Must Stay by
Andrew I. Bales
1 October 2003
is better than nothing” should disgust conservatives who still believe in
the principles of what is fast becoming a staggeringly misguided party.
Our task is to rebuild a house divided against itself into a citadel of liberty
for the coming generation of Californians. The blueprints are there, drafted
by the finest political architects in history. The material is there in abundance:
the vast natural majority of our fellow citizens. Let's get serious, and let's get started. –Tom McClintock
Churchill once said, “Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most
pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” Judging by
recent events surrounding the October 7th recall election in California,
two things seem certain. The first would be that Tom McClintock must be awfully
bruised from so many stumbling men and the second would be that quite a few
Republicans are hurrying off as if nothing happened.
Republicans are worried. They see two men, one a proven Republican
leader with twenty years of service to the people of California, the other
an unproven political newcomer running for the top political office in California,
an experiment with a cool nickname. Indeed the alternative falls somewhere
between a spike in aspirin consumption and a liberally fueled Armageddon,
coming down to a choice between the current governor and his shady partner
in economic disorder, Cruz Bustamante.
The stage has been set. In order for a Republican to win, one of the
two men running as Republicans will have to fall on his sword. Failure
of one of the two to do so will result in a split in the vote, ushering in
Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante or securing the continuation of gray skies in
the Golden State. When Schwarzenegger Republicans say, “one of the
two,” what they really mean is, “Tom, either drop the run or start shopping
for a political coffin.” In most political circles such venomous intra-party
antagonism would be considered at the very least, bad form. In this
case, however, Republicans are desperate. If electing a fiscally conservative
Republican requires too much work in a State that is screaming for financial
salvation then one is left wondering what California Republicans consider
a valuable use of their time. The Schwarzenegger option, labeled “pragmatic”
or even more humorously as, “something is better than nothing” should disgust
conservatives who still believe in the principles of what is fast becoming
a staggeringly misguided party.
The reason a great number of Republicans are urging Tom McClintock to exit
a race he has worked his entire life to enter, is because polling data suggests
that he has no mathematical chance of winning. The line goes something
like, “Schwarzenegger is holding at 25%, while McClintock cannot get above
about 18%, so if McClintock drops out, Schwarzenegger wins.” First
of all, to suggest the above theory ignores the fact that McClintock voters
are supporting him for reasons apart from polling numbers. Viewing
McClintock supporters as fickle little annoyances who will abandon their
core beliefs and values and suddenly become captivated by Schwarzenegger
is not only arrogant but may backfire come October 7th. Secondly, and
more importantly, it is disingenuous for Republicans who support Schwarzenegger
because of “the math” to stand around acting as though they are unsure why
McClintock’s numbers are not better. The reason he is not on par is
well known, and for those who still don’t see the reason, a look in a mirror
might be a good place to find the answer. Republicans who argue that
Tom McClintock may well be the better man, but who at the same time argue
that he does not have the support, are the people who have seen to it that
McClintock doesn’t have the needed support. It would be a safer bet
to conclude that if Schwarzenegger dropped out of the race, McClintock would
indeed gather more of his votes than vice versa. After all, it is Schwarzenegger
Republicans who have shown an overwhelming propensity for needing nothing
more from a candidate than the letter R after his name. Comparisons are being
made, with some suggesting that Tom McClintock has become the Ross Perot
of 2003. Such a comparison ignores many points, not the least of which
is the fact that it was Perot who entered the race on a whim, (see Schwarzenegger),
with no experience in government, (see Schwarzenegger) and without a truly
specific plan, (you guessed it, see Schwarzenegger).
If the aforementioned math argument falls on deaf ears, Schwarzenegger Republicans employ several other arguments.
• “If McClintock doesn’t get out of the race, we might
see Cruz Bustamante elected governor which would be far worse than even Davis.”
That is a frightening proposition indeed, but one that should have been considered
and put into perspective prior to initiating the recall. There are
no guarantees or promises when you attempt to recall a governor. There
were risks, and those risks should have been weighed prior to any recall
action. To argue now that McClintock is going to wind up giving the
Governorship away to Bustamante takes a great deal of gall. No one
in the last twenty years has worked harder to thwart the liberalism practiced
by men like Davis and Bustamante than has Tom McClintock.
• “Tom McClintock is more qualified, knows the issues
better and has served well the State of California, but Arnold is the realistic
choice, our best chance to see a Republican in the Governor’s mansion.”
It was the English writer G.K. Chesterton who once quipped, “When a man thinks
that any stick will do, he is likely to pick up a boomerang.” The best
chance is not always the best option. And in this situation it is not the
only option. I am unsure why Republicans have lowered the bar for Schwarzenegger
while they openly admit that McClintock is the “right man for the job, but….”
