The Arnold Schwarzenegger candidacy may become a classic contest for activists to decide whether they are Republicans or conservatives first. Republicans are urging everyone to jump on the bandwagon, to "wake up and smell the Arnie," to take the pragmatic step that will guarantee the ouster of incompetent Gov. Gray Davis.
But what do conservatives gain for this leap of faith? This movie star's campaign still is not presenting any concrete positions, conservative or liberal. He would like to be seen as a fiscal conservative, but Schwarzenegger has signed no anti-tax pledge nor offered any spending cuts or bureaucratic reforms. Instead, he has touted advisers like Warren Buffett, last hailed by Ted Koppel as "the sage of Omaha" for opposing the Bush tax cuts. Buffett's also been a financial booster of Senators Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On social issues, conservatives gain nothing by elevating a Gov. Schwarzenegger. He told Cosmopolitan magazine, "I have no sexual standards in my head that say this is good or this is bad." It also doesn't help that adviser Buffett has been a massive funder of Planned Parenthood, the Vatican-bashing front group calling itself "Catholics for a Free Choice," and a bevy of other radical abortion proponents.
Some suggest Schwarzenegger's leftist social views are irrelevant because this race is based on economics. But does anyone doubt that the 2004 Republican convention in New York would be dominated by media heavies tripping over themselves to get the governor of the nation's most populous state to denounce the GOP platform on social issues as "out of the mainstream"? He would probably become the keynote speaker, or be at least as prominent on the podium as Christopher Reeve was for the Democrats the last time around, dominating one of the convention nights.
Conservatives should already notice what is happening in California coverage. The press is using Arnold to marginalize the right. On CNN, reporter Dan Lothian observed that "while Schwarzenegger has been connected to some conservative themes, like eliminating the car tax and voting for the anti-illegal immigrant measure Prop. 187, his support of gay rights, abortion rights and some gun control, (is) turning off the far right."