Monday, March 28, 2005
Kevin Starr is probably the best - and most balanced - commentator on California politics and culture. His LA Times column on Arnold Schwarzenegger is typically brilliant and easily justifies wading through the Times' incredibly intrusive registration process. A quick taste:
Sacramento's wastelands are littered with the bleached bones of legislators and pundits who, unable to move beyond a cliche-ridden dismissal of a bodybuilder-movie-star-turned-governor, have underestimated the raw intelligence and honed intellect of the Austrian immigrant at California's helm.
Starr goes on to develop a persuasive case that Schwarzenegger is motivated by four big ideas, which Starr believes resonate with most California voters:
- A commitment to self-instruction, linked to confidence in an individual's capacity to discern for himself and suspicion of received wisdom and business as usual.
- A preference for direct democracy (even if it takes celebrity status to energize that democracy).
- The idea of reform, as linked to history, destiny and the ideal of "the champion."
- A paradoxical blend of free-market economics with a residual Euro-Catholic respect for government as social democracy and safety net.
It's that last idea that makes the article relevant to readers of this blog. Can it be that Arnold is striving to integrate the teachings of Milton Friedman and John Paul II in a way that no other US politician has done? If so, he could put some real content into the phrase "compassionate conservatism." The interesting question is: What would such a blend look like?