In the televised debate held last week, most people felt all Arnold had to
do was just enough to get by. The rallying cry was not, “Arnold, go
earn it, go show them why you are our man,” but rather, “Arnold, please,
please don’t go and shoot yourself in the foot.” How is Tom McClintock
really supposed to compete against a man for whom the expectations have been
so diluted? No matter how well McClintock shows, he is dismissed as
unelectable, and no matter how many moderates or liberals with whom Schwarzenegger
surrounds himself, he is considered “our best chance.” Ironically,
that particular line of thinking may benefit Democrats more than Republicans.
• “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s social stances may upset
some conservatives. But since the governor is not in a position to change
those things, they should be overlooked.” At first glance this
may appear to be a valid argument. After all, California is rather
liberal on social issues, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.
On the other hand, California is not facing a “social issue crisis” but rather,
a financial one. As a result, what California really needs is a fiscal
mastermind not a social crusader. So why not Schwarzenegger? What conservatives
should be asking when presented with this line of reasoning is, “why not
McClintock?” If Schwarzenegger cannot change the social issues that
might raise the hackles of conservatives then it is only fair to point out
that Tom McClintock would be governing under the same set of limits.
• “If Tom McClintock does not drop out of this race
-- and soon -- he will be committing political suicide and will never again
receive mainstream Republican support.” Well, thus far, he might
be inclined to ask, “What support?” The majority of Republicans in
California are not supporting him now, so what does he really have to lose?
The talk of having Tom run for Senate (perhaps as the man to replace Barbara
Boxer) is a dangling carrot that McClintock has been smart enough to ignore
for now. He may still run for the U.S. Senate, or decide against it,
but right now that is all moot. Right now, Tom McClintock is running
for Governor of California. Tom McClintock really had no choice once
he decided to run. Candidates such as Darrell Issa and Bill Simon entered
the race but the public knew they would not stay after Schwarzenegger found
the time to enter. Their poll numbers always reflected as much whereas
McClintock’s went from “Tom who?” to, “This guy is going to ruin everything.”
Political suicide is a term being used more to frighten McClintock supporters
than Tom himself. That said, political suicide is not a term reserved
for one man alone, something Schwarzenegger Republicans might learn at the
hands of Democrats if Schwarzenegger turns out to lean more toward the statue
of Vladimir Lenin found in his office instead of the one of Ronald Reagan.
Tom McClintock entered the race for Governor of California on the back of
a recall of Governor Gray Davis. When he chose to run he was barely
a spot on the radar screen. Over the past several weeks his support
has grown from 4% to roughly 18% and still he is being asked to step aside.
Republicans in California can still muster the courage to send Tom McClintock
to serve as governor, but unfortunately the Republicans who can are the Republicans
who won’t. They won’t, not because they don’t think him qualified,
and not because he has committed a verbal faux pas or been found dishonest.
They won’t because they are afraid. They are playing not to lose instead
of playing to win. Tom McClintock can still become a dishonest man.
He can become a man who goes back on his word, who leaves his beliefs and
his principles and who cannot be trusted when he speaks. He can do
so by simply saying, “I quit.”
McClintock supporters are really the ones with whom Schwarzenegger Republicans
should be upset. Tom McClintock only has the power of one vote.
The people who support him are the people who are unwilling to compromise.
They are accused of being stubborn, unrealistic, and impractical. They
are accused of blowing “our chance,” and the man they have come to trust
is being held responsible for the entire mess that has now begun to divide
a party that seems to have lost a sense of what matters, and (perhaps just
as importantly) what does not.
Tom McClintock made a pledge and a promise to serve the State of California.
He may be disliked by some, certainly a bit stubborn, but that is what one
expects to find when principles mean more than polls, integrity means more
than popularity, and beliefs mean more than the “easy way.”
Whatever comes by way of the October 7th recall vote will not be the fault
of Tom McClintock. He has earned his right to sit at the table, and
he is fighting a damn good fight. That fight, -- his internal fortitude
-- is not easy and does not always lead to happy endings. It is, however,
what separates and defines. It clarifies those things for which a person
stands. It brings out in a person what most of us are told from the time
we are young: believe in yourself, stay true to who and what you are, and
never ever give up. Those principles used to define a party that saw
men like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater stand up and refuse to let die
what they held dear. In the California recall election those same principles
are being perverted into asking a better candidate to step down, to enable
a lesser candidate to step up. When principles are abandoned, what
then can we really hold as our values? Voters know where Tom McClintock
stands. The only question left is not whether Tom McClintock should
quit, but whether a party that has the power and the strength to see him
elected will quit on him. Their decision will define a direction and
their actions will reflect their political mettle, not just for the State
of California but for the state of the Republican Party as a whole.