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Schwarzenegger: 'We are dying at the box office'

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight threw down the gauntlet with his own party, lecturing some 1,200 people at the semiannual Republican state convention in Indian Wells that the party was "dying at the box office" because it has "lost the middle. And we will not regain true political power in California until we get it back," according to Schwarzenegger's prepared remarks.

Schwarzenegger has long been at odds with the conservative elements of the party that tend to dominate policy positions, though he has twice proven his popularity with the rank-and-file members and with independents. Tonight the governor homed in on his greenhouse-emission policies, which he said three-quarters of party members support: "They want this party to do something more about climate change than simply doubt it." And he made the same point about healthcare reform on his way to a plea to shift the party from the political right to closer to the center.

"The majority of Republicans prefer progress with messy compromise over defeat with pristine principles. Compromise is part of politics. And it is especially part of politics if you are the minority party... The road to our comeback is clear. The California Republican Party should be a right-of-center party that occupies the broad middle of California. That is a lush, green, abandoned political space. It can be ours."

Click on the More line to read the complete prepared text.

--Scott Martelle


Below is the prepared text of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech to be delivered at the California Republican Party Fall Convention. These remarks are embargoed until the Governor delivers his address, which is expected to begin at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 7, 2007.

Begin Prepared Remarks:

Good evening.  I'm happy to be with my fellow Republicans. I have so many people I want to thank tonight.

I want to thank Ron, of course, for all the great work he does for our party. 

I want to thank Mike Villines and Dick Ackerman for their leadership. Especially on the recent budget.  For the fourth year in a row ever since the recall we have not raised taxes on Californians. The new budget contains less than a one percent rise in spending. The Federal Government should do so well. 

And, of course, I want to thank the thousands of volunteers who make our party possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not going to be the typical convention address. I didn't come with a bunch of applause lines.  Instead, I came with some concerns about our party...and some hopes. And there is no better place to raise them than at this convention.

The people in this room love the Republican Party or you would not be here. Since I know you want our party to flourish, this allows me to speak frankly about how we can make it we can ensure it is not relegated to the margins of California's political life.

I know there are some who think, "What does Arnold know about Republicans?  He's not a real Republican."

I have been a Republican since Nixon. I have been a Republican in spite of years of debates with Maria, the entire Shriver clan and all the Kennedy's up at Hyannis Port. Believe me, it would have been far easier to abandon my Republican identity years ago.

But being a Republican is important to me. This party is important to me. I am proud to be a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln, who righted the greatest moral injustice in this nation's history...the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the enthusiastic reformer and conservationist...I am proud to be a member of the party of Ronald Reagan, the pragmatic conservative who reached out and captured the political center, winning 49 of 50 states in 1984.

Where is the party today?

In California, as you know...our party is losing numbers. An astonishing 30 of the 32 Republican Assembly districts lost registered Republicans this year. Since 2005, we've lost 370,000 registered Republicans statewide. In just the last eight months, our numbers have declined by 120,000.

In movie terms, we are dying at the box office. We are not filling the seats.

Now, while the number of California Republicans has been declining, the number of independents has been growing. They may well outnumber both political parties in just 20 years.

So, who are these people? According to the Public Policy Institute, 70 percent of independents own their own homes. Most are graduates with incomes of more than $60,000.  They are younger and more likely to be employed than members of either major party. They describe themselves as moderates. They often hold conservative views on fiscal policy and law-and-order issues, while taking more liberal stands on social and environmental issues. And they can be reached. They voted for me, 59 to 33 percent, over my opponent last year.

The real opportunity for Republicans is that independents generally agree with our core principles. Like us, they believe in limited government that is not wasteful. They believe taxes should be as low as possible, because the more you give government the more it will spend. They believe in individual freedom and the responsibility that goes with that freedom. They believe in the importance of public safety. And they believe that economic prosperity comes from the energy of the marketplace, not from the heavy hand of the state. 

