| For six long years, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been talking a big game. From the day he announced his candidacy on Jay Leno, saying there was a total disconnect between the people and the politicians of California, the multi-millionaire "man of the people" has consistently claimed he would transform the state from top to bottom, and bring the politicians to their knees. He said then that Gray Davis had failed the people of California, and that he needed to be recalled.
The unfortunate part is that everything Arnold said that day in 2003 works equally well today. Schwarzenegger's approval numbers today are similar to Gray Davis's numbers circa April 2003. The state is in a far worse economic crisis than it ever experienced during the five years of the Davis Administration, and what's more, this one has nothing to do with Enron. Five years after vowing to "blow up the boxes," the boxes sit in Sacramento in pristine condition. After his boasting of being the "Collectinator" in DC, California still pays out in federal taxes far more than it takes in. The only difference between 2003 and 2009 is that Darrell Issa isn't rushing to throw in cash for any recall of the Governator. But California's Schwarzenegger Experiment has failed from every possible perspective.
If Arnold Schwarzenegger has any integrity, he will resign in the wake of what was largely a vote of no-confidence in the May 19 Special Election. In overwhelming numbers, the state's voters told Governor Schwarzenegger -- for the second time in four years -- that we do not want his style of government or what he calls "reform." The measure which he championed most vocally, Proposition 1A, went down by a margin of at least 25 points. The measures that would have actually brought in some money to the General Fund also were easily defeated.
Fundamentally, the people of California do not want to see state services slashed. A large majority in a recent poll opposed the ballot measures because of the spending cuts, rather than the tax increases. Polls, such as this Field Poll (PDF), show that Californians are willing to pay higher taxes, but that they will not abide these massive cuts to programs that are simply too important for the long-term future of the state. And yet, Arnold's May 20 solution would include an astounding array of cuts, raids of local government coffers, and attempts to sweet-talk the federal government into allowing him to slash services below the required level to qualify for federal stimulus money. Schwarzenegger actively seeks to cancel out the stimulus and mire the state in an even deeper recession that it already faces.
This is not the first time he has failed to convince voters to support his agenda. Voters rejected the 2005 special election propositions by large margins. Arnold Schwarzenegger is poised to leave office with no major positive accomplishments. The media erroneously credits him for the 2006 global warming law - he decided to switch positions and sign AB 32 only at the last minute, and quickly issued executive orders limiting the law's scope. His re-election was facilitated by a fratricidal Democratic primary, a poor campaign from Phil Angelides, and Schwarzenegger's false promise to lean more toward the political center. In the last two and a half years that promise has been broken numerous times, as Arnold continued to run the state into the ground. And on the day of his most recent failure in the special election, he ducked out of town to DC to tout a tailpipe emissions law that Democrat Fran Pavley wrote and passed while he was out promoting Collateral Damage.
There are many reasons for California's persistent crises and failures. But the buck stops with the Governor. He has shown no leadership ability, even amongst his own party. Knowing that we had massive deficits, it still took him 16 months to get even the few Republican votes that he was able to muster in February. Only 30% of Republicans approve of him. Republican talk show hosts, and many hardcore grassroots movement conservatives, now revel in images of his severed head on a blade. Despite his mildly (32%) higher approval rating amongst Democrats, few in the party have any respect, or patience, left for the governor. If what Arnold meant by post-partisan was that voters of all parties would despise him, then he perhaps he has found one area of success.
The state would be far better off without Mr. Schwarzenegger at the helm. We shouldn't have to wait for 2010 to get this state moving, nor should we have to pay for a costly recall. If Arnold Schwarzenegger really loved the State of California, he would pack his bags at the suite in the Hyatt and go back to pretending to be a hero.