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Arnold Schwarzenegger for...prime minister?

By Michael Taube
web posted December 15, 2003

When Arnold Schwarzenegger captured 48.6 percent of the popular vote and became California's next governor, the political world suddenly become his own private oyster. His victory was caused in large part to voter resentment against then-Governor Gray Davis, and the movie star's popular appeal as a political candidate. Even so, Schwarzenegger had truly lived the American dream - immigrate, assimilate, work hard, and achieve success.

But for many conservatives living outside California, there is still much skepticism when it comes to Schwarzenegger's political beliefs. As a Canadian conservative who would have supported State Senator Tom McClintock for governor had I lived in California, I sympathize with them. In fact, it might amuse them to know that Schwarzenegger, as a political candidate, would have been a better fit in my country. Let's examine Schwarzenegger's record to date.

Yes, the governor-elect is a fiscal conservative when it comes to tax cuts, balancing the budget, and promoting a pro-business agenda. But Schwarzenegger appears to have problems with some pertinent issues of personal liberty - he favours partial gun control, only supports limited school vouchers, and strangely doesn't have a formal position on racial preferences. And while he was endorsed by the California Republican Party (which isn't known as a bastion of conservative thought), Schwarzenegger had previously attacked some of his fellow conservatives-in-arms as "right-wing crazies" on the campaign trail.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerIt's also important to note that Schwarzenegger is not in tune with the GOP's social conservative values. While that's not unique, since there are more than a handful of liberal Republicans wandering around, his social liberal views still stick out like a sore thumb. In the two most glaring examples, the governor-elect has admitted to being pro-choice on abortion, and supportive of domestic partnerships for gay couples.

That being said, a Fox News exit poll showed that California voters who considered themselves "very conservative" favoured Schwarzenegger over McClintock by a 65-23 percent margin. As well, Schwarzenegger beat McClintock by an 62-18 percent margin among those who believe abortion should be illegal in most cases.

It appears that a large majority of anti-Davis conservatives in California opted to rally behind Schwarzenegger, a liberal Republican. Why? Syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro, a conservative Republican, hit the nail on the head when he explained his decision to vote for Schwarzenegger, "why would I vote for someone who is the epitome of the liberal Republican? Specifically because he is a liberal Republican. In California, nothing else will cut it. It's very easy for pundits to espouse the candidacies of hard-core conservatives like Bill Simon and Tom McClintock. But they have no chance of winning. None. In California, politics trump principle every time."

Shapiro's point is well taken. In U.S. states such as California and New York, liberal Republicans and RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) have done well. Schwarzenegger, Richard Riordan, George Pataki, Rudolph Giuliani and Jacob Javits were dream candidates in those states.

Yet, if history had taken a different turn, and Schwarzenegger had ended up north of the U.S. border, he would have been a dream candidate in Canadian politics. In fact, Schwarzenegger could have potentially become this country's prime minister. No, I'm not kidding about this.

Schwarzenegger's fiscal conservative policies would have fit in well with the agenda of the newly-defunct Progressive Conservatives. His wavering on gun control and mixed opinion of school vouchers is similar to the views some PC politicians held, and many Canadian voters still hold. As well, increased spending on social services - an old PC and current Schwarzenegger favourite - would have won Schwarzenegger big points with the party and electorate.

As for social conservatism, it barely exists in Canada, so Schwarzenegger would have a field day. The federal Liberal government just legalized gay marriage, and is seriously considering marijuana decriminalization. (To be fair, Schwarzenegger doesn't favour either position, but my guess is that neither would greatly disturb him). As well, there are many pro-choice politicians in Canada, so the movie star's position would have been a perfect fit.

And Schwarzenegger's comment about "right-wing crazies" wouldn't have affected his polling numbers. Consider how many PC MPs and supporters have called Reform Party and Canadian Alliance MPs and supporters "rednecks," "extremists," and "bigots" in the past. Schwarzenegger's line would be considered tame in some Canadian conservative circles.

Governor Arnold is a heavy pill for many American conservatives to swallow. Yet, Canadian conservatives probably would have cheered at the prospect of Prime Minister Arnold. Well, some of us, anyway.

Michael Taube is an editorial writer for the Windsor Star. He has also been a columnist for the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, Moncton Times & Transcript and Books in Canada. His work has been published throughout North America, including the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, Washington Times, National Post, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun and Fraser Forum.

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