I want to make the Republican Party welcoming to these independents.

And the reason I mention this is because there were some Republicans who had proposed that we should not allow independents to vote in Republican primaries.What kind of sense would that make?

The Democrats have said they welcome independents to vote in their primaries. Why wouldn't we welcome them, too? Research shows that the party you vote for in the primary is usually the party you vote for in the general election.

The goal of any political party is to win elections, to become a majority and to advance its ideals.  How do we succeed at that? By including, not excluding. By being open to new ideas, not rejecting them out of hand. By expanding into the center, not falling back upon ourselves into a smaller and smaller corner.

Our party has lost the middle, and we will not regain true political power in California until we get it back. I am of the Reagan view that we should not go off the cliff with flags flying. I did that in 2005.

In 1967, when Ronald Reagan spoke to the California Republican Assembly, he said:

"We cannot become a narrow sectarian party in which all must swear allegiance to prescribed commandments. Such a party can be highly disciplined, but it does not win elections. This kind of party soon disappears in a blaze of glorious defeat."

In business if you lose market share, you do something to about it. But I wonder if we've been so beaten down by our minority status that we've developed a bunker mentality? I wonder if we've come to believe that our only remaining power is to say no?

This very savvy audience understands that saying no is not the basis for a healthy political party. We need to address the issues that even registered Republicans are urging us to address.

According to the polls, nearly three-quarters of our own party support the global warming bill that I signed last year. They want this party to do something more about climate change than simply doubt it. If it is the policy of the Republican Party to ignore the great majority of the world's ignore the views of 80 percent of the young people who believe the same...then that party is at odds with the future. The Republican Party needs once again to be the party of Teddy Roosevelt conservationists.

The surveys show that a majority of our own party also wants us to work for comprehensive health care, not stand in its way. My proposal is not a European socialist plan. It's not a Canadian single payer plan that is driving Canadians across our border for health care. My plan is a good faith attempt at a market-based solution. Never in history has medicine ever been able to make such a difference in peoples' lives. And we will be on the losing end of history unless we realize that health care must be addressed.

A majority of our own party supported our transportation and flood control bonds that were on the ballot last year. Yes, it is expensive. But we cannot allow our levees to break as in New Orleans or our bridges to collapse as in Minneapolis.

We are the party of President Eisenhower, the moderate military man who understood the need for logistics and infrastructure and created the Interstate Highway System--the largest public works project in American history. The majority of Republicans understand the need for investment. I believe we should be listening to the majority of our party. 

If our party doesn't address the needs of the people-the needs of Republicans themselves - the voters, registered Republicans included, will look elsewhere for their political affiliation.

The majority of Republicans prefer progress with messy compromise over defeat with pristine principles. Compromise is part of politics. And it is especially part of politics if you are the minority party.

California Republicans do not have to be the political equivalent of the Spartans at Thermopolae. We do not have to defend the pass alone. Defeat does not have to be our future.

A large body of reinforcements is right behind us. It is called the middle, the center. They are independents. They are Reagan Democrats. They are disenchanted Republicans.

We do not have to give up who we are for them to come to our aid. They already believe much of what we believe. But they must be allowed to believe other things, too - things that perhaps not all of us agree with. That is fine.

The road to our comeback is clear. The California Republican Party should be a right-of-center party that occupies the broad middle of California. That is a lush, green, abandoned political space.  It can be ours.

And we have accomplished so much together these past 3 ½ years.

* We brought the economy back.
* We reformed workers comp.
* We created nearly a million new jobs.
* We eliminated the operating deficit.

* We passed the biggest prison construction program in our history.
* We protected 3 Strikes.
* We passed Jessica's Law.

And much more.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me close with this. When I was 21 years old, I lost my first American bodybuilding competition, in Miami, which I thought for sure I would win. I had already won two Mr. Universe titles in Europe.

