Arnold's Fall: Can the Disgraced Governator Still Fight for Climate?


Photo jurveston via Flickr/CC BY-SA

While California's governator was busy engaging in some seriously dubious extramarital activities that would terminate his marriage after the bizarre true lies finally came to light, he also happened to be one of the few conservative leaders actively fighting for good climate and clean energy policy. (Seeing as how I'm writing a blog post tackling a bizarre story about one of the most absurdly ubiquitous figures in recent history, I hereby declare myself unaccountable for the deluge of puns.) So revelations that Arnold sired a love child have reportedly shattered his reputation, and left greens wondering whether he'll be able to continue on as an effective crusader for renewable energy and climate action. Will he be back?Grist's Lisa Hymas thinks so:

Schwarzenegger still commands a huge audience and is much more likely to reach Joe and Jane Six-Pack than are the pip-squeaks holding climate-denying hearings in the House or the milquetoast Democrats opposing them ... Will he join other (semi-)forgiven philanderers like Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Eliot Spitzer and reclaim his place in public life? Or, considering the particular humiliations to which he has subjected his wife and family, will he be shunned for the long term like John Edwards? Climate hawks should hold their noses and hope for the former.

I expect that after a few months of quiet penance, Ahnold will try to stage a comeback. And what better way to repair his image than a reinvigorated campaign to terminate the greatest threat known to humankind, climate change? Beats another "Terminator" movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of those figures who so wholly transcends normalcy -- he is a 100%, full-fledged member of the celebrity carnival at this point -- the fact that he had an affair and a child out of wedlock will be absorbed into American pop culture like the next plot point in a surrealist drama.

And unlike Edwards, his pitch to Americans never included posturing as some kind of everyman -- it was almost the opposite, and he likely won't be disgraced in the same way. Also, his wife wasn't dying of cancer while he carried out his transgressions, so there's that.

That said, extremely disgraceful deed-doing or no, the same reasons that the public will probably still pay attention to Arnold is the same reason he won't really matter as a climate campaigner. I'm not sure his calls for action on climate ever really resonated with anyone -- other than climate hawks desperate for an ally across the aisle. His larger-than-life persona and fast-failing grades as governor enshrined his status as a national curiosity more than an effective leader. An immensely entertaining one, but still.

I do hope he returns to the fold -- his climate talk in the public sphere is probably still generally a net gain -- but neither the policymakers in DC nor the grassroots movement on the ground will be greatly impacted if he were to say, "I'm out of here." (What, you were expecting something else?)

More on Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger's Post-Governor Plan: Fight Climate Change
Schwarzenegger Blasts "Black Oil Hearts" of Prop 23 Backers

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