California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thrilled delegates at the Republican National Convention last month with a thundering endorsement of the party's conservative principles. Back home, though, he has governed more like a Democrat on such issues as gay rights, guns and the environment.
SAN FRANCISCO California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thrilled delegates at the Republican National Convention last month with a thundering endorsement of the party's conservative principles. Back home, though, he has governed more like a Democrat on such issues as gay rights, guns and the environment.
In his first round of bill signings since the end of the legislative session in August, he approved a law requiring health insurance companies to extend to gay partners the same benefits they offer to unmarried heterosexual couples. He allowed the sale of clean needles to slow the spread of AIDS, and he approved an expansion of the state's hate-crimes law to protect transvestites.
Schwarzenegger has also fashioned himself an environmentalist, endorsing tougher auto emissions rules and signing measures to protect the Sierra Nevada and reduce cruise ship pollution.
He approved legislation banning the sale of high-powered .50 caliber BMG rifles over the objection of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. And he has paroled a record 48 murderers serving life sentences.
While Schwarzenegger has billed himself a social moderate from the start of his improbable political career, conservative activists are steamed that he has adopted positions at odds with the GOP orthodoxy.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must not be too troubled by what he's called `girlie men' because he's just signed a bill into law that maintains `sex' in California to include drag queens, cross-dressers and transsexuals," said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, a conservative activist and president of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition. "Schwarzenegger has sided with the homosexual and drag queen lobby in muddying the biological realities of male and female."
The governor's supporters say conservatives should not be surprised by any of this that his moderate views on social issues were well known during last year's historic recall election and that voters chose him mostly because of his promise to restore fiscal discipline in Sacramento.
"The governor enjoys very high popularity and can take some risks," said Mark Baldassare, polling director for the Public Policy Institute of California, whose latest poll shows 61 percent of Californians approve of the job Schwarzenegger is doing.
"But he is also a Republican governor who recognizes that most California voters are Democrats and independents," Baldassare added, "and to continue to receive high approval from public, he needs to reach out beyond the conservative roots of his party."
To be sure, no one is going to accuse Schwarzenegger of being a latter-day Jerry Brown.
He has also shot down bills raising the minimum wage and granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and has come out against a ballot measure requiring employers to provide health coverage for uninsured workers.
Those vetoes and others led Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the state Assembly's Democrats, to deride the former bodybuilder as "Pete Wilson with biceps" a reference to California's last Republican governor.
But that does not placate conservative activists, many of whom gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Friday to protest what they billed as Schwarzenegger's repudiation of the conservatives who helped drive out liberal Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and sweep Schwarzenegger into office.
"It is sad and disappointing to pro-family voters and conservatives to see how the governor has infringed on free speech, promoted drug use, expanded the transsexual agenda, undermined marriage and is paroling a record high number of murderers into our neighborhoods," said Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for California Families.
In an interview, Chuck Michel of the California Rifle and Pistol Association called Schwarzenegger's ban on BMG rifles disturbing.
"Schwarzenegger coming into office gave a lot of hope to people, because we were dealing with Gov. Davis, who was becoming more and more extreme, signing everything in sight," Michel said. "Some of that hope was dashed."
For his part, Sheldon reminisced fondly about Schwarzenegger's speech at the Republican National Convention, where he praised Richard Nixon, slammed the United Nations and implied that only Republicans care about "terminating" terrorism.
"His speech at the GOP convention, as good as it was for the party, just doesn't carry the teeth," Sheldon said. "Everyone loves his image in the movies, but the movies are over and we're dealing with the reality show now."
Source: Associated Press