Steel is Director California Club for Growth, the immediate
past president of the California Republican Party, activist,
commentator, conservative stalwart and a
co-founder of the Davis Recall. He is an attorney
practicing in Palos Verdes, California.
Arnold Jump The Shark?
A political cliffhanger...
[Shawn Steel] 5/17/05
month of May will likely prove to be the tipping point of Arnold
Schwarzenegger's governorship -
when we will find out if he can fulfill the political destiny he
set for himself during the Davis recall or if it marks the
point when his political career "jumped the shark."
"Jumping the shark" is a term from the TV
world, but it's perfectly applicable to politics as well. Its
genesis is the infamous "Happy Days" episode in which water-skiing,
leather-jacket- clad Fonzie jumped a man-eating shark - signaling
the long-running sitcom had no good ideas left, and it was
all downhill from there.
The governor's actions and comments during
the last few weeks have left a number of observers - me included
- wondering whether or not Schwarzenegger has jumped. It's
not just how he's done little to respond to the relentless
attacks from the public employee unions. It's the ping-ponging
statements on immigration. It's the unnerving process of watching
him jettison plank after plank from his reform platform, most
recently the public employee pension-reform initiative. A tactical
retreat can be a sound political maneuver - but too many of
them and it becomes a rout.
The governor seems to have sensed this and
is finally finding his footing again. For one, he is finally
responding to the vicious pounding he's receiving from union
attack ads for the last several weeks by airing an ad of his
own, featuring the governator exhorting regular folks on the
need to rein in and reform an out-of-control, spendthrift state
government. The ad emphasizes the governor's strengths - his
charismatic personality and devotion to the big picture of
restoring the California dream.
Secondly, he is actually turning in signatures
for reform initiatives. As of this writing, Schwarzenegger
has submitted signatures for the merit pay initiative (of which
I am a co-sponsor) and the redistricting initiative. Submittal
of the paycheck protection initiative is also imminent.
It was absolutely critical that Schwarzenegger
not back away from these measures. If he had decided to call
it a day in the face of union attacks and pushed his reform
initiatives off until the June 2006 primary, his opponents
in the Legislature and the unions would have reacted naturally
- like a pack of wolves catching the scent of a wounded elk.
After sounding like an uncertain trumpet
of late, Schwarzenegger seems to be sending consistent signals
again. He deep-sixed recent talk of watering his redistricting
initiative down, and will go with the original plan of redrawing
the lines as soon as possible.
The paycheck protection initiative is a
fiery cannon shot across public employee union bows. The governor
hasn't formally endorsed it, but he's sure made some warm and
fuzzy sounds about it. What does he have to lose, after all?
Blood has been drawn and battle lines formed. The public employee
unions are in this fight to win; the governor gains nothing
Winning on this initiative would significantly
declaw government unions, which are nothing more than big government
organized as a special interest. The unions only narrowly defeated
a much-broader paycheck protection initiative in 1998 after
outspending it 30 to 1. The support of a charismatic governor
with lots of fund-raising muscle and much greater credibility
and popularity with the public than the unions would put this
public employee unions-only version over the top.
So has the governor jumped the shark? My
answer is a tentative, hopeful "no" - or at least not yet.
The game is still very much afoot and lots of variables can
combine and recombine to scramble or enhance the governor's
Still, Arnold has made a habit of confounding
the conventional wisdom, and my gut tells me he will turn this
cliff-hanger around in his direction. But only so long as he
remembers that old Latin expression, audentes fortuna juvat: "Fortune
favors the bold." CRO
2005 Shawn Steel