Bill Bradley: Arnold and the Green Republicans of California
President George W. Bush, trying to climb out of a Nixon resignation level hole in job approval ratings, said a few uncharacteristic and seemingly mysterious words in his State of the Union address. Words like "global climate change, alternative fuels, solar, wind, wood chips." The answer to the mystery lies not in Washington, but in California, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the somewhat tarnished Golden State, the former action movie superstar and one-time Hummer aficionado has rebuilt his popularity in several ways, not the least of them his championing of environmental issues. His support for renewable energy sources, and his well-publicized plan to sharply curtail California's emission of greenhouse gases, is very popular with Democratic voters. It may not be a surprise that these policies are also very popular with the increasingly crucial independent voters, by far the fastest growing group in the state.
But, given the carping of conservative Republican activists, bloggers, pundits, and legislators elected from gerrymandered districts, there is an even more interesting fact about Schwarzenegger's popularity. His environmental policies are very popular among Republican voters.
Schwarzenegger's environmental polices are overwhelmingly supported by Republican voters, 63% to 19%, in the brand new poll by the widely respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Schwarzenegger's own private polls show much the same thing.
This should be no surprise, at least for those following this, because a PPIC poll over the summer showed 62% support among Republicans for unilateral state action, independent of the federal government, to control greenhouse gases leading to climate change and global warming. Only 33% were opposed.
California Republicans backed the already existing state law to require automakers to to sharply curtail tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases in upcoming models of motor vehicles by 71%. That law is under attack from the Bush Administration.
Of those same Republicans 82% back the government spending more money to develop alternative energy sources for motor vehicle fuels. In addition, 85% of independents favor the same measure.
Also at the 82% level Republicans want the government to spend more money on developing developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuelswhile 86% of independents want that as well.
On the specifics of the Schwarzenegger plan on greenhouse gases, 65% of Republicans favor the rollback of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. As do 68% of independent voters.
69% of Republicans favor the mandatory emission limits being applied to electric power, oil, and natural gas facilities. 78% of independents favor it, as well.
President George W. Bush, who has represented the traditional conservative view on such matters, has little support in California for his environmental policies. This befits someone whose job approval rating in California has fallen to 29%. Obviously what he's doing isn't working.
It will be interesting to see when other Republicans figure out what Schwarzenegger has wired. A great many of those who put themselves forth as speaking for Republicans don't actually represent the views of their voters.