Wednesday, November 9


Republican governor Arnold Scwarzenegger has a bone to pick this morning with the Democratic Party's central casting department in California, as his script for sweeping reforms in the form of four key propositions (among others) taken to the voters of the state was heartily red-penciled by powerful, big-spending, public employee unions -- terminators in their own rights.

The Associated Press (AP) reports:

It was a sobering evening for a man once considered among the most popular politicians in America. The contest represented the biggest test yet of a faltering Schwarzenegger's leadership. Voters overwhelmingly defeated Proposition 76, the governor's centerpiece proposal to slow the growth of state spending. Proposition 77, which would have redrawn legislative and congressional districts, was knocked down by a similar margin. Failing by slimmer spreads were Proposition 74, a plan to make teachers work longer to achieve tenure, and Proposition 73, which would have restricted political spending by public employee unions.

The Los Angeles Times revels this morning in this major setback for Schwarzenegger:

In a sharp repudiation of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Californians rejected all four of his ballot proposals Tuesday in an election that shattered his image as an agent of the popular will.

Voters turned down his plans to curb state spending, redraw California's political map, restrain union politics and lengthen the time it takes teachers to get tenure.

The Republican governor had cast the four initiatives as central to his larger vision for restoring fiscal discipline to California and reforming its notoriously dysfunctional politics.

Overall, the special election called by Schwarzenegger to win public validation of his agenda sparked a campaign that became the costliest in California's history. All told, the yes and no campaigns on the eight initiatives spent more than $250 million.

In a separate post-election analysis, the LAT continues:

A Republican strategist and occasional Schwarzenegger advisor put it more bluntly Tuesday, saying privately: "The act is getting stale."

Though Schwarzenegger's style never varied, his agenda took a dramatic turn.

Having run as a problem-solving centrist in the recall, he reached out to Democrats and independents during his first year in office. The result was a rare consensus on several major issues, including an overhaul of the state workers' compensation system. Democratic lawmakers joined him in pushing through a bond measure to help narrow a massive budget gap.

Then things changed.

With his popularity peaking, there was talk of amending the U.S. Constitution so that a foreign-born citizen could run for president — a tantalizing prospect for the ambitious Schwarzenegger. Many considered it implausible — why would U.S. senators change the Constitution to benefit a political rival? — but some around the governor were intrigued enough to entertain the prospect. They counseled a rightward shift to put the governor more in the mainstream of the national GOP.

Soon enough Schwarzenegger was openly disdaining the Democratic lawmakers he once called partners. He endorsed only Republicans in the November 2004 legislative races.

He flew to the key state of Ohio to make a last-minute push for President Bush's reelection and later crowed over Bush's win there. The partisan shift culminated in early January in his pugnacious State of the State speech, which opened a bitter off-year election season.

Schwarzenegger said he was determined to "reform" California for the good of all the people. But the changes he urged came at the expense of his Democratic opponents and their backers.

His plan for improving the education system, for example, came down to a single proposal, the defeated Proposition 74, a measure to extend the probationary period for teachers. Opposition was led by the California Teachers Assn., arguably the most important ally Democrats have in Sacramento. Voters also rejected Proposition 76, which would have given the governor more sway over the state budget, and Proposition 77, a measure to revise the way California's voting districts are drawn.

Proposition 75, which would have hindered public employee unions' ability to raise political cash, was another swipe at his opponents. The governor demanded no such campaign limitations on corporations — a huge reservoir of Republican financial support.

"They overreached," Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, an Oakland Democrat, said Tuesday night of Schwarzenegger and his advisors.

Polls showed the governor's once-solid bipartisan support steadily eroding throughout the year as his opponents spent tens of millions of dollars in TV ads to tarnish his image.

Important will be whether or not this sweeping defeat is seen as a personal setback for an over-reaching Arnold Schwarzenegger or a precursor of Republican fortunes across the country. Interesting in the context of the LAT's analysis was Schwarzenegger's poor treatment of President Bush, who was recently in the Golden State to join Nancy Reagan in the dedication of a new wing to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and to attend a party fundraiser. The Governor made it clear that he thought the president could do him little good vis-a-vis the upcoming ballot initiatives and that his presence in the state was ill-timed.

FOLLOW-UP: Jayson at Polipundit provides some interesting insights on the California election -- do read this.

FOLLOW-UP II: ProLifeBlogs reports on the defeat of Proposition 73 -- the parental notification requirements for minors receiving abortions. They don't call it the "Left Coast" for nothing. Very regrettable.

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