Time to ter­mi­nate the Ter­mi­na­tor

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Cal­i­for­nia is on the verge of eco­nomic col­lapse. The Golden State was once the envy of Amer­ica. Its pros­per­ity and coast­line beauty was a mag­net for mil­lions. Now, its gov­ern­ment is bro­ken; its ma­jor cities are in­fested with drugs, crime and mas­sive il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion; its econ­omy is scle­rotic; and busi­nesses and mid­dle-class house­holds flee in record num­bers.

The cri­sis is an in­dict­ment of Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger. The “Gover­na­tor,” as he is known, promised to re­vive eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation, slash taxes and reg­u­la­tions, and curb gov­ern­ment spending and the power of the pub­lic-em­ployee unions. The very op­po­site has hap­pened. Cal­i­for­nia’s bud­get has ex­panded 40 per­cent since his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Gov. Gray Davis, held of­fice. In­come, car and sales taxes have risen.

Un­em­ploy­ment has sky-rock­eted to 9.3 per­cent — the fourth­high­est in the na­tion. Spending on pub­lic schools has soared, eat­ing up half of the state’s bud­get (and do­ing very lit­tle to im­prove the dis­mal qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion). The state faces record deficits. It no longer has the money to pay for tax re­fund checks. The crip­pling debt threat­ens to bank­rupt the state.

Not too long ago, Mr. Sch­warzeneg­ger was be­ing hailed as the fu­ture of the Repub­li­can Party. Af­ter his speech at the 2004 Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion, he was anointed by the main­stream me­dia as the stan­dard-bearer of the GOP’s lib­eral wing. He held the key to a new winning po­lit­i­cal for­mula: fis­cal con­ser­vatism com­bined with so­cial lib­er­al­ism.

For years, Belt­way pun­dits have urged Repub­li­cans to jet­ti­son Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives in fa­vor of court­ing in­de­pen­dents and sub­ur­ban pro­fes­sion­als. The Gover­na­tor was their man: He is a pro-abor­tion, proen­vi­ron­ment, open-bor­ders Repub­li­can. Yet, his failed lead­er­ship re­veals the po­lit­i­cal and moral bank­ruptcy of Rock­e­feller Re­pub­li­can­ism.

Mr. Sch­warzeneg­ger joins a long list of lib­eral Repub­li­cans feted by the me­dia — Chris­tine Todd Whit­man, William Weld, Ge­orge Pataki, Jim Jeffords. To­day, it is Maine Sens. Su­san Collins and Olympia Snowe. They all have one thing in com­mon: the in­abil­ity to forge an en­dur­ing move­ment. This is be­cause lib­eral Re­pub­li­can­ism is an oxy­moron; it is philo­soph­i­cally in­co­her­ent. Lib­er­al­ism is a form of wa­tered-down so­cial­ism, con­stantly ex­pand­ing the state at the ex­pense of the pri­vate sec­tor. In the­ory, the GOP is the party of equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity, self-im­prove­ment and un­fet­tered cap­i­tal­ism.

Fus­ing lib­er­al­ism and Re­pub­li­can­ism is like mix­ing oil and wa­ter. You can try it, and it may even work for awhile, but even­tu­ally the wet con­ser­va­tive-lib­er­tar­ian base will re­ject the greasy big-gov­ern­ment film.

More­over, as Mr. Sch­warzeneg­ger’s ten­ure demon­strates, lib­eral Repub­li­cans are not fis­cally con­ser­va­tive. Their idea of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity is to in­crease taxes, not roll back gov­ern­ment spending. Mrs. Collins and Mrs. Snowe — for all their talk about be­ing “bud­get hawks” and hat­ing deficits — voted for the most ex­pen­sive boon­dog­gle in U.S. his­tory: the nearly $1 tril­lion stim­u­lus pack­age. This is on top of the bank bailouts, the hous­ing bailouts and ear­lier stim­u­lus bills. They are drown­ing the next gen­er­a­tion in red ink. They are frauds mas­querad­ing as green-eye­shade Repub­li­cans.

At its core, lib­eral Re­pub­li­can­ism is not so much an ide­ol­ogy as a cyn­i­cal pose, an at­tempt to po­si­tion one­self as a cen­trist by split­ting the dif­fer­ence be­tween right and left. It has no tran­scen­dent prin­ci­ples. It is guided only by self-in­ter­est and power. This is why it has no long-term shelf life. It can­not achieve the one thing needed for a suc­cess­ful move­ment: in­spire sup­port­ers in mass num­bers. It is a recipe for po­lit­i­cal stag­na­tion and per­ma­nent mi­nor­ity sta­tus.

Rock­e­feller Re­pub­li­can­ism is a form of sur­ren­der to the forces of cul­tural lib­er­al­ism sweep­ing Amer­ica. The me­dia es­tab­lish­ment may praise Mr. Sch­warzeneg­ger for his sup­port of abor­tion rights, as well as other trendy is­sues like gay rights, stem-cell re­search and global warm­ing. But if he can’t — or won’t — op­pose lib­eral spe­cial­in­ter­est groups on the cul­tural front, he will do the same thing on the eco­nomic front.

The pub­lic-em­ployee unions, the trial lawyers, the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists — all th­ese ma­jor Demo­cratic con­stituen­cies have de­railed the Gover­na­tor’s eco­nomic agenda. The re­sult: Cal­i­for­nia has be­come a bas­ket case.

Mr. Sch­warzeneg­ger may still be per­son­ally pop­u­lar. His old bud­dies in Hol­ly­wood may still back him. And the chat­ter­ing classes may still seek to prop him up. But his brand of Re­pub­li­can­ism is a road to nowhere; it is an al­ba­tross for the GOP — both in Cal­i­for­nia and na­tion­ally. Repub­li­cans must wake up to this fact and do what they should have done a long time ago: ter­mi­nate the Ter­mi­na­tor.

Jef­frey T. Kuh­ner is a colum­nist at The Wash­ing­ton Times and pres­i­dent of the Ed­mund Burke In­sti­tute, a Wash­ing­ton think tank.

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