Arnold’s back, and just like the cyborg in The Terminator, he’s likely to upset some people before he leaves the scene. In several long and drawn out battles with the California legislature over various aspects of his agenda, he and his opposition fought to a draw, setting up what will probably be the most consequential election in America this November. Just as in his first year in office when the legislature refused to pass his plan to restructure the state’s debt, he’s taken his case to the people.
After being elected in a popular revolt against an incumbent governor, Schwarzenegger has worn the mantle of the populist outsider with the positive reformist agenda, and it has driven the Democrat controlled legislature nuts. The most recent battle began when the legislature failed to pass several major pieces of his agenda this year. Arnold then threatened to again take his case to the voters via referendum and, after the legislature refused to budge, he made good on his threat.
At first glance you would think these guys would have learned by now that they’re not dealing with an ordinary politician. They’re up against a man who replaced the ordinary politician, and has the ability to rally citizens with a populist “outsider” message. He has an reservoir of good will among the people that he’s able to call upon when he let’s them know that the politicians in Sacramento are holding up the works. As a result, he can virtually guarantee that he can circumvent the legislature and get any issue he wants on the ballot and let the voters decide.
In the end, the Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t compromise, as the issues at stake go to the heart of their very existence. The various measures would 1) cap state spending – hardly a favorite of Democrats; 2) strip the legislature of its ability to redraw political boundaries – which would currently take that power from majority Democrats; 3) increase the time required for teacher eligibility for tenure – teachers’ unions being a core Democrat constituency and 4) require public employee unions to get members’ permission before dues can be used for political purposes – a major source of financing for Democrats.