The New York Times
Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer Governor of California. Right?
LOS ANGELES – Arnold Schwarzenegger has settled into a large leather rocking recliner on the back patio of his mansion. Her little rescue dog, Cherry, rushed to her feet, wearing a butterfly bow. On his lawn, his miniature donkey, Lulu, was pausing for the hedges. His miniature horse, Whiskey, strolled near a marble bust of Abraham Lincoln. His bar contained a dollhouse-sized replica of the tank he had driven during a stint in the Austrian army. A Hummer biofuel was in the driveway. A 9 foot scale model of the Statue of Liberty stood in the lobby. Things were either very big or very small. It is here that Schwarzenegger has held court in person since he went to Dodger Stadium in January for his vaccination, an event that has been viewed 20 million times on social media. People are clamoring to be penciled for a backyard tour – not just the usual show business people, but also political consultants, talk show hosts and people trying to oust Governor Gavin Newsom . Sign up for The Morning newsletter from The New York Times Up Mandeville Canyon, they come, through the wrought iron gates, to talk Newsom with Schwarzenegger. They usually end up talking about Schwarzenegger with Schwarzenegger. “Why was I elected?” asked Schwarzenegger, 73, who mounted a wave of populist angst in 2003 to become California’s 38th governor, winning the recall election that toppled Gray Davis. “Why was Trump elected? Because people weren’t happy with politicians. They hate politicians. They can’t trust them. This is the most important story. It has been 10 years since Schwarzenegger left Sacramento. An action movie star who was elected – and re-elected – on a promise to save California from Democratic excess, he ended up with a 27% approval rating and a personal scandal that ended at her wedding. But California is the land of second, third and fourth chances. Schwarzenegger did not so much repair his image as he allowed California to recalibrate its vision of its contributions. He is a more popular political figure today than at the time of his election, a feat for a Republican in such a blue state. The reasons are as big and small as the reasons California elected him in the first place. Part of it is linked to the pandemic. Some have to do with former President Donald Trump. His embrace of bipartisanship has a role, as does the state’s fixation on recalls – not to mention Whiskey and Lulu, who stole the show in a series of homemade public service videos he posted during the pandemic. . But much of it is Arnold – the only person in the state’s 170-year history to become governor on recall – simply being Arnold. “As a state, we are drawn to figures like him who speak clearly about what they represent and who they are – and have a sense of humor about it,” said Mark Baldassare. , president of the California Non-Partisan Institute of Public Policy. “But seeing him there this year reminds me that Californians also have the capacity to forgive and forget.” Schwarzenegger persuaded governors past and present to join him in an ad touting face masks and recruited his pets, children, staff and girlfriend, a West Los Angeles physiotherapist, to help. to produce public service announcements on social distancing and hand washing. He raised millions of dollars last year for health protective gear, earning $ 1 million on his own. During the election, he spent $ 2.5 million in eight states to keep polling stations open. In January, when Trump’s false allegations of electoral fraud prompted a crowd to storm Congress, Schwarzenegger issued a speech comparing their actions to the 1938 sacking of Kristallnacht by European Nazis. The seven-minute video has garnered nearly 78 million views on its social media alone. There is his Schwarzenegger Institute for State and World Politics at the University of Southern California. And his new animated series for children. And his next spy show on Netflix. And the environmental summit it is hosting this summer in Austria. None of this, he said, involves running for public office again. “Aged statesman” is how he describes his role today. “When you step down, you realize – well, I realized – that I just couldn’t stop like that,” he said. “Just because I’m done with this job which is just kind of a temporary job, does that mean I’m only interested temporarily?” No! It’s like sport, with tracking. He jumped off the recliner and demonstrated a golf swing and tennis volley. Cherry jumped up on her little legs. In a three-hour interview at his home days before Newsom’s recall effort officially qualified for the ballot, Schwarzenegger was serious and funny, brutally honest and cunning. His black zip-up jacket had a governor’s seal patch. It was morning, but he had already exercised and visited his daughters, who had come to play tennis. A fire crackled in an outdoor fireplace the size of a real Austrian tank. As the California Republican-led recall campaign moved towards a likely ballot in November, about a half-dozen potential Newsom candidates, including Democrats, came to Schwarzenegger in confidence for advice, according to his advisers. He sees them in person or on FaceTime or Zoom; “I want to see people’s faces,” he said, holding up his iPad. He advises on political dynamics, but he did not endorse Newsom or any rivals, or take a stand for or against a recall. “I have asked anyone who is interested to contact me about this, tell me about it and get advice on it,” Schwarzenegger said. “I tell people what the landscape is and what my experience has been. I do not encourage anyone – nor do I discourage anyone. “In hyperpartisan times, such neutrality is an exception. Although he’s somewhat estranged from the Republican Party and called Trump the ‘worst president ever,’ he championed moderation and watching beyond the party. The Democrat he defeated to become governor, Davis, he now regards as a friend. “He speaks for a certain type of Californian Republican,” said DJ Waldie, author and southern cultural historian from California. “They may be a rare and dying breed, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the party leadership, but it does reflect something about the character of ordinary Republicans in California. I sometimes wonder if that Austrian accent gritty could be the voice of republicanism without Trump. A world star with a wife of the Kennedy family, Schwarzenegger came to Sacramento at the expense of Davis, a Liberal Democrat unlucky enough to have been in charge during the crisis dot-com, September 11, and power outages. He hadn’t planned to show up, even though Republican leaders had pleaded with him and Davis lifted him up at a meeting where he had hoped to lobby for his flagship cause, after-school programs. He said his now ex-wife, Maria Shriver – whose memories echoed in public accounts – was loath to lure their family into the political spotlight. He was undecided until Jay Leno introduced him to his couch on the “Tonight Show” and a cheer erupted. “I let my mouth speak for itself,” he said, still laughing at his glee when she said he was running for governor. When he got home, he said, Shriver was in tears. A 55.4% majority of voters chose to recall Davis, and a plurality of 48.6 chose Schwarzenegger as their replacement. As governor, he vowed to review the way the state’s budget decisions were made. His funding proposals failed, but he won state electoral reforms that over time made it more difficult for extremists on both sides to block decision-making. An impartial commission replaced partisan gerrymandering in determining legislative constituency boundaries, making it more difficult for parties to play them. And California’s “first two” primary system put more moderates from both parties on the ballot. But the adoption of these reforms consumed almost all of Schwarzenegger’s political capital by the time he left office. Looking back, he believes that the recall was primarily an expression of much larger societal forces. “In 2003, we were just coming out of a global recession – it was a global phenomenon – and right next to it was the problems of the state,” he said. He felt bipartisan compassion in November when Newsom got caught at a Michelin-starred restaurant after telling pandemic-weary Californians not to come together. “Oy vey!” he laughs. “It’s – you know, you can see how it can happen. But you fall for it, and you say now is not the time to make it the problem. With the recall, it put so much fuel on the fire. The scandal corroded Schwarzenegger’s image when, months after he left, news broke that he had fathered a child with a domestic worker in the mid-1990s. It was the last straw for Shriver, who had defended him in 2003 after several women said he had groped them. “The end of the marriage was my fuck,” Schwarzenegger said. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I couldn’t complain about it; I did it. I was the governor and of course I collapsed a lot of the time. His children are all adults now, and he is a grandfather. This back recliner helped him recover from heart surgery in 2018. A YouGov.com poll this year found he was the most popular Republican in the country, with a 51% approval rating. “My dad always said, ‘Be helpful,’” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s always all I try to do.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company