When I didn't win, I couldn't believe it. I was devastated. I had let people down. It kept going through my head, "I'm away from home, in this strange city, in America, and I'm a loser." I cried all night long. I vowed to myself I would work as hard as I could to be strong and I would not be beaten again.

My fellow Republicans, I pledge to you that I will work hard to make the Republican Party strong. But I cannot do it alone. For the sake of California and its people, I ask you to join me. 

Comments () | Archives (24)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The only message that Republicans understand is that of the conservative.
A middle of the road Republican is derided and not valued. David Brooks, the "conservative voice" of the NYTimes says that only conservatives have value as Republicans and will not even discuss the reasons behind his conclusions.

So Mr Swartzenegger, you are correct, in my view. We just have to find a way for a middle of the road Republican to be viewed as valuable by Republicans. It is not enough to encourage the middle of the road Republican. It must be shown how to perform that duty and obtain recognition that the effort is valuable within the Republican Party, that it has a genuine and valuable role and is not suspect.

Every Friday on my blog, I try to find one Republican about whom I can say something positive. On the strength of this statement, the Terminator is my top candidate for next week.

A great speech--but it's only for Republicans.

Not a word about Iraq.

And he brags about prison construction and 3 Strikes.

Anybody trying to participate at the Free Republic knows Arnold is right. My account was closed after 3 posts - for calling Bush a Messianic Smurf.

Bush is an international war criminal. He should be tried, convicted and executed for killing 1 million Iraqis.

I am a Reagan Republican. Voted Reagan, Reagan, Perot, Perot, Buchanan.

And YES< I want a war crimes tribunal. I also want an end to foreign occupation of the US Senate and House. Yes, we are an occupied nation, serving the needs of a renegade state in the Middle East.

If we want peace and prosperity, we must do something about treasonous Americans exercising power on behalf of a foreign nation.

The conviction of Bush/Cheney, and the deportation of dual passport American Jews - and we will have our country back.

If these sentiments actually represented the republican party, I'd be a republican. As it is, I'm a democrat who is registering as a republican this primary season to vote for Ron Paul.

The current Republican Party will not move to the center because they have alienated and rid themselves of moderates. They consume too much energy on social issues (abortion and gays). Personally I hope they nominate a hard right conservative so they lose big time.

We need to rid our government of all the religious zealots that are now part of the Republican Party.

We have lost so much during the Bush years and it will take decades to get our country back on the right track. (if ever)

Do not vote Republican if you want change. Republicans are not listening to the people and will not as long as those running the party are hard right religious wing nuts.

If Arnold were genuinely interested in public service he'd have first run for Beverly Hills town council. Instead, he was foisted on us by a PR machine. He doesn't lead today. He sits in a tent on the lawn in Sacramento smloking cigars and schmoozing while the old "Sneaky Pete" Wilson machine runs the Governor's office.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, if you believe for one second that California's Health care system is better than Canada's, Europe's, or for that matter most other states, you, like the global warming deniers in your party, are refusing to believe the data.

Visit any Emergency Department, any day or of the week, and see how packed the waiting room is, how packed the treatment area is and how difficult, if not impossible it is for Emergency personnel to secure specialty care for many INSURED and most, if not all, non-insured or under-insured patients.

The private sector wastes 30% of the health care dollar on insurance bureaucracy. But even that doesn't tell the whole story. Another substantial percentage of that health care dollar then goes to paying the ever growing support staff in a doctor’s office to deal with these wasteful insurance companies, whose policy is sometimes to deny every claim and then underpay the one's it is forced to. 50-60% is probably a more accurate estimate of the total waste incurred by private insurance companies and HMO's.

Let’s compare that to public sector medicine in the US. Medicare spends only 3% of its budget on administrative expenses. That's TEN TIMES the efficiency. This is the reason that Medicare is the ONLY health plan out there that specialists will accept without question in an emergency. Ask any Emergency Physician.

In this competition, private sector health care is being beaten to a pulp, worse than you would today in a Mr. Universe contest. Why would you advocate extending it instead of a proven, muscular, lean, and effective single payer system that covers us all?

