One thing I'll say for Arnold Schwarzenegger: he managed to make both the left and right in California very unhappy yesterday.
Arnold vetoed the gay marriage bill, the first ever to pass both houses of a state legislature in this country. As disappointing as that was, he upset the hard-line right by signing three measures that significantly expanded rights for domestic partners, including a measure to guarantee that the surviving partners of deceased state employees be able to collect benefits. Here's the press release from the ultra-conservative Campaign for California Families:
We thank Governor Schwarzenegger for doing the right thing by vetoing ‘gay marriage’ licenses,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families... Yet it’s outrageous that Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed other radical sexual agenda bills that undermine marriage and push the transsexual and homosexual agenda upon other Californians, without any regard for people’s moral or religious values.”
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that barred California pharmacists from using a conscience clause to avoid filling prescriptions for emergency contraception. Clearly, his veto of the gay-marriage bill gave him political cover to tack left on the domestic partner bills and the EC conscience bill. Socially conservative Republicans are stuck with Arnold for now, like him or not.
I don't know if he's being calculating or if his vetoes and signatures signify he's a genuine centrist, unswayed by the political fringes whose voices tend to dominate public discourse. Social conservatives can't be happy with the domestic partner and emergency contraception bills, but if they don't back Schwarzenegger, they know a Democrat will soon be in the governor's seat -- and that Democrat would sign a gay marriage bill.
I wonder if Arnold isn't astutely positioning himself where most Californians really "are" in 2005: willing to give gays and lesbians most if not all the benefits of marriage without calling it marriage, and firm on women's right to access emergency contraception. He's made me unhappy with the marriage veto, and made Randy Thomasson and his ilk unhappy with his signatures on other bills -- but, as Arnold and his advisers surely know, most California voters are well to my right and far to Randy's left.