The worst spending is often enacted under liberal Republicans. Why is this? One reason is that liberal Republicans are cut more slack than Democrats on the wobbly assumption that they are more sensible. At moments when Democrats would face stiff resistance, liberal Republicans don’t. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful spearheading of Proposition 71, a measure to clone embryos for science that will cost California taxpayers $3 billion. Schwarzenegger had weakened the immune system of California Republicans to the point where they could accept, without too much squawking, this taxpayer-financed boondoggle for macabre scientists.
What if Gray Davis had pushed Proposition 71? Would California Republicans have supported it? No, if Gray Davis in 2003 had pushed a crass cloning project at the behest of his celebrity friends, Republicans would have used it as one more to reason to recall him from office. Imagine the fierce Republican opposition that would have sprung up to such reckless spending at a moment of severe deficits on what amounts to an outrageous, boutique liberal cause. But Schwarzenegger heartily endorsed the proposition, and Republicans, with a few exceptions, were rendered docile.
Proposition 71 illustrates the intersection of fiscal and social liberalism that characterizes Country Club Republicanism — a philosophy that describes itself as fiscally conservative but ends up no sounder on economic issues than social ones. History has shown repeatedly that liberal Republicans will join with Democrats to raise taxes, increase government spending, and fund social experimentation.
Having reduced conservative Californians to a tame minority, Schwarzenegger can do and say pretty much what he pleases. Now that the Republicans are putty in his hands, he can say openly that they should move to the “left”; his Kennedy wife can gush, as she did last month in an interview with the Vanity Fair, that her husband is remaking the Republican Party in his image and that the GOP’s future belongs to liberal Republicans; and Gerry Parsky, the de facto head of the California Republican Party, can marginalize conservatives to the point that they don’t even receive invitations to the national convention.
Assembling delegates for the national convention, Parsky made a point of leaving some past conservative GOP chairmen off it, prompting one of them, Michael Schroeder, to say, “He’s trying to win California (for Bush) with only half the party.” Parsky shrugged this off, boasting in a clumsy horsetrading style that “we have 37 percent ethnics in the crowd” of delegates and that a liberalized GOP “sends a signal that women and minorities and youth are welcome in our party.”
Not that Parsky has any use for minorities that might upset his vision of a liberal California GOP. “Republican officials need to reach out to more than just their caddies. Gerald Parsky will give an appointment to anyone with a Hispanic surname, but he doesn’t understand them,” says a California GOP consultant who recalled a preposterous presentation from one of Parsky’s pals on Hispanic outreach at a meeting for Republican donors in Palm Springs, the point of which was to argue that Hispanics are more pro-abortion than the general population.
Schwarzenegger, in an interview with a German newspaper, “suggests U.S. Republicans move leftward,” headlined a USA Today story on Monday. The newspaper quoted him as saying the “Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle…I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center. This would immediately give the party 5% more votes without it losing anything elsewhere.”
This would come as a surprise to Democratic consultants. Since their loss they have noted in one postmortem after another that Bush won reelection not by galvanizing moderates and undecideds but by getting out his conservative base in startling numbers. Bush’s expansion of his conservative base, not any kind of poaching of liberals, doomed the Democrats. Had he tried to steal liberal votes from Democrats by moving to the left like his father, Bush would have lost.
Schwarzenegger can try and clone Republicans like himself. But they will not survive without his singular charisma. Only Schwarzenegger could win a recall on calls to stop Gray Davis’s spending whims, and then indulge those same whims himself on a therapeutic cloning project that no liberal Democrat could have fooled taxpayers into financing.
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