Schwarzenegger asks, ‘What would Ronald Reagan have done?’
May 5th, 2012
10:59 PM ET
11 years ago

Schwarzenegger asks, ‘What would Ronald Reagan have done?’

(CNN) – Were Ronald Reagan in office today, some Republicans would “start looking for a ‘real’ conservative to challenge him in a primary,” Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in an op-ed published Saturday evening.

The former California governor said that the man who held that office 30 years before him – before becoming president - is becoming more a distant memory than a model to some Republicans on the “extreme right.” They are playing the role of “ideological enforcers” rather than seeking inclusion and solutions, wrote Schwarzenegger, himself a Republican.

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“What's important is our shared belief in the broad Republican principles of free enterprise and small government,” he said in the op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. “If we continue to fight one another without being willing to compromise, we will keep losing to big-government advocates.”

Schwarzenegger encouraged his party to embrace a “big tent” mentality rather than exclude Republicans who are willing to compromise and, like Reagan and others, occasionally “buck their party.”

“It is true that he worked to reduce the size of government and cut federal taxes, and he eliminated many regulations. But he also raised taxes when necessary. In 1983, he doubled the gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure improvements,” said Schwarzenegger, who like Reagan made his name in Hollywood before going into politics.

“By holding their fingers in their ears when those topics arise, these Republicans aren't just denying themselves a seat at the table; in a state such as California, they also deny a seat to every other Republican,” he continued.

Schwarzenegger said he opposes the ideological “rigidity” of some in his party, but remained a Republican because he was “too stubborn to leave a party I believe in.”

He was a two-term Republican governor in a state where Democrats recently have held sway, after Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003. The former star of the silver screen was reelected in 2006 for a term, which ended in 2011.

The state’s current governor Jerry Brown and U.S. senators are all Democrats, and Republicans are outnumbered among the California’s U.S. representatives and in the state legislature.

Californians statewide next go to the polls June 5 to cast primary ballots in a number of races, including for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Diane Feinstein.

- CNN Political Director Mark Preston contributed to this report

Filed under: 2012 • Arnold Schwarzenegger • California • Ronald Reagan
soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Arnie, you had two terms as governor and all you managed to do was knock up your maid and run your adopted state of Cal-ee-forn-ee-a even further into the ground. You proved to be totally inept as a leader. Everyone knows you're a closet Hollywood liberal, and you probably don't even know what the term "conservative" means. Like everyone else associated with the media, your definition of "extreme right" is anyone to the right of Nancy Pelosi. Please just shut up and go back to acting..........or whatever you call it.

    May 6, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  2. Nicecatch

    Arnold is being to reasonable to get through to most republicans. The party has lost its mind and its sanity will only return after they take a few loses over the next few election cycles. This ideological rigidity is like a disease that needs to run its course before it is purged.

    May 6, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  3. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    Arnold is right. Reagan, who is one of the more overrated chief executives of the modern media age, looks like Jefferson or Lincoln when you look at what has happened to his party in the past 20 years. Reagan was a soft-pedaling ideologue who made deals in a pragmatic fashion with uber-liberal Tip O'Neill. He raised taxes 11 times in a nod to common sense, helped to tame inflation and spur tons of job growth. He also authored the inevitable end of the Cold War (every president from Truman on down helped to "win it."). He also thumbed his nose at the poor with drastic spending cuts to social programs, lined the pockets of the rich, ignored the AIDS crisis, bloated the deficit with incredible defense spending and should have been impeached over the Iran-Contra fiasco he created and endorsed. Nearly 200 officials in his administration were either investigated, indicted or convicted of crimes. But all in all, he was a good president and you knew where he stood on principle most of the time. Oh, and he was the greatest celebrity president the Repubs ever produced

    May 6, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  4. skytag

    He's right. Today's Republicans would call Ronald Reagan a leftist.

    May 6, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  5. Jez

    Californians will hopefully stick to their beliefs and reject hateful republican rantings against gays, minorities, women, etc., and reject crazed republican nominees. Republicans claim they are for small government when in truth, they want to regulate women's bodies, regulate gay marriages, and (unrealistically) boot out a large group of people (South Americans) whom all of us depend on for cheap labor, cheap groceries, nannies, etc... I am constantly amazed by the sheer hate of the republicant party. Arnold, your words fall upon deaf constituents, whether democratic or republican. Repubs have been clear in their intolerance for anything other than their stringent beliefs, which they want to institute into Big Government forced compliance.

    May 6, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  6. Truth Squad

    The fact is, old Arnold sold his soul in liberal Caifornia, going along to get along and become completely emasculated.

    Running as a Republican, Schwarz governed as weakly as anyone ever could have.

    He needs to shut up and start attacking Democrats who have two people not endorsing Obama, Lieberman endorsed McCain and is now going to retire.

    These fool liberal Republicans will sell their soul just so they can be "liked" by the liberal media.

    Notice; Reagan was HATED in his day, almost as bad a Palin is today. He was roundly attacked and ridicululed.

    Arnold shut up and stop giving Democrats billboard material by parroting their talking points.

