If the mark of a real independent is lack of friends, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the quintessential nonpartisan in American politics right now.Steinhauer positioned Schwarzenegger in center, having "left-leaning proclivities on issues like the environment and health care" along with "right-leaning views on pension reform and crime."His approval rating has not risen above 30 percent since May 2009. California remains in deep fiscal distress. He is despised by the state's workers (whose pay he cut), Democrats (who loathe his aversion to new taxes and his desire to cut entitlements) and Republicans (who wish those respective aversions and desires were stronger), as well as college students, public school parents and people who hate the smell of cigars.
As Governor Schwarzenegger prepares to leave office in January, the lesson from his seven-year effort may be this: Being an independent can win you a lot of things: an election, even re-election, and new policies. But that's not the same as having people like you.
It is an experience others who claim independence know well: the candidate Barack Obama, who won plaudits for promising to work in the spirit of compromise, but is now taking a beating from both parties; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who won election three times while inspiring anger across the political spectrum; John McCain, who made his name as a maverick but never found love with fellow Republicans in his own state, and now, in the face of a far-right challenge, has abandoned many of his old ideals.
Mr. Schwarzenegger's accomplishments - particularly as a Republican in an ever-blue state - have been significant, largely bipartisan and likely to have a lasting impact on the state.
A state that, by the way, after seven years of Schwarzenegger, carries a $20 billion deficit.
Steinhauer admitted that Schwarzenegger "quickly aligned with Democrats" when running for re-election in 2006, but then turned away and is now a brave loner once again.
Yet once he was re-elected, he and Democrats parted ways over the budget, and he found himself alone again over fiscal matters. Republicans taunted him for agreeing to tax increases to close a yawning budget gap. Now, he is fighting with Democrats over cutting the wages and benefits of public workers.
Some of Steinhauer's affection may stem from Schwarzenegger's tax hikes. Pro-tax petulance was obvious in her May 2009 story, after California voters rejected five fiscal measures in a special statewide referendum that would have raised or extended a variety of taxes:
The only ballot measure to succeed was one that prevented lawmakers and constitutional officers from getting raises in times of fiscal distress, a sort of chin-out electoral scowl by voters, who will now probably see their health care systems, schools and other services erode.You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .