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Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women. Maybe.


“Moderation” has always been political-speak for “having it both ways.” The average moderate is either not a moderate at all — can we really peg Lincoln Chaffee and Arlen Specter as anything but men of the left? — or a man completely devoid of any first principles. There are many things to respect in a man of conviction: but the conviction that conviction is a wrong only merits dismay. Or he is a man skilled in doublethink — a Rudolph Giuliani, for example, who believes strongly in the protection and security of all Americans excepting those unborn. Political moderation is therefore usually something dishonest, self-contradictory, or vacuous.

Of which we may suspect Arnold Schwarzenegger? He is indeed a star of the national Republican Party. But to those Republicans who come to the party out of conviction — and we are, to a man, conservatives of some stripe — his prominence is profoundly dismaying, and the campaign-season commercials run by his enemies that link him to George W. Bush are grimly ironic. They are ironic because his enemies wish to tar the Governor with a conservatism they see as unpopular with Californians; and they are ironic because the President is himself only tenuously conservative.

Schwarzenegger came to power as a cipher, and attempts to maintain it as such. Inasmuch as he has a governing philosophy, it is that of the celebrity pragmatist — the problem-solver who can get things done. But there is no vision behind it beyond the vision of efficiency. Into the vacuum of his ideological universe rush his enemies. They are men of conviction, of varying sorts. Some are outright socialists, some are old-line ethnic politicos, and some are merely venal. These things are principles, too, and in the hard slog of politics, they motivate vastly more than star power pull ever could.

Worse for the Governor, they are the tribunes of the very classes whom he seeks to placate with his “moderation”: his leftism on the environment and life is meant to reassure them on his stabs at fiscal rectitude. Instead, they sense weakness. And like predators, they close in for the kill.

We will know in 24 hours the direct results of the 2005 California special election. But the indirect results are already clear: the Governor is crippled. One may blame it on a “conservative” leading in a left-wing state — and indeed the Governor’s people do. This is inaccurate: California is blue, but not irretrievably so. George W. Bush is a hated man here, and he got nearly 45% of the vote in 2004. The President fared much worse in Massachusetts and New York, both “blue” states with their own Republican governors who nonetheless manage to govern, and govern well enough to considering their own Presidential runs in 2008.

Ultimately, Arnold Schwarzenegger finds himself in trouble because the shine is off, and underneath the gloss is little but a man, his sincerity, and his belief in himself. Were that sufficient, I could be a governor: but the apparatus of political action matters, and eschewing it is a fool’s errand. Thus we see Schwarzenegger’s lack of party support, lack of ideological integrity, and pandering to a left that despises him bear its bitter fruit. It is the tragedy of the moderate — the pity is that it must be California’s tragedy as well.

On a related note, since you were wondering, here’s how to vote on Tuesday:

  • 73 — Yes
  • 74 — Yes
  • 75 — Yes
  • 76 — Yes
  • 77 — Yes
  • 78 — Yes
  • 79 — No
  • 80 — No

    Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 11:19 PM | Permalink

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