Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger: “California Has the Muscles, Let’s Use Them”

What’s a little groping? Arnold looks better and better, first proposing (sort of) universal health care and then pushing for California’s “petroleum refiners and gasoline sellers to cut by 10 percent the emissions of heat-trapping gases associated with the production and use of their products.

Ok, so there are some flaws. Some Dems charge that he’s going to fund his health care proposal by cutting welfare. And his ethanol plan…depends on well, ethanol, which isn’t that efficient or climate friendly, when you factor in the fertilizer to grow and refining and all, and also is being pushed by mega-corn producers like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, etc., who abuse lobby laws, destroy family farms, encourage monocultures…you know the drill.

These are real concerns, and the devil is in the details. On ethanol it is encouraging that Arnold has signaled a need to find sources of the alternative fuel other than corn—like switchgrass or woodchips—a proposal that is possible here in California because we grow a lot of things, but corn…not so much. Since health-care costs are one of the things pushing families into poverty and keeping them there, it is theoretically possible that time limits on welfare could be structured in such a way to at least see if removing the dread of doctors bills would change the overall equation. (I’m not holding my breath, just saying.)

But, for a moment, let us put the specifics aside. Arnold is sending up two huge flares, SOSes on behalf of the climate and low-income—hell almost all—people who do/might/will need medical attention. He’s a Republican, California is the 5th largest economy in the world—this could signal big changes.

And it makes me wonder about political futures, not so much Arnold’s—he seems resigned to the fact that as an immigrant he can’t run for Prez without a Constitutional Amendment. But for other moderate Republicans. A few months ago, I got into a fun debate with my friend Ken Kurson, who’s a writer for Esquire and elsewhere, and the “collaborator” (I’m quoting Amazon here) of Rudy Giuliani’s bio: Leadership. I was arguing that Rudy or other socially moderate GOPers could never pass through the primary; that they couldn’t square the base. Ken pointed out that Rudy’s polling numbers looked good among the base, even when reminded of Rudy’s social liberalism (or, dare I say, his marital infidelity.) And those numbers, for Rudy and other lib-Reps have gotten even better.

Now it is my contention that McCain is likely to be knocked out for health/age reasons. But if the 2006 election heralded a “Progressive Revolution”—is there any reason to think that that revolution won’t help Republican progressives? There’s a long history of this being the case. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt…OK, so that’s like a million years ago, we might as well be talking about the Whigs, but “This Week in Arnold” makes me wonder if a Progressive Republican (dare I say ) Surge, is not possible again.

(The groping, though, that’s really bad.)

  • Clara Jeffery is Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones and recipient of a PEN America award for editing. You can follow her on Twitter.

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