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Gamely, Arnold frames Republicanism as an issue of “freedom” both for society and for the individual:
If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government… then you are a Republican! If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not a member of an interest group… then you are a Republican! If you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does… then you are a Republican! If you believe our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children… then you are a Republican! If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy in the world… then you are a Republican! And, ladies and gentlemen… if you believe we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism… then you are a Republican!
There is another way you can tell you’re a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people… and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: “Don’t be economic girlie men!”
In his passion for domestic matters, Arnold might appear to be moving in the other direction. Certainly, his litmus test for masculinity does not include the official Republican talking points. Just this week, he announced support of a state initiative on government sponsored stem cell research, apparently unconcerned about any embarrassment to President Bush. This paragon of stoic self-reliance has also signed a bouquet of bills noxious to hardline conservatives, including a ban on .50 caliber rifles, a strengthened hate crime legislation to include trans-gendered people, a bill sponsored by Planned Parenthood that protects the privacy of reproductive health workers and one requiring insurance companies to give the same benefits to domestic partners as they do to married couples.
Despite all this and more, conservatives need not lose faith; properly nurtured, the Schwarzenegger ascendancy can become the American welfare state’s worst nightmare. Though they may appear at first blush to be a strategic separate peace with his Hollywood friends and Kennedy family, Arnold’s social programs have the inherent potential to eviscerate the liberal orthodoxy’s posture of moral superiority and its claim to exclusivity in managing social problems.
LIKE MANY OF ARNOLD’S cinematic opponents, the American Welfare State is both cocky and long in the tooth. Soaked in a sense of entitlement and a quasi-religious commitment to ignore the consequences of personal moral behavior, the wheezing Government/Union/Teachers complex has reached its institutional reductio ad absurdum. Gone is the communitarianism that was the cornerstone of past generations of American social welfare — the currency empowering today juggernaut is a consensus that this country is structurally unfair on its good days and exploitive on all the rest.
Whether he is discussing national defense or social welfare, Arnold describes a fundamentally different vision of America. Rather than anger or entitlement, he begins with a sense of obligation between man and state. This was Bismarck’s innovation; to acknowledge that, as a predicate for demanding a citizen’s obligation to the state, so the state had an obligation to the citizen. As he wrote in the early 1880s:
Arnold’s policies largely target exactly the kind of people Bismarck highlights: those who, for reasons not their own, need help. It is no accident that his first foray into politics two years ago was an initiative for at-risk children. Essentially, his programs are designed to disintermediate the recipient from the povertician power structure. A classic example would be workman’s comp reforms, delivering aid to the victims while at the same time de-funding the attorney/physician cartel that has made so much money off of the program.
In polar opposition to his predecessor, Arnold does not yoke government aid to government growth. Rather, much like a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, he sees government as a leveraging wedge. Arnold’s ambitious plan for an eco-friendly “Hydrogen Highway” will cost California at least $100 million, but he is convinced that the government must be the catalyst. To both supporters and skeptics, he says: “Your government will lead by example.”
Conservatives might grumble that Schwarzenegger’s third way of republicanism is only “half a loaf.” But, that dissatisfaction would be premature. This “half loaf” of social welfare yoked to personal responsibility is really a loaf of unbaked dough. And just as dough can expand to fill an entire bread pan, so can a populace that recognizes a sense of personal obligation grow into a more centered, conservative society.
As the left increasingly understands the mortal threat to its power base, it will take a man truly of political blood and iron to press the charge. If Arnold can lead the way in renegotiating the great American contract, moving from a sense of entitlement to a sense of obligation, then even dozens of his possibly harebrained new programs will turn out to essentially cost chump change. They will be a small price to pay for a morally, socially, and economically healthier country.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online