Thank You Arnold. I am in that middle you talk about. I am a registered Red White and Blue Democrat.

Besides, All Facts Support My Positions.

There is nothing that your party stands for that appeals to me. Tax breaks for billionaires, murdering tens of thousands of innocent people for no good reason, secret government, or anything else.

The things you say your party stands for does appeal to me, but when you pull back the curtain, it is just one big fraud on issue after issue.

And I used to call myself a Republican.

See you in a billion years.....

Nice speech, but Arnold punked out on confronting the Republican power grab, electoral change. While the abandonment of the electoral system is essential, the California Republican party's timing is another attempt to rule by minority.

By not specifically confronting this issue, Schwarzenegger casts doubt on his pretty words. He reminds me that prison construction is nothing to be proud of, and that 'three strikes' is bad legislation. He makes me think he wants to capture the middle ground and work it for a right wing agenda. He makes me wonder about his honesty. He makes me question his backbone.

The Republican Party lost me when its members started advocating deserting New Orleans. When conservatism believes it is EVER OK to turn your backs on Americans in need, its purpose as a political party is finished.

I'm not a Republican but must say that Arnold's speech was the best one I've heard from Repub's in ages. He hits the nail right on the head. Too bad he can't run for President because he's the best person his party has to offer by far and makes all those running now look like tired, old-wave insiders.

Thank you Gov Schwarzenegger, thanks for reminding everyone at how old fashioned Washington has become with the Bush leadership and how your party falls in line even when most have real doubts. I think we all knew this. Why didn't we hear anything about the corruption in your state and how you kept your mouth shut when the US Attorney who had one of the biggest cases in US history was removed from office.
You know that your feelings are not specific to the state of California. These same poll numbers are popping up in many Republican strongholds. I don't think that I've ever see as many long time congressmen and senators that have a good chance of loosing their seat as there are today.
This country is in a change mood and it's going to take a lot of good speeches like yours to correct the miles and miles of lies that have came from Washington and your party. I didn't mention your parties war or the un needed death of our young and loved Americans. Those families will make up their own minds, most when they discover that most of the promise they were given are either hard to get or don't even exist.

Too bad that man can't run for President. I'm a lifelong Democrat, but I'd seriously consider voting for him. As long as the Republican party is held hostage by right-wing religious gay-haters (and by the way, I'm straight) I will never listen to a thing they say.

The Governor may wish that the Republican Party were still the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt, but alas, those days are long gone. It turned away from those ideals in his own state - in San Francicsco in 1968, when it became the party of George Wallace, who transmuted the message of hateful segregation into a message of hatred of government and enmity to the world - the party of Goldwater, Nixon and Bush. While the TV cameras were on the Democrats in Chicago, the Republicans became the party of racism hiding behind states rights that they remain today. Goldwater embraced the ideals of George Wallace, black delegates were refused seating to the point where they were the fewest number ever to be seated at a Republican convention. Those few were shoved, pushed, spat on, and cursed, and Jackie Robinson said, "I now believe I know how it felt to be a Jew in Hitler's Germany."

Uh, they haven't been the party of Eisenhower for a long, long time. They aren't even the party of Nelson Rockefeller, or the flinty New England Republicans any longer. That party is long dead. What has replaced it is the party of shrill religious conservatives interested in one thing, the advancement of their religious beliefs into US legal code. Along the way, fiscal responsibility has given way to credit card budgeting, common good taxing giving way to 'If I aint usin' it, I aint payin' for it fees', and an in your face foreign policy a la George Bush, II and his Iraq misadventure. Is it any wonder that people have awakened from this nightmare and are leaving that party in droves? If the Republicans want to regain members, then they have to dismantle this thing they call today's Republican Party, and rebuild in from the ground up in the mold of something more sensible. In the name of full disclosure, I haven't said in the mold of Ronald Reagan because I think that was the beginning of today's dysfunctional Republican party, and more importantly, because I am a Democrat.

