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Revenge of the Nerds


by Ray Haynes - State Capitol (bio) (email)

10-15-2007 7:14 am

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Governor cares little about his relationship with Republicans, and the groups that count on Republicans to protect them from an intrusive government.  Whether it is the business community, taxpayers, gunowners, or families, every recent Republican governor has at least understood that only way that Republicans could prevail is by keeping these groups somewhat happy.  Even Pete Wilson, whose pro-choice position caused some consternation in conservative circles, took on education, tax, gun, and family battles so that those of us who were conservatives could honestly look at our constituents and say that they could support Wilson, and have a governor to be proud of.  Schwarzenegger has abandoned that position.

He wasn't always like that.  When I met Schwarzenegger at the Mission Inn in Riverside in 2003 during the recall, he look at me and told me that conservatives would be proud of him as Governor.  He would sign no new gun laws, he would never raise taxes, and though he could affect abortion as a Governor, he would appoint judges that would be strict constructionists.  So much for campaign promises.

So, why is this happening?  I think I have the answer.  Schwarzenegger, given his Hollywood and body building past, has always wanted to be the most popular guy around, the big man on campus (BMOC) if you will.  It was the key to his success in the movies.  When, in the Simpsons' movie, President Schwarzenegger announces that "I was elected to lead, not to read," that is not too far from the truth in real life. Being the popular guy, leading others and maintaining his popularity, not understanding and pursuing issues, has been the goal of his time as Governor.

The problem is that, in Sacramento (and in Washington), Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans are the equivalent of the nerds on campus.  They are reviled in the press, attacked by the ruling Democrats, excluded from all of the best parties, and, in general, shunned wherever they go.  So, when Republicans predicted that the budget would collapse this year, the Governor huffed and puffed, and told them how little they knew, told them they were wrong, and appeared at the Republicans convention and told them that they were just wrong.  Just like the jocks in the movie, Revenge of the Nerds, Schwarzenegger attempted to tell conservatives what they had to do to be popular.

The problem is that there are two rules in governing.  Yes--you have to get a majority to govern, but sometimes that majority comes from being right and not being popular.  The Nerds win in the movie because they did the right thing, not because they did the popular thing.  Republicans had to draw a contrast between them and Schwarzenegger in the budget battle, because they couldn't be complicit in the coming budget collapse.

And so it will be this fall--Revenge of the Nerds.  As the budget collapse becomes increasingly clear, the Governor is going to have to rely on the Republicans to get the cuts that he wants to avoid the embarassment of a Davis like deficit.  He will find that Susan Kennedy gave him the save advice that she gave Gray Davis, and she led him down a primrose path to potential obscurity.  The good news is that the Nerds will save him.  The bad news is, just like the movie, by the time Revenge of the Nerds II comes along, the popular guys will have forgotten that the Nerds had the right solutions right from the beginning, and the dance will begin all over again.

That is why electing a Governor with some level of principle is important.  He can take the Nerds ideas, explain them to the public, and help form a new majority, a permanent majority, a majority based on Republican principles, not on faux Democrat ideas.  That Governor may come sometimes, but this Governor has abandoned that enterprise.  I can only hope that he doesn't hurt us too much.

Care to comment on th is column?  Here is it's mirror-entry on the FR Blog, where you can do just that.

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