All over the USA Republicans were losing on 7th November... except in California where Arnold Schwarzenegger - and other GOP candidates riding on the Governator's coat-tails - swept to victory. Republican strategists need to ask if the former actor's 17% victory was unique to California and its more left-liberal politics or should the GOP be learning from the "pro-environment, pro-business, fiscally conservative and socially moderate" agenda pursued by Schwarzenegger? The Bush-bashing, tax-rising Democrat candidate won by 43% to 34% amongst California's self-described liberals but Schwarzenegger mastered a 20% lead amongst independent and moderate voters. And these voters are the fastest-growing sector of California's electorate. Joe Kotkin of the New America Foundation noted this in the Wall Street Journal:
"As political analysts such as New America's David Lesher have pointed out, the "not party" now constitutes California's ascendant political grouping. Over the past decade, people registering without a major party affiliation have accounted for a remarkable 91% of all the growth in the electorate. They now constitute one in every five voters. These independents clearly have the wind to their backs, with disproportionate support among both Latino adults and young people. Indeed, nearly 40% of the state's voters under 25 have chosen to either register as "decline to state" or belong to a small party. If these trends continue, by 2025 independents could outnumber both Democrats and Republicans."
The 'Arnold Republican recipe' may be more relevant to the rest of America than some Republicans think. Across America - although there were many more self-described conservatives than liberals - 47% of November 7th's voters described themselves as moderates and they largely voted for the Democrats. Orthodox Republicans still find the Governor's outreach to moderates infuriating, however. Chris Weinkopf has thrown the Governor's own 2004 attack line back at him in the National Review:
"Behold the new Arnold, a man bearing little resemblance to the revolutionary who toppled Gov. Gray Davis just three years ago. He’s politically compliant, eager to please, and anxious to avoid a fight. One might say . . . a girlie man."
Schwarzenegger - interviewed on yesterday's Meet The Press by Tim Russert - embraced this idea of him being a eager-to-please, avoid-a-fight Republican, however. He said that he had simply done the people's work in a bipartisan way. After being spanked last year by the electorate for pursuing a series of conservative ballot measures, the Governor reversed dismal approval ratings by closely studying opinion across the state and doing as the voters wanted. He told Russert:
"I’m eager to please the voters because I’m a public servant. I don’t see myself as a politician. I see myself as a public servant. I serve the people of California. I serve Democrats and Republicans, and if someone says that, that I’m eager to please, yes, I am. I’m there to please the people. That’s what this is all about."