insensitive
government aggressors who ignores the little guy, etcetera,
etcetera, etcetera (as Yule Brynner said in The King
The Governator appears to have lost sight of his campaign
promises to the common man and while the media covers the
growing number of protesters who are showing up at virtually
all of Schwarzeneggers events, it has failed to analyze
and report in-depth the beginning of the end of the tough
guy actor/Governor named Arnold.
Here is the key to the unraveling of what many insiders have
called an instant political legend. The growing
legions of Arnold-haters arent just ideologues protesting
for or against the war, guns, or abortion. Instead, they are
MIDDLE CLASS teachers, nurses, and government workers who
say Arnold is a liar, a hypocrite, and/or an ogre. The dictionary
defines ogre as A person who is felt to be particularly
cruel, brutish, or hideous and Arnold had better take
a look in the mirror. These days, his actions more than fit
the meaning of the word.
It began with Schwarzenegger trying to charm the pants off
the leadership of the California State Legislature. Some of
that schmoozing was relatively easy, especially with buffoons
like Senator Leader Jim Burton, whom people tolerated. Schwarzenegger
and Burton found they were made for each other with egos that
had virtually no peer, and a desperate need to succeed in
a queasy and untested political quagmire.
The charade worked for a while until the governor tried to
strong-arm Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. THAT was a mistake.
It appears Arnold mistook Nunez smaller physical stature
as a sign of weakness and he has learned the hard way that
Nunez is a tough guy, a brawler when he has to be. And unlike
some actors, Nunez doesnt use stunt doubles to stand
in for him during tough fights.
Schwarzenegger promised to reform the state and streamline
government and voters liked that until Arnold tried
to shutter the state watchdog agencies who oversee auto repair,
consumer affairs, water quality, handicapped services, and
other key areas where consumers DO NOT trust the private business
sector and prefer the comfort of a government agency with
But Schwarzenegger has crossed perhaps the most difficult
Rubicon in taking on the already embattled middle class workers
and issues. Most people think Californias education
system is in shambles and many of those same folks think teacher
unions are part of the problem. Californians have always been
willing to make education a funding priority and will often
pay a little extra to help fix the system.
However, having seen Schwarzenegger take on the Indian gaming
tribes and deride them as special interests while
catering to the White Anglo business community and the lavish
fundraising successes it has heaped on the Governator has
angered many of the common people who elected him.
You cant watch television in California right now without
seeing dueling ads from the governor and his opponents. Schwarzenegger
claims he wants about half of the states budget, or
about $50 billion, to go directly into the classroom and to
teachers. His commercials portray people acting as teachers
(they may, in fact, be teachers but you never know these days
whos who in commercials) claim that Arnold has actually
INCREASED the states education budget by $3-billion
this year and wants to pay high quality teachers more
base tenure on performance and not seniority.
This is in stark contrast to what his detractors say in their
commercials. They claim Schwarzenegger is shortchanging education
by $25,000 per classroom and the teachers appear to be relentless
in their zeal to nail Arnold in ways that will ensure that
at least as governor, he can never again say, Ill
His proposed cuts of both government agencies and jobs is
another flank where Schwarzenegger is taking flack and after
a while, no matter how committed he is to the task, people
just arent buying the pitch. Cutting services to the
sick, aged, and disabled just doesnt fly in most peoples
The final battleground that is gaining momentum involves
the sharing of power in Sacramento, but on a more personal
level. Historically, when the governor is out of the state,
the Lieutenant Governor takes charge. That has usually worked
well, except in the early 1970s when Jerry Brown was
the Democratic governor and Mike Curb was the Republican Lieutenant
Governor. On one out-of-state trip, Brown found his political
adversary was making key state appointments. A quick return
trip stopped that move in its tracks.
All was relatively peaceful until Gray Davis angered the
ever-growing and voter-increasing Latino community by refusing
to give up control of the state reigns when he left the state.
That attitude left Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante in
a tizzy with no official gubernatorial power. Latinos viewed
that as an insult to Bustamante and to all Latinos. Davis
snub had come on the heels of taking Bustamantes key
Capitol parking spot away from him in revenge for some petty
squabble between the two. Latino voters never forgot and paid
Davis back big-time in the recall election.
There is one inescapable fact in the current battle over
whos in charge when the governor is out of state. Since
he was elected in November of 2003, Schwarzenegger has been
gone from the state more than 100 days, primarily for fundraising
events or some of his other interests, including body-building
contests where he is idolized.
Now a Northern California state senator wants to change the
law to essentially negate the need for a Lieutenant Governor.
That wont fly in a Democrat-controlled state and
Latinos wont buy off either.
Either way, Schwarzenegger is moving further away from his
promised populist roots and angering the people who put him
in office. This sure sounds a lot like some of the things
Gray Davis did to anger voters, notwithstanding other issues
like the power crisis and the massive state deficit.
With all the commercials highlighting Schwarzeneggers
battles with middle class workers, the public has a right
to know where the truth really lies. That means the media
has to start doing some analysis and maybe even some investigative
reporting to keep the public properly informed. Its
our job and the public expects us to do it right.