LOS ANGELES -- California Republican politicians, who had signed a political blank check to back Arnold Schwarzenegger's improbable campaign, spent an uneasy three weeks after his landslide election. They feared the governor-elect would bring to Sacramento a motley collection of his pals from Hollywood and buddies of his Kennedy in-laws. But last week Republicans were breathing sighs of relief over his key appointments. So were many other Californians.
Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger's most important selection was to fill the key post of finance director (the job held by Caspar Weinberger under Gov. Ronald Reagan). He picked Donna Arduin, who has earned a national reputation as a budget-cutter and tax-cutter during five years as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's budget director. The appointments that followed for the most part confirmed that the former Mr. Universe's administration marks a sharp departure from the feckless rule of Democrats. Although picking ex-Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as Secretary of Education did not please diehard conservatives, it pleased the California Teachers Association even less.
What happens next will be the nation's most compelling political story. The state's Republicans, at death's door prior to the recall election, now envision Schwarzenegger as their savior. More important is whether the Austrian immigrant can save the Golden State. Once the land of opportunity for dispirited Americans throughout the continent, it has become burdened with profound pessimism. One prominent Republican activist told me he pities Schwarzenegger for having to face a government-created malaise transcending a mere budget crisis.
The brilliant November weather masked the harsh reality of life here. The latest nonsensical labor strike has shut down the bus system. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a doughty liberal on the Democratic front line for the past two decades, finds himself frustrated by intransigent union leaders. Low-income workers cannot get to their jobs. Additional motor vehicles turn the freeways into parking lots, extending bumper-to-bumper rush hours past 8 p.m.
That is the end product of political domination by the Democratic Party, in alliance with unions and trial lawyers. Public distaste for this state of affairs explains the emphatic rejection of Davis and support for the politically inexperienced but untainted Hollywood actor.