Arnold’s Centrist Turnaround

Arnold’s Centrist Turnaround


Does this sound like the kind of politician you could live with?

From the Wash Post:

Just 10 months after California voters rejected all four of the ballot initiatives he put before them and sent his personal approval ratings crashing to dangerous depths, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is riding high, poised to win a full term come November.

Instead of the partisan assault on public employee unions and Democratic legislators (a.k.a. “girlie men”) that marked his rhetoric in 2005, Schwarzenegger has negotiated agreements this year on a minimum-wage increase, higher school spending, curbing air pollution and a mega-bond sale designed to meet overdue highway, flood-control and school-construction needs.

Democratic leaders of the legislature, who a year ago were ready to cut Schwarzenegger’s throat politically, now sing his praises and join him on the platform at bill-signing ceremonies, while the unions debate whether it is worthwhile to put money into the rival campaign of the struggling Democratic nominee, state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

And if centrism is about ANYTHING, to me it is this:

He immediately and publicly said that he had misjudged the electorate but had heard the voters’ message: Cut the partisan rhetoric and get back to work on the real problems facing the state.


Amazingly to some, he has learned it, and now works comfortably, convivially, on forging compromises with the very same Democratic legislators and lobbyists he once tried to run out of town. In turn, they have responded by cooperating instead of conniving to defeat or embarrass him.

Schwarzenegger’s abandonment of a partisan posture has not cost him significant support in his own party, for a simple reason. As the only major Republican elected in this Democratic capitol, he stands as the barrier to higher taxes and more stringent regulation of business.

There is a vital middle in this country and there always will be. But politicians first have to get over themselves, put away the blustery, fear-filled rhetoric and get down to the business of making America a better place to live.

Schwarzenegger seems like one such example.

Know of any more?

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Schwarzenegger is indeed of centrist inclinations. But he could have won the office as an Independent. Instead, he ran as a Republican and quickly got trapped in the us vs. them party rhetoric. Looks like he’s realized that, in California, he can’t win with that kind of tactic. He’s out-gunned.

    But it remains to be seen whether, come campaign time, he can keep up the centrist talk and actions — and whether his moderate views will unleash an attack from his right (and whether that attack will be as viscious and successful as the one against Lieberman). If he can keep his footing and avoid the forces pulling him away from the middle, maybe he (along with Guiliani and McCain) can be a growing Center of gravity for the Republicans–an alternate to the main focal point of the party.

    But none of this is proof that there is a vital center in any real political terms. Just that there’s hope–at least for the Republicans who, for various reasons, have not been as successful in purging their moderates as have been the Democrats.

    Now, is there hope for the Democrats? Obama maybe? (although the jury is still way out on that one). Seems to me that the Democrats, being OUT of power would be more inclined to appeal to the middle, but they actually seem intent on trying to build the kind of rabid base that they see (wrongly) as the force keeping Republicans in power.

  • John Dermody (alpharigel)

    When you remove gerrymandering from the picture, centerists always do better than those on the extreme. This is a single example of a more broader case of centrist governance at the state level. Before we lament the end of independent thinkers in the main parties, remember all politicians are just trying to get elected again. In congress, that usually means energising your base of support to win the party primary. In state governer races, that means appealing to 51% of the electorate. They are vastly different tasks, and thus we get vastly different politicians.

  • Justin Gardner

    But none of this is proof that there is a vital center in any real political terms.

    Well honestly Alan, what proof do you want? 40% of likely voters don’t want to affiliate themselves with either party? Joe Lieberman is leading Ned Lamont as an Independent? Arnold’s quick turnaround when he embraced the politics of progress, instead of the blustery rhetoric of partisan backbiting? True, there is no true third party that we can collectively rally behind, nor a coherent ideology…but there is certainly room. However, for you to say there is no vital center feels more like an opine than an opinion backed by the trends we see.

    And hey, maybe the way is to change the party from within. That’s probably the most likely scenario. But if Repubs and Dems are going to change their party from within, guess where they’re going to pull the agenda? Back towards the center. And wasn’t that the point of the National Centrist’s meeting anyway?