Schwarzenegger loses big in special election debacle

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So that’s the end of that little experiment. Phew.

With the results of Tuesday’s special election a resounding “no vote” against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whatever dreams he once had of reforming state government are “terminated” (excuse the pun). As pundit after pundit has already said, the rejection of all eight propositions could mark the end of Schwarzenegger’s political career, as his only selling point – his will being that of the people – is essentially debunked. Woo hoo.

The best part about Tuesday’s election results is that it only gets worse for the governor. That “only selling point” is/was also his only power. During the course of this election, the governor and his “year of reform” team managed to burn so many bridges that getting any of the administration’s policies or pet-legislation passed before 2006 will be next to impossible – in other words, a very good thing for Californians.

Though it was announced yesterday by the governor that the Big Five – Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader, the governor, and the two minority leaders – would work together after this election, despite whatever happened during the course of the election, anybody can see the level of bad blood now wedged between the leaderships.

In a bitterly fought, heavily paid for campaign such as this, how can both sides come out clean on the other side?

It’s going to be difficult for the governor to ever again possess leverage on the Legislature after an election like this. He can no longer say, “I have the will of the people on my side.” Proposition 76, which have curbed state spending, changed the way legislators decide on spending, and give the governor special oversight to make cuts midyear amid a fiscal crisis, was rejected soundly, without voter flinch. For education, and for social programs in general, it’s a huge victory. As the U.S. Congress continues discussions over what to cut because of a domestic budget deficit we literally tax-cut our way into, the example set by Proposition 76 is a good one. Perhaps “living within the Legislature’s means” is not how the common person interprets cuts to valuable social programs and education funding. We know that now.

Obviously, there were election results that should have gotten more attention by both voters and the media. Voters narrowly rejected Proposition 73, the so-called abortion parental notification initiative, in one of the closest races of the election. The debacle between Proposition 78 and 79 and the “what is this again” nature of Proposition 80 are perhaps evidence that voters aren’t ready for the intricacies of mass populism. These initiatives were not “governor-supported,” meaning some found them unimportant.

Regardless, the core of the election was the governor and the role of unions and education and teachers in California. Energy regulation, health care and prescription drugs and abortion all come back to propositions 74 – 77.

The union dues paid by public employees will continue going to political causes just as they did during this campaign, which is a good thing. Still, the campaign contribution process needs to be looked into. Lawmakers, not voters, should make sure this process is fairly exercised. The last thing California needs is for its public employees to be exploited by its leadership. On that same note, corporate and private enterprise contributions must be stunted or curtailed to the same legitimate degree.

But all these conversations are going to be had without the involvement of the governor for the next year. A non-factor, budget talks, special interests, “working for the children’s future” – it’ll all be moot now. A figurehead in name only, an action star in history always, the governor’s term is over. His running for reelection would be a shame for Reaganites everywhere, and for all Californians, however they may vote.

Ryan Denham can be reached at editor@csun.edu.