    May 6, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  7. Wes Scott


    "All of you libs think we should compromise ? Why should we compromise our values ? You don't."

    I am a liberal, a tree-hugging, environment-loving liberal, and I do not think that you should compromise your values one bit! In fact, I think you should go out of your way to espouse the fascist agenda of the GOP and TP. The more people see the intractable ideology of the right the more they are driven to the center. And let me assure you that Obama is NOT a liberal. In fact, he is far too conservative for most of us who believe in the Founding Fathers' definition of what America should be. He is too much like a Republican for many of us.

    May 6, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  8. J-NW

    “too stubborn to leave a party I believe in.”

    That explains why so many reasonable people still call themselves Republicans. They keep their blinders on and refuse to hear the facts.. that their party has been like a cancer to America, especially apparent over the past 15+ years. Down with science and education, up with tax cuts, shoot first, ask questions later. Hopefully someday before you take your last breath, you'll realize you've been conned big-time by big-oil, big-tobacco, big-pharma, big-big military industrial complex, etc. Your party is completely without moral bearing.. corporations can steal elections by saturating the airwaves with lies and the rightwing of the Supreme court has ruled that it's legal on both accounts.. i.e. legal to lie!

    May 6, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. Bammer 1107

    You're kidding right?

    May 7, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  10. omgamike

    The ex-California governor is making a good point. In November, voters will go to the polls and there will be a massive reversal of the idiotic voting of 2010. Democrats will be more firmly entrenched in state and federal positions. The Republicans have screwed themselves and the American people and November will be a time of punishment for them.

    May 7, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  11. R.Merrell

    Arnold's got it right. Today's Republicans do not have the country's best interests at heart. They've been swayed by Grover Norquist and his head-in-the-sand-crowd. They're all about personhood, religion (only if it's their idea of christianity), denying health care, smaller government (what ever that sound bite means), no oversight or regulation of anything, and allowing the nation's infrastructure slide into deep disrepair. They love the Sarah Palin know-nothing approach to government. Who knew Ronald Reagan would ever look so good?!

    May 7, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  12. Edwin

    Chris: compromise is one of the cornerstones of a democracy. Without it, democracy fails. Sadly, many conservatives believe democracy means ignoring people who disagree with you, and are willing to destroy our country rather than accept that sometimes they can't have their way.

    May 7, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  13. Frederick L. May SR

    What we need is 535 people who want this country to grow. A job for every body who want to work. Bring back the times when the government was of the people by the people for the people. When every politician worked to improve the lives of the citizens. Show me an honest politician and he will be an aberration.

    May 7, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  14. Gaunt

    It doesnt matter what you think of the Shwartz personally or politically: in this (possibly rare) instance, he is absolutely right. The far right wing has descended into borderline treasonous behaviour, where they refuse to consider anything apart from their (literally) god given opinions about what MUST be. Compromise? You are labelled a RINO and demonised simply because you dont follow the absolutist demagoguery of the tea baggers. This repulsive movement represents everything that is wrong with America.

    May 7, 2012 03:22 am at 3:22 am |
  15. Observer91

    I don't support Schwarznegger (at least most of the time), but he makes a very good point. If the Republicans want there to be any sort of progress in this country then they are going to have to work with their supposed "enemy" to get things done. If they don't, they may loose in the end. They can't just repel everything the other side is proposing, pointing fingers and calling them names, making wild accusations and then just thing that somehow everyone will magically be on their side. This sort of mentality makes them seem as if they feel that their ideas and thoughts are always right and the other side is always wrong, and that's not the way the world works.

    May 7, 2012 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  16. mikem

    Another Republican adulterer advising the party to widen the tent. It would be nice if this country could find a true conservative leader, but such a person could not be elected any more. We are going the way of Europe. Reagan was a good speaker, but he let in the Mexicans, he nominated O'Connor and Kennedy. He didn't have the guts to fight for Bork.

    May 7, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  17. v

    I love how the majority of people who disagree with Arnold don't even attempt to argue his points, but instead point to his infidelity as to why he is wrong. "You slept with a maid, therefore your opinion on politics is invalid." I just don't understand Republicans in this day and age, and I sure as hell can't vote for them.

    May 7, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  18. v

    Also, someone here that calls themselves a "true republican" is going to have to explain to me the logic behind CUTTING TAXES when we are in a war. How does that make sense? Wars cost money ... lots of it. If we wish to continue to fight decades long battles on the other side of the world, everyone should have to pay more to do it. Want to cut taxes? Cut the wars too.

    May 7, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  19. pamelabartholomewparty

    Many conservative ideas have significant merit. But the ideological quagmire in which they currently flounder and the lack of true intellectual capacity render them incapable of truly leading this country forward. As an independent, I would seriously consider and vote for a Republican that had the intelligence, strength, and compassion to meld conservative fiscal ideas with socially progressive and caring policies. No one likes that has any play in the GOP. They cannot even realize that the 20% of the electorate - the moderate independents - are too smart to fall prey to their dogma. So .. better the devil we know than the devil we don't know. Unless something changes, Obama has my vote in November.

    May 7, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
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