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."
Lothian kept pounding: "For now, many conservatives are embracing Bill Simon, who had impressive numbers but lost to Gray Davis last year, and state Senator Tom McClintock. ... The big question: Does Schwarzenegger even need the far right to win?" Lothian turned to USC professor Martin Kaplan, who added: "To the degree that Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to appeal to that far right vote, he will alienate the very moderate Republicans, independents and moderate Democrats that he needs to put together a coalition."
The brain trust at CNN would relegate the philosophy of Ronald Reagan, that same philosophy that triggered two landslide election victories, to the "far right." And they wonder why their network is tanking.
CNN doesn't care that Lothian's utterly conventional labeling is at odds with its own network polls, that shows that it is Schwarzenegger's "if it feels good, do it" liberal positions on abortion and homosexuality that are out of the majority, out of the mainstream, and therefore better defined as "far left" than conservatives are defined as "far right." Why do these liberal media outlets always locate "the center" of our political spectrum somewhere in Massachusetts?
Lothian even hinted at marginalizing that massive and very real majority of Californians, the 59 percent who voted for the "anti-illegal immigrant" Proposition 187 back in 1994. You will never see Democrats described on CNN as "pro-illegal immigrant." Other reporters have used the appellation "anti-immigration" for that vote. Too many reporters leave out the nuance that you can be for Prop. 187 and for legal immigration. You can love your immigrant neighbors, and still think it's a bad idea to provide a five-star menu of taxpayer-funded social services to people who have no respect for our legal system.
If desiring a legal, measured system of immigration that doesn't encourage law-breaking puts you on the "far right," then where on the ideological spectrum do we place the judges and radical advocates who got this majority vote crushed? Once again, the media have described a political battle as between the "far right" and the "public interest," as propagandistic as that sounds.
The politics of Schwarzenegger may remain a mystery, but the politics of the "objective" press never really change. Conservatives have much to lose from creating a Frankenstein monster they can't control, not to mention how the definition of "Republican" or "conservative" might be warped beyond recognition. Californians should just say no to the Schwarzeneggernaut.