Even the Terminator couldn’t beat the government unions. In the dumbest move ever made by a politician, in 2005, two years into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first term, he called an off-year special election to enact a few minuscule reductions in public-sector union perks, such as making it humanly possible to fire bad teachers.
Even in a normal election year, initiatives curbing government employees’ boondoggles are nearly impossible to get past the powerful unions.
But worse — as in Wisconsin — this was an off-year election. Unlike Wisconsin, however, it was Schwarzenegger’s idea to hold a special election on the advice of his political consultant, Mike Murphy, the Bob Shrum of the Republicans.
Let’s see, who would be likely to vote in an off-year election? We’re going to cut your exorbitant benefits, require you to work, and make it easier to fire you, public employees. Do you have any interest in voting on that?
Anyone with half a brain could see disaster coming from a mile away. Even with the language barrier, Arnold should have seen it coming.
Within weeks, Tony Quinn, a California Republican consultant, stated categorically: “The governor needs to cancel this special election, regardless of the political cost, because he’s headed for a huge political defeat.”
But Schwarzenegger’s adviser, Murphy, was brimming with confidence, dazzled by the governor’s celebrity status. He gloated, “He’s still Arnold Schwarzenegger.” (Murphy never saw “Twins.”)
Public sector unions spent a jaw-dropping $80 million to defeat Schwarzenegger’s initiatives, portraying the governor as the enemy of cops, teachers, firefighters and “people like us.”
Mike Murphy: “I am confident we will win.”
In the end, union members turned out in droves on Election Day, defeating every single initiative. Everyone else in California woke up the next day and said, “Hey, did you know there was an election yesterday?”
The failure of Schwarzenegger’s propositions ended his governorship. From that day on, he became the Democrats’ plaything.
The 2010 census marks the first time California has lost population since it became a state.
The decision to call an off-year special election to roll back public employees’ perks will long be remembered as the all-time stupidest idea in political history. One hundred years from now it will still be studied at the Kennedy School of Government.
Wisconsin made history in a different way Tuesday night. As Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said, the recall election will go down in the record books as the night “the campaign to save America” began.
Ann Coulter is a political commentator and author.