Schwarzenegger, Kasich Are Going to Try to Pull California Republicans to the Middle

The former California governor and current Ohio governor embracing a vision of the GOP as it might but probably won’t become. Photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP/REX//Shutterstock

“I’ll be back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character famously said, again and again. And the former California governor was back this week at the debut of an organization calling itself New Way California that’s aimed at pushing the Republican Party away from Trumpism and toward the political center. Headed up by Chad Mayes, a former GOP leader in the California Assembly who was purged for working with Democrats on a climate-change initiative, the group is fighting the prevailing winds in both the state and national parties.

As the New York Times reports, Schwarzenegger made it pretty plain where he laid the blame for the GOP’s bad immediate prospects:

Mr. Schwarzenegger said the Republican Party had to be “environmentally progressive, socially liberal and fiscally conservative” in order to be competitive.

“Our party is giving them Twitter fights instead of answers,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “And it is sinking us. It is time to return to the issues.”

“The politics of division and anger and resentment can drive a strong base to the polls, yes,” he said. “But it is tearing our country apart at the seams. And nothing is getting done.”

Since the GOP is current environmentally reactionary, socially conservative, and fiscally profligate, that’s quite the 180-degree turn Schwarzenegger is demanding. And his concerns aren’t exactly resonating even in California, where despite the party’s parlous state (it could have a catastrophic midterm election this year, losing a number of congressional seats and not even looking competitive in most statewide races) the most notable leaders keep tacking to the right. The two Republican gubernatorial candidates, for example, are competing to see who can most slavishly pledge support for Trump.

But Schwarzenegger and Mayes had at least some star-power support for their protest about the future of the GOP: They were joined by none other than Ohio governor John Kasich, who offered some vague words of encouragement:

“Look, we want this party to survive, but we’ve got to stop playing ideological games, and start thinking about the customers,” Kasich said, referring to voters. “And, help these folks. Help Chad. It’s going to be lonely for a while.”

That’s for sure. If Schwarzenegger and Mayes are naïve for thinking the California GOP is going to spurn hard-core conservatism and the 45th president, Kasich is really dreaming if he thinks the national party is doing anything other than embracing Trump.

The self-congratulatory big-tent atmosphere of the New Way California event was brought back to reality by a remark from one attendee, as reported by Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio:

Political consultant Cassandra Pye suggested organizers could still broaden their appeal.

“We’ve got to have more women in the room next time,” Pye said.

That could be said of the entire GOP, regardless of faction.

Schwarzenegger, Kasich Promote Moderate GOP in California