Advice from the Governator

It has been less than a decade since Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the special election to recall and replace Gov. Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger finished nearly 1.5 million votes ahead of the second-place gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Cruz Bustamante. Schwarzenegger won the votes of 43 percent of women, 31 percent of Latinos, 42 percent of union members and 18 percent of Democrats, according to the CBS/Edison/Mitofksy poll. At the same time, Schwarzenegger won the great majority of Republican voters, who turned out in large numbers.

Three years later, he coasted to re-election in a bad year for Republicans, winning 56 percent of the vote, again pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes more than his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides.

Those elections are not far in the past, but they certainly seem a lifetime away.

In 2010, Democrat Jerry Brown and the entire Democratic statewide ticket swept the Republicans, and the prospects for any kind of Republican victory at the state level seem remote.

These numbers from the not-so-distant past give some weight to the governor’s op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on May 6, written only a little more than a year after he left office. Schwarzenegger challenged his fellow Republicans to “take down that small tent” and to stop using ideological tests to purify the party’s leadership ranks: “[I]n the current climate, the extreme right wing of the party is targeting anyone who doesn’t meet its strict criteria.” 

The former governor continued: “Some Republicans today aren’t even willing to have conversations about protecting the environment, investing in the infrastructure America needs or improving healthcare.”

Schwarzenegger then called on Republicans to become problem solvers rather than ideologues, citing Ronald Reagan’s willingness to double the gas tax to pay for highway improvements.

While he noted the recent decision of a few Republican candidates to become independents — a decision he said he would never make himself — the wider context for his piece was the expected defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana primary on May 8. Lugar’s sin? Being too willing to reach agreements with President Obama. (When it became apparent that Lugar had lost on Tuesday, Lugar accused his opponent, Richard Mourdock, of having an