No, Don’t Recall Him

Not to throw cold water on things immediately, but I’m a little skeptical of Mark’s call for recalling the Governator.

Schwarzenegger 2.0 has turned out to be a much better Governor than I originally thought he would be. For the most part, this is due to his abandonment of Republican orthodoxy on a lot of things, most prominently climate change and health care. He’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but imagine the policy trajectory if either Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante had been in the governor’s chair: one could easily imagine things being far, far worse. True: Davis signed far-reaching climate and health care bills in 2003, but this was only under threat of a recall and a desire to please the base. He never would have done this in normal political times. As for Bustamante, let’s not go there: the man is an irresponsible and probably corrupt political hack who repeatedly sold out his own constituents for major agribusiness interests.

Mark is unquestionably right to note Schwarzenegger’s irresponsible tax cut pledge in 2003. But it too easy to say that he lacks the “leadership skills and guts” to force through a tax increase. Under California budget rules, one simply can’t force through these things: they require a 2/3 vote of Legislature, and the toddler-based governing philosophy of the state GOP just won’t permit this. Instead, he has done precisely the best option since then: negotiate a pretty decent (although again far from perfect) health care package that relies on some tax increases (excuse me, fee increases) to increase accessibility. And he has been right to insist on an individual mandate.

Schwarzenegger seems to me to represent the reincarnation of old-fashioned Republican moderates that characterized the California GOP before it was twisted by Ronald Reagan. Unlike other so-called Republican moderates, he is actually doing things on the environment and health care. I’m quite skeptical of the Democrats producing someone who would do more. Angelides would have been a far better Governor, but, well, he lost the election. We’d probably wind up with a moral cretin like Dianne Feinstein. I’ll stick with Arnold, thanks.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.