Has Arnold managed his own defeat?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The fact is that, when Schwarzenegger came into office, there was a sense of urgency to solve the state’s money problems. But this year, and now? It’s rather late for a special election for which there was little run-up on the governor’s part. Just the opposite. Last year, he gave the impression, outside Sacramento, that the budget crisis was resolved. Thus, it’s no surprise the governor has remained behind for his initial priorities. Public polls repeatedly confirmed what experienced political strategists knew intuitively long ago: The governor’s ad campaign would have, and indeed has had, little effect on voters. Not simply because his ads were lacking, but mainly because the governor long ago sabotaged his own agenda. During his political honeymoon, he could have successfully pushed a spending limit, putting that tough issue behind him while he was popular, or setting the stage for a special election. Instead, he squandered his political capital to borrow $15 billion in bonds, without the required fiscal reform. In his dealing with recalcitrant legislators, he had adopted a carrot-and-stick approach. But, as his popularity declined, the stick seemed less imposing, especially since he had already, and quite inexplicably, given away the carrots to Democratic legislators his first year. Compounding the damage, he negotiated a Hollywood-style deal (i.e., a deal is not a deal) with the teachers and, consequently, lost his credibility. This year, he withdrew a flawed attempt at needed pension reform, because it inexplicably disallowed benefits for cop-and-firefighter widows and orphans. For two years, this capable macho guy has needlessly staged theatrical carnivals featuring contrived audiences. As expected, television news ridiculed each group of “participants chosen in advance.” This is a smart communicator who mistakenly listened to sycophants. Instead of connecting Reagan-style with people, Schwarzenegger became a caricature who did not wear well. Although the governor is smarter than his advisers, give them credit for achieving the impossible – morphing the muscle guy into the 90-pound weakling who was nonetheless depicted by opponents as the threatening bully. Somehow they polarized the electorate without changing policy. But the governor’s threat of a special election had taken on a life of its own, and, for him, there seemed to be no turning back. He seemed to think that, if he just spent enough money, bought enough ads, he could undo the damage. Perhaps he bought into his own vendor-driven campaign. It’s the Stockholm syndrome for politicians. Your political advisers keep telling you what you want to hear, so you listen to them more. Pretty soon, you are permanently seduced into believing it’s not who you are or what you say. It’s not even how you say it. It’s how often you say it. Yet, the tragedy now is that serious and necessary public policy reforms that the governor courageously backed may fall victim to political incompetence, or could become discredited. Consequently, these ideas, which could have prevailed last year, and might have possibly won next year, are put in danger. Arnold Steinberg is a Republican political strategist and analyst.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Prepare for the inevitable alibi game, in which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his campaign team will blame not themselves, but others, should today’s election result in the debacle that all the polls predict. Is it the fault of President Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove or Scooter Libby? Has Schwarzenegger been too Republican? Did he polarize? Or is the problem that he was outspent by unions who destroyed him earlier this year? The spending argument is particularly silly. The governor’s media buys have been the advertising equivalents of B-52 saturation bombing. Sure, the opposition had more flights. But there were no living viewers here who had not seen every spot, repeatedly. Over the last few months, the governor’s operatives spoke often about a hidden vote, in order to keep big dollars rolling into their campaign. They alluded to a mysterious voter turnout scenario in an effort to impeach public polls that consistently showed his ballot measures in trouble. Should they lose today, they will bemoan a supposed freakish outcome, because the number of people who turned out was (take your pick) unpredictably high or unpredictably low. Voter turnout is the refuge of campaign scoundrels as an explanation for their own screw-ups, because how do you disprove their negative? last_img read more

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