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McClintock Must Stay
by Andrew I. Bales
1 October 2003

"Something 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


Winston 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.

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