California’s Action Hero Governor
Never in California’s – perhaps United States’ – history has a governor generated as much public and media excitement as has Arnold Schwarzenegger. This pumped-up popular figure is proving to be as formidable a chief executive of the most populace state in America, as he was a body builder, actor or businessman.
Since taking office in late 2003, he has surprised critics and supporters alike with his ability to wield his infectious personality to gain compromise and advance issues important to him. During the recall election of former Governor Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger telegraphed that he would be his own man, and he’s acted as such, frustrating opponents and members of his own Republican party with his independence.
What he does that no other politician can do is use his enormous popularity to bludgeon opponents into compromise. When the governor began his effort to pass two referenda that approved bonds to refinance over $ 22 billion in state debt, approval of the propositions was in question, but through the weight of his personality and with alliances with the Democratic State Controller, he got the referenda approved. After that success, he declared, “I love it when the people go to the polls and flex their muscle.” And as is evident when you meet this larger-than-life figure, there are few politicians who can flex their muscles as Schwarzenegger can. His willingness, in fact eagerness, to sidestep traditional politics and go directly to voters has intimidated old-school backroom politicians.
Governor Schwarzenegger uses his persuasive personality to cajole recalcitrant opponents just by hinting that if they don’t compromise he will go directly to the people with ballot measures. The approach has worked, as no politician before. When asked how he was enjoying his new role as Governor, Schwarzenegger said that he’s never had as much fun in his life, and that’s saying a lot, considering his many accomplishments. He is not an administrator; he is an action figure. “I never want to be the governor that hangs (an American expression that means waiting for things to happen),” he is reported to have said before returning from a trip to Germany. “I like to do things. I have the energy and I have the enthusiasm.” …
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