Truth or consequences

Never has an elected official faced a greater challenge with less experience. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t even know where the Capitol restrooms are, much less how the governing process works, and yet in just a few days he will be challenged to “bring back,” in his words, a state whose operating system is dysfunctional to the core. It’s a job that would frighten even the Terminator.

First Schwarzenegger will face a hostile, pissed-off Democratic Legislature. Then he’ll have to deal with a structural budget deficit somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 billion, if as he promised he rolls back the vehicle fee increase. And that’s just the beginning. California needs good schools, affordable colleges, health care for everyone, safe streets and neighborhoods, efficient transportation and a healthy, attractive business climate. And yet nobody wants to pay more in taxes. Good luck, Arnold.

The good news is this: If Schwarzenegger is prepared to lead, the people are behind him. The message they sent Tuesday was a simple one: We expect more of our leaders, not only the new governor, but also the legislators. And if our leaders don’t put animosity and ideology aside, quit pandering to parochial interests and tell the citizenry what it needs to hear—that California can’t have greatness without paying for it and that we must work together to achieve it—we know what the consequences will be. Just ask Gray Davis.