" We passed the biggest prison construction program in our history."

Yassir! We need huge prisons to address the overflow of citizens we didn't spend money on when they were in public schools! Seems like a great way to waste your tax dollars - spending millions to house and feed the societal detritus that we didn't give the best possible educational opportunities to!
Of course, a couple of ways I'm going to fund this is by cutting assistance for mental illness needs (they can just stay in the prisons after all) and giving the filthy rich GIANT tax breaks when they buy a new yacht here in Kaleefourneah.
Swarzenegger - nothing but TRUE LIES.

By praising the senile criminal Reagan, Arnold seals his own doom. Every diseased psychotic dysfunction afflicting the Republican Party today began with the senile sociopath Ronald Reagan, the Cruel Man With the Kindly Smile.
Religious fanaticism? That started with Reagan, who publicly proclaimed to the evangelicals in 1980, "I know you can't support me publicly, but I support you."
Rapture fever by Republican crackpots who claim the Middle East is about to explode in literal armageddon with the literal return of Jesus Christ -- any day now? Reagan started that too. He spent two hours lecturing an annoyed prime minister of Japan on the coming Rapture (any day now) in 1986 and spouted crazy gibberish from the Book of Relevations for hours at state dinners to the disgusted and appalled leaders of other countries.
Denial of science?
Reagan started it! "Forest fires have caused more pollution than all the smokestacks in America." -- Ronald Reagan, 1983
Drifting off into a la-la land of gibberish in which "the surge is working" and "we are winning in Iraq" and "the economy has rebounded tremendously"? Reagan started that wholesale denial of reality too. "Facts are stpuid things" -- Ronald Reagan, 1985. Just watch some of Reagan's old "morning in America" ads and compare with the epxloding population of homeless people during his administration, the destruction of entire blue collars industries throughout the Rust Belt, the collapse and degeneration of America's manufacturing industrial base which now leaves us helpless and impotent before China's slave labor poison toy sweatshops and ownership of our crippling national debt. Reagan was the original reality-denier, the first and biggest liar who proclaimed that everything was wonderful even as America spiralled downward.
Corruption? Been there, done that -- Ronald Reagan was the _original_ corrupt liar, and his dishonest administration told more lies and ran more scams than ten of the current maladminsitrations put together. More than 114 people in the Reagan administration were indicted, and Ed Meese, the Attorney General of the united states, went to jail for committing a felony.
Reagan practically _invented_ cronyism. The Cruel Man with the Kindly Smile appointed James Watt, an evangelical Christian crackpot, as head of the Department of the Interior. Watt proclaimed that it was unnecessary to conserve America's national forests, since Jesus Christ would return in the Second Coming before our forests were logged out or polluted.
Contempt for the poor and attacks on the lower-income members of our society? Here the Cruel Man with the Kindly Smile excelled at destroying the lives of the bottom 20% of the American population. Before Reagan, we had no homeless people on the street. Before Reagan, college students could pay for tuition -- then he slashed their grants. Before Reagan, working people only had to pay 4% FICA tax -- but Reagan cranked up taxes on the average person while simultaneously doling out massive welfare to the super-rich until now, today, most working stiffs pay more in FICA than they pay in state income tax. Ronald Reagan, the biggest tax-raiser in history, is also the Great Hater, the sociopath whose mouth dirpped the poisonous hatred that has destroyed the Republican party.
Reagan's sadistic lies about imaginary welfare queens driving cadillacs created the homeless underclass we see today. Because of Ronald Reagan, the Cruel Man with the Kindly Smile, ketchup was classified as a vegetable, the better ot starve poor children -- and as a result, today America trails the rest of the developed world with the highest infant mortality of all the developed nations. Ronald Reagan gloried in killing infants, and each death of a poor kid from malnutrition was a litke a sweet strawberry in his mouth.
Fanatical hatred for liberals and repeated calls to murder any dissenter who disagrees with the far right?
Ann Coulter didn't start that -- Ronald Reagan did!
"If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with," said Ronald Reagan about anti-war Viet Nam protestors, 2 weeks before the kent State massacre.
And when the students got shot down like dogs at Kent State, Reagan rejoiced, publicly praising their murder.
Ronald Reagan is the original Great Hater, a senile sociopath who kick-started the lynch-mob frenzy that now metastasizes throughout the Republican Party like a deadly cancer.
Return to Reaganism?
The Republican party is being destroyed _by_ Reaganism. The Republican party has been infected by Ronald Reagan's delusions, poisoned by Reagan's hatred of science, polluted by Reagan's fundamentalist religious psychosis, diseased by Reagan's contempt for the poor, deranged by Reagan's cronyism and corruption, and above all turned into a cesspool of lynching fever by Ronald Reagan's consuming corrosive hate. The Republican party has embraced all the policies of the Great Hater, Ronald Reagan... And now the Republican party stands destroyed and abandoned, bereft of principles and devoid of sanity -- as befits a party that followed a senile deluded co-star of a chipmanzee down the political road to self-delusion and self-destruction.
If the Republican party wants to save itself, it must abandon the poison poliicies of the Great Hater Ronald Reagan and return to its roots. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned about the dangers of the military industrial complex...Teddy Roosevelt, who urged congress to bust the trusts and break the sadistic monopoly power of big business...Abraham Lincoln, the president who stood for the underclass, the slave, the little guy.
These are the heroes the Republican party needs to emulate. Not the senile socipoath Ronald Reagan, co-star with Bonzo the chimp, the Great Hater who had such contempt for science and the intellect that even as he descended into Alzheimers-induced dementia, he proclaimed his ardent desire to slash federal funding for universities, asserting "We should not be in the business of subsidizing intellectual curiosity."

