Conservatives are upset with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cal Thomas writes that Arnold "is a social liberal and is bound to disappoint conservative Republicans." George Will states that Schwarzenegger "could hardly be less like Reagan." Mona Charen derides the leading candidate for California governor as a Ross Perot clone.
Thomas, Will and Charen are right. But I'm voting for Arnold anyway.
Schwarzenegger is the best thing to happen to California politics since Ronald Reagan. Which isn't to say that his positions resemble Reagan's -- they don't. Reagan was staunchly anti-abortion, while Schwarzenegger is pro-choice. Reagan was obviously an opponent of same-sex marriage, while Schwarzenegger is ambiguous on the issue. Reagan was a dedicated fiscal conservative, while Schwarzenegger espouses higher government spending.
So why would I vote for someone who is the epitome of the liberal Republican? Specifically because he is a liberal Republican. In California, nothing else will cut it. It's very easy for pundits to espouse the candidacies of hard-core conservatives like Bill Simon and Tom McClintock. But they have no chance of winning. None. In California, politics trump principle every time.
In the last gubernatorial election, I naively believed that the principles of solid conservatism could triumph over the unsuccessful record of liberalism in California. In the Republican primary, when Bill Simon went up against Richard Riordan, the popular former mayor of Los Angeles and liberal Republican, I voted for Simon. The conservative base felt betrayed by Riordan's liberalism, and it too went with Simon.
If ever a real conservative had a chance to win in California, Simon was the guy. Even Democrats were disenchanted with Davis. But Simon ran a brutal campaign, bumbling, fumbling, stumbling his way to defeat. And I realized that I should have voted for Riordan. Even though Riordan was no Ronald Reagan (or even Pete Wilson), he couldn't have been worse than Gray Davis has been. Riordan would have crushed Davis in the general election. Republicans blew it.