Arnold as Centrist

O.K. It’s Holiday time and to be surfing the web for political news in mid-December means you’re pretty much a political junkie. Even the politicos are off the clock at this point in time.
But for those of us who can never get enough (and I’m one of them) I’m finding the talk about centrism and bi-partisanship today a fascinating but misleading set of concepts and worthy of at least a comment.
Of course, like most media-induced hype, it’s about creating the news rather than reporting it and whatever fits into a nice neat and consistent little package that’s easiest to get out in as few words as possible in as short a time-frame becomes the reality. Granted, the post-election polls indicate the public wants everyone to get-along and work together, but that really isn’t news, is it? That’s what most people think politics should be, anyway.
So here we are with our governor now the model “centrist” working in a “bi-partisan” way with the Democratically controlled legislature. Is he a centrist, or just not a maniacal right-wing ideologue like, say, George Bush and his neocons who are systematically and intentionally destroying the legacy of The New Deal and socially responsible governance? The Republican party wasn’t always comprised of extremists like Rove, Rumsfeld and Robertson.
Just look at Nelson Rockefeller or Charles Percy or Margaret Chase Smith.
So why all the “kudos” for a guy who doesn’t ascribe in full to the handbook of the religious right and their political philosophy based on “guns, god and gays”? That has never been part of our political tradition anyway. This extremist and destructive ideology reared its ugly head in the Gingrich years of the mid-90’s and has finally been rejected by the majority of Americans in 2006. Gratefully, extremism has never had a long shelf-life in American politics. We’re by nature pretty even-keeled people who tend to gravitate to issues like quality of life, freedom, economic opportunity and personal security as really being what government should be addressing.

So why all the big fuss about Schwarzenegger’s call for accommodation and working together?
Or for that matter, Borack Obama’s call for the same—there is really nothing extraordinary about seeking consensus in politics. In fact, politics is acknowledged as the art of compromise. So where we really are, in fact, is back to the starting line–the middle of the political spectrum–where our state and country have functioned comfortably and successfully for decades. Trying to define how we resolve these issues as either from the “left” or “right” is where we do a disservice to the issues themselves.Of course, to get back to the middle, the pendulum is supposed to swing in the opposite direction, but that discussion is for another day.
To applaud this governor for his “centrism” ignores the fact that he really isn’t one. He’s a free-marketeer who was forced to sign a minimum wage increase because it would have gone on the ballot and won with an automatic cost-of-living adjustment included-something free-marketeers hate. He made an enormously successful P.R. campaign out of signing the global warming bill, but then proceeded to undermine it with his Memoranda with New York and now Manitoba that makes the program pretty much a free-market based plan, contrary to the terms of the legislation he fought (but ultimately signed into law).
The gist of it is this: Now that we’re getting back to square one on the political spectrum, let’s look beyond the jargon and get to the substance of what is being touted. With real health care reform the next important topic of discussion, let’s not give any slack to the governor–or any politician or policy-maker just because they talk about working together in a bipartisan fashion. The proof is in the product: Is Schwarzenegger really committed to fighting global warming in a way that truly works? Is he going to propose a health care plan that will bring sanity to our decaying healthcare system and quality coverage to those who need it or is he going to seek a plan that provides more than adequate pay-back to his insurance and drug company funders but less than appropriate healthcare to the people of California? We need to look beyond these artificially concocted labels and get right to the heart of the matter.
I guess we’ll have to wait til after the holidays.
In the meantime, whatever celebrations or events you honor and enjoy at this time of year, may they inspire us all to create a more peaceful and healthy planet in the year ahead.