Typical Republlicans. All we ever here is how they are the party of the center. Yet, they run far-right primary candidates to challenge their moderate office holders. Just look at the stampede to the right from their presidential candidates. Then miraculaously when the primary is over, they will suddenly try to find the center (just long enough to get elected). If by some miracle (a party specialty; Bush managed it) their candidate does win; then they shift right almost immediatley (or until the next election). This constant pandering to a fringe religious minority has destroyed our country. The 6 years Republicans controlled our government may have marked the beginng of the slow decline of our great Republic. I hope they are proud of the destruction on our way of life.

You know, I read this speech earlier and thought it sounded good. I was proud of Arnie. Yet, something bothered me about it, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then, as I'm wont to do with politicians anyhow, I took a second look at the speech, and then it dawned on me. They're all dead guys Arnie.

You've got Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan (twice), and end up with Dwight D. Eisenhower. You got any live Republican's you'd like to tell us about?

Well, you did mention one. Mr. Universe.

Thats not as true picture of me! I am a lot more pretty than that!
Arnie, your beloved Govanator

Great posts all, except for you, K Ladek. Pls. consider some therapy. I don't doubt that you love your country, but America's relationship with Israel has always been net good for the US and the world. There have been lots of mistakes, but there always are.

All I want of a candidate is some creativity, so that they can move the nation forward. Liberals tend to have the reputation for innovation, but oftentimes it gets mired down in political correctness and special interests. I think a lot of people's rejection of liberalism in America has been from disappointed hopes rather than visceral hate of reform.

Gov. Arnold's prescription for box office ballot success doesn't sound like a vote for casting his fellow actor, Fred Thompson. We know he likes Giuliani but, if all else fails, would he go for his other friend, Mike Bloomberg, as an Independent?

I totally agree with Arnold on the issues of losing the middle in CA. I am changing from Republican to Independent tonight via the internet. I believe in conservitivism and law-and-order, yet I have found that the Republican party is full of corruption and unaware of its effects on the population is should be serving.

A new Independent Voter


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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