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Supporting Arnold, the Republican nominee

By Bruce Walker
Web posted October 6, 2003

Tomorrow Californians will decide whether to keep the current ghastly governor or replace him with someone else. Republican conservatives will largely determine whether or not that new governor is Arnold Schwarzenegger or Cruz Bustamante.

Many conservative Republicans remember the problems that liberal Republicans have cost our party. Republicans like Lowell Weicker, John Lindsey and Jim Jeffords have positioned themselves to snipe at the Republican Party and cause it grief.

Might Arnold be like that? Two recent gubernatorial elections should give comfort to Republicans worried that Arnold may be a Trojan House. In 2001, when conservative Republican Bret Schundler won the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey governor, he had a legitimate claim upon the loyalty of New Jersey Republicans. Schundler had supported Christine Todd Whitman, despite ideological differences.

Republican Party liberals, however, turned their backs on Schundler because he was "too conservative." November 2001 became a Republican rout, with the party not only losing the governorship but also the state legislature.

This betrayal of Schundler had a ripple effect. When Robert Torrecelli, a Democrat senator covered in ethical muck, was re-nominated by the Democrats, abandoned was forced out by New Jersey Democrat bosses, despite being the legitimate nominee of the party, the weakened Republican Party in New Jersey was helpless.

One year later, California Republican voters chose another conservative Republican to defeat the corrupt Gray Davis, whose sleaziness was comparable to Robert Torrecelli in New Jersey. California Democrats, like New Jersey Democrats the year before, did not care that their candidate had huge ethical problems, as long as he could win.

The reaction of liberal Republicans in New Jersey and in California were completely different. Sal Russo advised me soon after my article of March 11, 2002 entitled "The Importance of Bill Simon and George Bush" appeared in Enter Stage Right, that Richard Riordan had already been over to the Simon campaign to offer help. Rudy Giuliani, one of the most liberal Republicans in America, came to California and campaigned tirelessly to elect Bill Simon.

Bill Simon did not lose to Gray Davis because liberal Republicans abandoned him, who supported him as an honest and decent man, despite policy and ideological differences with him. Now Arnold Schwarzenegger, who does not pretend to the conservative that Simon was, is trying to remove, for the good of California and America, Gray Davis.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger waves to supporters from his campaign bus during the first stop on the 'California Comeback Express' bus tour in San Diego, California on October 2
Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger waves to supporters from his campaign bus during the first stop on the 'California Comeback Express' bus tour in San Diego, California on October 2

Schwarzenegger, like Simon, is an honest and decent man. Should conservative Republicans support him, just as Rudy Giuliani supported Bill Simon? Liberal Republicans in California, in stark contrast to liberal Republicans in New Jersey, have been loyal to their party. If Arnold can claim to be the legitimate nominee of the Republican Party, then conservatives should support him. No liberal Republican ran a third party candidacy in 2002 to siphon votes away from Simon, which is effectively what Tom McClintock is doing today.

Is Arnold the "legitimate nominee"? If there had been a Republican primary, then the issue would be moot - Republicans would have chosen by a majority vote the nominee, either in the primary or in the runoff primary. The mechanics of the recall election, however, do not allow for a runoff of the top two candidates, but there are four good reasons to say that Arnold is as close to being the "legitimate nominee" of the Republican Party as this recall process allows.

The California Republican Party Executive Committee - hardly a hotbed of liberalism - has taken the unprecedented step of endorsing Schwarzenegger in the recall election. This decision appears to have represented the overwhelming consensus of California Republican leaders.

The last time rank and file California Republicans actually voted for a candidate for governor, they chose Bill Simon, an excellent man and a fine conservative. Bill Simon has endorsed Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Darrell Issa is more responsible than anyone else for Gray Davis facing recall. Representative Issa put his own money into the recall campaign. If any Republican could claim to have a right to be the legitimate Republican candidate, it is Darrell Issa. Who does Issa support? Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Public opinion polls do not just show that Arnold is carrying a strong plurality in the second stage of the recall election, but the same polls show that Arnold is receiving a strong majority of the Republican vote. If it was possible to hold a Republican primary today, Schwarzenegger would win that primary handily.

The endorsement of Simon and of Issa, the majority support that Arnold receives both from the Republican Party leadership and the rank and file Republicans, make him the legitimate candidate in this race of the Republican Party.

Because Arnold is the Republican candidate, Tom McClintock should respect the position taking by the greatest conservative Republican - the greatest California Republican - in our nation's history. In 1966, when Ronald Reagan was running for governor, he pronounced an Eleventh Commandant: "Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republican."

Tom McClintock, a good, decent, bright, and principled man should respect the counsel of the greatest Republican Governor that California has ever produced, probably the greatest conservative America has ever produced. Tom should have given this up for the Gipper.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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