Politico giveth, and Politico taketh away — sort of. After surprising everyone with a scoop on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s interest in seeking Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat on Friday, Carla Marinucci reported that Schwarzenegger himself says he won’t be back — at least not in electoral office. To a skeptical eye, this whole thing seems like a public-relations stunt, but YMMV:
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the subject of buzz about a possible return to politics, told his fans on Facebook Sunday that his first mission will be to work on redistricting reform — not the U.S. Senate. …
The prospect of Schwarzenegger’s return to elected politics in a 2018 Senate run appeared fueled by the former GOP governor’s uncanny ability to get under the skin of President Donald Trump on social media.
Well, that may have been why Politico was so interested in the story, too. It didn’t take long for Schwarzenegger to put the kibosh on the story, although he did admit to being “approached” for the run. In a short statement, the former governor told Facebook followers that he’s too focused on redistricting reform to run for the Senate. He’s on a “mission” to make the rest of the country like California:
I’m deeply flattered by all of the people who have approached me about running for Senate, but my mission right now is to bring sanity to Washington through redistricting reform like we passed here in California. Gerrymandering has completely broken our political system and I believe my best platform to help repair it is from the outside, by campaigning for independent redistricting commissions. Thank you for your kind messages and all of the support and I hope you’ll join me in my battle against gerrymandering with the same enthusiasm.
California passed a referendum in 2008 to move the redistricting process from the legislature to an independent commission. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and their usual allies in the political world, including La Raza, Common Cause, the ACLU, and the League of Women Voters. The latter’s top reason for supporting Proposition 11 was to “break the partisan gridlock in Sacramento. Partisan gridlock prevents our state lawmakers from effectively addressing our most pressing issues such as the state budget, health care, education, the impending water crisis, and the environment.”
Perhaps one would have to live in California to get the joke, but at the time this passed, Democrats had controlled the state legislature for decades except for a brief period of a few months in the early 1990s. For most of the last 15 years, Democrats have had supermajorities in their state legislature and Democrats as governors. Schwarzenegger was the last Republican elected to statewide office, and he won his second term by throwing in with Democrats after a rocky start to his first term. The only “lock” in Sacramento was the one keeping Republicans out of any influence in the capital.
The problem in Sacramento isn’t gridlock; it’s Democrats. The passage of Proposition 11 hasn’t changed that situation in Sacramento at all in the eight-plus years since it passed, and the best evidence of that is the lack of action on California’s coming public-pension crisis. Furthermore, the establishment of an independent commission to handle redistricting has effectively removed that process from any accountability to the voters. It’s a handy way to shake off the responsibility while doing nothing at all to improve the political environment.
Now that they’ve lost four elections in a row and have their worst standing in a century, Democrats are eager to blame that on “gerrymandering,” as if that’s a concept invented by Republicans in 2010. It ignores the fact that Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010 and hundreds of state legislative seats before the decennial census and redistricting. Schwarzenegger seems eager to jump on that bandwagon anyway, and that’s why this three-day wonder about a Senate run looks at least a little like a publicity stunt to gain some visibility for his pet project.