THE CURRENT spat between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush echoes a California discord that contributed to the Republicans losing the presidency in 1916. A lesser prize is at stake this time -- the governor's initiatives -- but rankled feelings may end with conservatives losing another November election.
Schwarzenegger's refusal to join the president at a Ronald Reagan Presidential Library ceremony, and Bush's rejection of the governor's plea to postpone a local fundraiser until after next month's special election, made national as well as local headlines. Neither man blinked, although their sagging popularity cries out for compromise and cooperation within the Republican ranks.
On the eve of the 1916 presidential election, California Gov. Hiram Johnson and Charles Evans Hughes, the GOP presidential candidate, exhibited similar obstinacy. It ended in a stunning defeat for Hughes, who expected to carry a heavily Republican California but instead lost the state and the election to Woodrow Wilson by a handful of votes.
Progressive Republican Johnson, a popular reform governor who was a candidate for the state's U.S. Senate seat that November, was not a favorite of the more conservative wing of his party. He faced opposition in the GOP primary from mossbacks who rejected his efforts toward social and economic change. That August, Hughes made major speeches in California. At the same time, Johnson was furiously campaigning throughout the state in a close fight for his party's senatorial nomination.