Jonah Goldberg

It's not nice to kick a guy when he's down, but I'm thinking he can handle it. Arnold Schwarzenegger is falling apart like a Terminator made from Tinkertoys. About a year ago, flibbertigibbets and voluptuaries in Washington and California were convinced that Arnold could somehow intimidate the entire political process into revoking that pesky amendment that bars the foreign born from running for president (though I suppose it doesn't bar them from running, just serving). Now Schwarzenegger is doing worse in the polls than that vaguely remembered political skid mark of the Schwarzenegger juggernaut, Gray Davis, was when he was ousted from office in a recall.

I was opposed to the recall, and I received a lot of flack for it. But more about that in a moment. First, it's only fair to give credit where it's due. Schwarzenegger's a much better governor than I thought he'd be. His agenda has been ambitious, his priorities impressive and, for the most part, high-minded.

For a time he gave the Republican Party a new lease on life in the richest and most populous state in the Union. His plan to yank control of congressional and state districting away from the state legislature and give it to a non-partisan panel of judges was an inspired attempt at real political reform - as opposed to Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting, which was driven pretty much entirely by a desire to expand the GOP's partisan advantage.

I also absolutely loved Arnold's Republican Convention speech. By offering a robust, principled and - let's just say it - manly defense of moderate Republicanism, Schwarzenegger did an enormous service for the Republican Party by reminding millions of squishy and hardcore rightwingers alike why the GOP is their common home. It turns out that on a host of issues, RINOs aren't really "Republicans In Name Only."

So, good for Schwarzenegger. But I can't stop myself from saying, "I told you so."

I was against the recall on the grounds that the people of California elected Gray Davis and therefore they deserved to be punished. Seriously. Democracy isn't merely about "the people" getting what they want, it's also about the people getting what they deserve. Mobs get what they want every time. Citizens make informed choices and then live with - and learn from - the consequences. Those lessons inform how we view not merely candidates but parties and philosophies. "We gave those guys their shot and they blew it, I won't be voting for that crowd again," is an indispensable reaction in democratic politics.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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