The unions, with their war chest of $140 Million, had a brilliant strategy. Discredit the Governor early so the people lose faith in him, and then make the initiative campaign about him against the public service employees and the “working man” and not about the issues.

William Saracino, writing in the California Political Review has an excellent analysis of the Special Election Campaign, titled, “Be ye men of valour.”

It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage. — Winston Churchill, May 19, 1940

Winston Churchill’s speeches, the best of which were given during the darkest hours for Britain of World War II, retain a remarkable degree of cogency for 21st century conservatives. Churchill’s style and oratory were so powerful we sometimes overlook the actual thoughts he was imparting. But for California conservatives — eying the wreckage of election night 2005, surveying destruction as devastating as Churchill saw inspecting London during the Blitz — the quote above, especially the second half, is particularly apropos.

Actually, there is this major difference between England’s situation at the time and California’s now: then, the Nazis were on the march, having just rolled over France and expected, by almost everyone but Churchill, soon to make similar short work of England. But now Republicans are on offense, hammering away at the left’s anti-democratic gerrymanders and extortionary campaign funds-gathering mechanisms. This GOP assault was repulsed, absolutely, and there’s no point trying to sugarcoat the returns or spin them into anything other then what they are — a complete victory for the Democrats and their public employee union allies. But we have less excuse than the English for losing heart and courage on account of this. Our position is more like that of Gen. George Washington enduring repeated set-backs trying to free America of an entrenched occupying foe. Persistence won out in the end. Just how apropos Churchill’s advice is becomes particularly clear when you step back and look at exactly what the voters rejected yesterday.

They said “no” to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Exactly why they did so, and the details of how a governor riding so high at the beginning of this year could be brought so low a mere 11 months later will be gist for pundits, columnists, and sooth-sayers in the weeks ahead. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if most of them miss the obvious — and most salient — dynamic of this election: this was a referendum much more on Gov. Schwarzenegger than on the substance of the propositions.

When the governor announced his “year of reform” in January you did not need to be an Albert Einstein, Carl Rove, or even a Harold Stassen to be able to lay out the following scenario:

1) legislative Democrats would enact none of the governor’s reforms;

2) he would therefore circulate the reforms as initiatives and call a special election;

3) voters, being “real people” as opposed to political junkies, would not become familiar with the details of any of these initiatives; therefore

4) the election would come down to a “who do you trust” decision by the voters — having to trust either Schwarzenegger or the Democrat messenger(s) who would probably be cops, firefighters, and other sympathetic public employees; so

5) the Democrats, in order to have any chance of defeating the initiatives containing ideas popular with the public, would have to destroy voters’ faith in the governor well in advance of the election; and voilà

6) if they succeeded sufficiently, his initiatives — even if they were Mothers’ Day resolutions — would lose (and, conversely, if they failed to destroy that faith, his initiatives would win even if they called for drowning newborn kittens).

This election was lost in late spring and over the summer when Team Schwarzenegger committed the inexplicable blunder of failing to answer the Democrat/union multi-million dollar character assassination media campaign.

Once the Democrat mendacities and smears took root with the voters the election was essentially over. That the Democrats adopted this routinely (for them) dishonest and dishonorable approach should surprise no one. That the highly- (and I do mean highly) paid professionals around the governor let it happen should surprise Republicans of all stripes.

Now the governor and his team are in a tough spot. It will be interesting to see how they now maneuver. But what conservatives should realize is that the Democrats created and defeated a straw man, and that a competently-run campaign could well have beaten them on all the conservative-backed props. Not that that makes next year’s tasks of re- electing Schwarzenegger and electing Lt. Gov. Tom McClintock any easier. But it should — it must — give conservatives reason to understand why it would, in Churchill’s words, be foolish to lose heart and courage.

With the governor perhaps in a hunker-down mode, now is the time for Tom McClintock (coincidentally a fellow Churchillophile) and his common-sense conservative ideas to come to the forefront. At the end of the speech quoted above, Churchill added: “Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: ‘Arm yourselves and be ye men of valour’” — words, too, for conservatives, now, to adopt and act upon.


2 thoughts on “A Masterful Campaign to Discredit Governor Schwarzenegger

  1. Gary,First, I think the writer’s comparison to Churchill and fighting the Nazis is just way over the top. It doesn’t lend credibility to your argument, which is that the Governor was outmaneuvered.Second, believe it or not, I agree that the Gov’s points were distorted. Brilliantly distorted. I tip my hat to the Dem’s strategists. As a centrist, I had/have high hopes for Arnold’s moderate conservative philosophy. It’s a refreshing point of view for Republicans, and necessary if the party is to broaden its base in general, but especially in California. I’m troubled by the extremism from both left and right, which does nothing to further dialog or bring people together. Quite the contrary, extremism is divisive. This special election is proof.But even worse, why did he insist on special elections? Why couldn’t he have waited until 2006? I think that was just as much a strategic blunder.I’m with you on this one, Gary. Your Governor (I moved away a month before the recall vote) offered some very sound and practical solutions to terrible bureaucratic problems in California. I’m afraid they’re more entrenched than ever.Howard


  2. Howard,I too dislike extremism whether from the right or left.To answer your question about timing. The Governor was elected to bring reform and reason to California. Our credit rating had plummeted, the legislature was out of control on spending and the State was headed for bankruptcy.He tried to get the Democratically controlled legislature to agree to some moderation in the budget. They refused to cooperate with him. He felt that if the legislature was going to stonewall, he had no choice but to take it to the people themselves – and he did.We can all look back and ask if the timing was right, but Arnold made a decision based on his frustration in getting control of the State. Unions were funding Democratic legislators to promote funding and other bills that the unions wanted to see made into law. Arnold was a lone figure in Sacramento and was unable to do anything. His hands were tied. If you know about him, you know that is not a position he likes to be in.The unions were very clever early on this year in deciding to attack Arnold’s character and to frame the campaign as Arnold vs. public service employees like nurses, firemen, teachers, etc. They told lies and distortions in their TV ads, and no one rebutted them. By the time the election came around, Arnold was believed by the public to be untrustworthy and someone who is trying to hurt the “working man.” The campaign by the unions was successful, even if dishonest, and even if it cost them $140 Million.


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