The ‘Govinator'

Report from California

Assessing the long-term implications for American politics of California’s recall election is not without risk. Conventional wisdom got trashed about every other day during the campaign. It was unlike any election we’ve seen in more than half a century. The only comparisons that come to mind are the colorful campaigns of Huey and Earl Long for governor of Louisiana-or the campaign of Upton Sinclair to be governor of California, which provoked a similar media frenzy seventy years ago. Of course, no one would confuse Sinclair, a socialist, with capitalist Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nor would they confuse the high journalistic standards of today’s Los Angeles Times with the editorial biases of the paper in the 1930s, when it was a mouthpiece for the conservative views of its owners, the Chandler family. Despite the dangers of political prognostication, let me venture a few early observations on what this election means for the other forty-nine states, where politics is often more prosaic.

First, the Schwarzenegger victory may deepen and widen the chasm between social conservatives and moderates within the Republican Party. Schwarzenegger was elected with the votes of as many independents and Democrats as conservatives. He literally did not need the social conservatives, most of whom had their own candidate in State Senator Tom McClintock, a straight-talking, unvarnished Reagan Republican. Of course, Schwarzenegger is...

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About the Author

Thomas Higgins writes from San Francisco.