Arnold's Iraq

He came to America, he saw that he liked it, and he conquered California.

Now Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican emperor-elect of Sacramento, must sit down with all the Brutuses in the capital's forum who have driven the Golden State into imperial decline. He brings a new agenda as a victorious outsider, and must avoid political daggers, such as a new recall effort or stall tactics by would-be governors who want the statehouse in 2006.

The former action-movie star must also deal with charges of sexual misconduct in the past, and do so in a way that shows heartfelt contrition and allows for public forgiveness.

In winning nearly half the vote, Mr. Schwarzenegger won the people's "trust," as he interpreted it. But behind that giving of trust is widespread public anger at the state's dysfunctional gridlock politics, high taxes, and a huge deficit due to overspending during the high-tech bubble of 1996-2000 - all exemplified in voters' minds by the ousted Gov. Gray Davis.

Californians hope Schwarzenegger will provide the ladders they need to climb out of the holes they've dug for themselves. And indeed, hard choices lie ahead if the world's fifth-largest economy is to avoid a financial default and kick the dangerous habit of borrowing - more than $14 billion so far - to pay for the many "me-too" spending programs.

He must figure out why more people are fleeing an innovative Sunbelt state than moving into it and why it's a magnet for the huge influx of illegal Mexican immigrants.

He should work against a law, signed at the last minute by Governor Davis, that grants driver's licenses to illegal immigrants - otherwise millions of illegal immigrants from all over the country will go to California to gain an ID and create a new security problem for the United States.

He should ask voters to reform the state's governing structure, such as raising the threshold for recalling a governor and allowing ballot initiatives; letting the legislature pass state budgets by a simple majority (and not a two-thirds vote); and getting rid of gerrymandered districts and term limits that offer little incentive for legislators to compromise.

The fact that Schwarzenegger won a significant portion of Democratic and Hispanic votes could help him dampen the partisan tone in Sacramento and reestablish California as the model state it once was.

Like Iraq under US control, California under Schwarzenegger can go well or it can go badly, depending how its leaders respond to this recall election. Politics as usual just won't cut it anymore.

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