first_imgThe special election that is fast approaching could determine the political and economic future of California for decades to come. Billions of dollars of overspending might be saved if only some modicum of control could be fastened to the runaway California legislative bodies driven by special interests. In short, the stakes are as high as they get, and one might expect that one of the biggest players at the table, the governor of California, would be in the thick of it. Well, guess again. Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen governor of California because the electorate of the Golden State was apparently taken beyond the saturation point of reckless government spending. Under former Gov. Gray Davis, spending increased 40 percent over a four-year period and turned a budget surplus into a recall-instigating budget deficit. Arnold entered office with fanfare, glamour and half of the Kennedy family by his side, which has to go down as one of the biggest political non sequiturs in the annals of American culture. But his honeymoon period could be measured on the Paris Hilton or Ashlee Simpson scale of longevity of that same American culture. To understand how far Arnold Schwarzenegger has fallen just before a critically important state election, consider that the powers that be have deemed it necessary for him not even to take a supporting role in promoting his own propositions, but, instead, to be relegated to the cutting-room floor. Can you imagine in another time and another setting Ed Meese or Michael Deaver telling Ronald Reagan that he shouldn’t be seen in political campaign ads because he would be a detriment to the cause? Not likely. That’s because, even though Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan were both actors and governors with names that include some of the same letters, there’s just no comparison between the two. Reagan may have been from Hollywood, but he wasn’t !ital!of!off! Hollywood. He was always that same irrepressible and optimistic kid from the Midwest. Reagan’s Hollywood of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was no less wild than Hollywood is today. Then, as now, there were temptations galore – chemical abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and general debauchery. There just weren’t 250 television shows that trafficked in celebrity dirt to make everyone’s nasty little secrets part of the public sphere. Despite the glamour and the temptations of Hollywood in its golden era, Reagan never bought into them. He could have; he worked alongside Errol Flynn, after all. But Reagan maintained his Middle America values and even nurtured them as he matured politically. His first wife left him, not the other way around. His second marriage lasted six decades, and he had a deep, if unchurched, faith in God – apparent as more of the writings in his own hand come to light. Schwarzenegger is almost a mirror image. He is European and has a much different relationship with America and its people. He seized the opportunity he found in the United States and made a career out of nothing but a little charm and one hell of a body. I’m not belittling his success story. It is admirable, but it is a different kind of success. So much of it is on the outside, and people, especially voters in the upcoming special election, are beginning to see it. Reagan pulled up to the electorate in his father’s LaSalle with a pink carnation in a box. Schwarzenegger squealed into the driveway in a red Lamborghini and honked for the girl to come out. Reagan didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve, but he believed passionately in a God-centered universe. Arnold, a professed Roman Catholic, is indifferent to gay marriage and supportive of “abortion rights.” And when it came his turn to partake in the wild nocturnal rituals of fortune and fame in Hollywood, by all accounts, Arnold drank deeply and often. Now, in the political fight of his life, Schwarzenegger is on the ropes. Unions and other special interests have fought back with a vengeance, using millions of dollars of their members’ money, and they have brought Arnold to his knees. Even in the midst of the Iran-Contra scandal, arguably the lowest ebb of the Reagan presidency, Reagan was still the best weapon in the Republican quiver. Hell, he’s still the most formidable name in the Republican Party, and, from the looks of things, will continue to be well beyond the second Hillary Clinton administration. We may not be talking about the Evil Empire here or the deployment of Pershing II nuclear missiles, but we are talking about the future of this state and political arguments that Reagan would have recognized. Who doubts Reagan would have argued convincingly that Proposition 75 gives back to workers what was rightfully theirs in the first place, or that Proposition 76 is a valuable constraint on government overspending? Arnold has made these same claims, but they have fallen on deaf ears. The propositions are in trouble because Schwarzenegger has failed to make his case. And the consequence is that we not only find ourselves pining over the Ronald Reagan-size hole in our political universe, but the loss of a once fiscally stable California. Robert Brennan, a columnist and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, lives in Van Nuys. 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