'California Way' Provides Model for Bipartisanship "The California Way" is what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calls the bipartisan cooperation that led to a productive year of groundbreaking legislation and an on-time budget. Schwarzenegger said the approach should be a model for the nation. But how deep is this new cooperation?
NPR logo

'California Way' Provides Model for Bipartisanship

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6944965/6944966" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'California Way' Provides Model for Bipartisanship

'California Way' Provides Model for Bipartisanship

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6944965/6944966" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

On Election Night in November, a victorious Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters that the accomplishments that got him reelected governor of California were the result of bipartisan cooperation. He called it the California way.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Here in California, we are working together, and we showed the rest of the nation that leadership is about solving problems.

BLOCK: Of course, there are those in California who wonder how long Democrats and Republicans will work together.

The challenges of reaching common ground are the focus of our weeklong series called Crossing the Divide. Today, NPR's Ina Jaffe tells us about the California way.

INA JAFFE: Arnold Schwarzenegger governs like a man in a hurry. The bipartisan cooperation he touted on election night? By his inauguration earlier this month, he was ready to move to the next level.

SCHWARZENEGGER: To move past bipartisanship, to move to post- partisanship. Post-partisanship is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing their proposals to the table and then working out the differences - no. Post-partisanship is Republicans and Democrats actively giving birth to new ideas together.


JAFFE: The Democrat that Schwarzenegger has worked with most closely is Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. But Núñez doesn't think he had to be all that bipartisan to get what he wanted from the Republican governor.

FABIAN N: He, in essence, embraced a Democratic agenda. Some would say capitulated to a Demoratic agenda, but in the end I think what prevailed were Democratic values.

JAFFE: Like a higher minimum wage, curbing global warming and cheaper prescription drugs for the poor. But the cooperation that Schwarzenegger touts as bipartisan? Not so much, says Núñez.

Mr. NÚÃ'EZ: By and large, 99 percent of Republicans voted against everything that we've done. Progress between the governor and the Democratic leadership, yeah. Progress between Democrats and Republicans? Not necessarily.

JAFFE: Well, Republicans would go along with that. Veteran Republican State Senator Sam Aanestad says reaching bipartisan agreement is not what he was elected to do.

SAM AANESTAD: I fail to see what the problem is having two divergent points of view. And I do see a real big problem if everybody who's in the Senate are thinking the same.

JAFFE: In fact, the cooperation that Schwarzenegger touts as a model for the nation may have been the byproduct of the unique moment and political necessity.

Just the year before, Schwarzenegger was the governor nearly everyone loved to hate. His approval ratings plummeted into the 30s when he called a special election on a bunch of initiatives he billed as his reform agenda. The measures were widely seen as an attempt to gut public employee unions. Every single one of them lost. And his reelection campaign was coming up fast.

BRUCE CAIN: The governor really needed to erase the memories of the year 2005, where he put forward a much more conservative agenda and got rejected.

JAFFE: Says Bruce Cain, head of the University of California's Institute for Governmental Studies.

CAIN: So the legislative leadership saw that hey had the governor where they wanted him. The governor really needed to have some proof that he had accomplished something. So there was a particular set of political conditions in 2006 that might not be there as we move forward.

JAFFE: No matter. Politicians across the nation aren't waiting to see if Schwarzenegger holds this together for four more years. They're already sounding a lot like him, minus the famous accent, of course.

Here's Nancy Pelosi on the day she became speaker.

NANCY PELOSI: We have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to work for all Americans.


JAFFE: And here's Senator Barack Obama announcing he was forming a presidential exploratory committee.

BARACK OBAMA: We have to change our politics and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans.

JAFFE: Do they really sound much different than this?

SCHWARZENEGGER: It is time that we combine the best of both ideologies into a new creative center.


JAFFE: And this is not all just rhetoric, says Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.

NORRIS: This is a national trend. The governor saw this wave, got on it, and I think he's been sucessful.

JAFFE: Because as much as politicians like to make fun of holding hands and singing "Kumbaya," Schwarzenegger thinks there may be something to it and that the rest of the country should sing along.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

BLOCK: You can find out more about this week's Crossing the Divide series at NPR.org.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.