Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Arnold shriveling: Big body, small man.

It looks like Gov. Arnold will fire his best shot in the fall special election season this week -- he is expected to announce he will run for re-election in 2006. Maybe the announcement will goose his initiatives into positive numbers, but that seems very unlikely. The Terminator is in big trouble.

Recent public opinion polls have shown that most voters oppose the Nov. 8 special election, which is expected to cost nearly $50 million. The surveys also show that none of the Schwarzenegger-backed initiatives enjoys majority support.

Arnold tried to pull off a coup with initiative measures to enhance the governor's power over legislators, mostly Democrats. Instead he has revealed himself as all huff and puff but no substance, except that he takes care of his business buddies.

For months the public employees whom Arnold is trying to blame for the state's budget problems -- nurses, teachers, firefighters -- have been dogging his fundraisers. Voters recalled Arnold's predecessor Gray Davis in 2003 in large part because he was seen as a calculating politician beholden his donors. Now the same mud has stuck to Arnold. According to the LA Times:

Elizabeth Garrett, director of the USC/Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, said …"I think he has become a different Arnold for voters, somebody who is more of a politician, who isn't that different from the other people in Sacramento -- a person who doesn't care for ordinary California, who appears more influenced by special interests."

Democrats, once cowed by Arnold's popularity, now openly mock the governor:

[His orchestrated] appearances "are basically a security blanket for him so he doesn't have to face the boos of average Californians. Schwarzenegger is on the run," said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic Party strategist.

Though the partisan battle is going well for Democrats, there is more to this election than just Arnold's effort to impose a structure that favors him and cuts out the Democratic legislature. Also on the ballot:
  • a measure to make it difficult for public employee unions to represent their members in politics by requiring repeated permission to spend their dues on advocacy;
  • an anti-abortion initiative would impede teenagers' freedom of choice;
  • two competing prescription drug provision schemes -- unhappily, voter disgust with the special election and the presence of one put up by big pharmaceutical companies will probably sink a more progressive alternative.

Unless something drastic changes, all of these may very well go down, drowned in voter disgust. As the LA Times editorialized today:

Millions of California voters, meanwhile, may wonder just where they fit in -- and whether it's really in their interest to vote at all.

Progressives can't slack off making sure those "NO" votes come out.

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