By Gregory Wallace | CNN
(CNN) — Were Ronald Reagan in office today, some Republicans would “start looking for a ‘real’ conservative to challenge him in a primary,” Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in an op-ed published Saturday evening.
The former California governor said that the man who held that office 30 years before him — before becoming president — is becoming more a distant memory than a model to some Republicans on the “extreme right.” They are playing the role of “ideological enforcers” rather than seeking inclusion and solutions, wrote Schwarzenegger, himself a Republican.
“What’s important is our shared belief in the broad Republican principles of free enterprise and small government,” he said in the op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. “If we continue to fight one another without being willing to compromise, we will keep losing to big-government advocates.”
Schwarzenegger encouraged his party to embrace a “big tent” mentality rather than exclude Republicans who are willing to compromise and, like Reagan and others, occasionally “buck their party.”
“It is true that he worked to reduce the size of government and cut federal taxes, and he eliminated many regulations. But he also raised taxes when necessary. In 1983, he doubled the gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure improvements,” said Schwarzenegger, who like Reagan made his name in Hollywood before going into politics.
“By holding their fingers in their ears when those topics arise, these Republicans aren’t just denying themselves a seat at the table; in a state such as California, they also deny a seat to every other Republican,” he continued.
Schwarzenegger said he opposes ideological “rigidity” and was encouraged by some advisers to leave his party, but remained a Republican because he was “too stubborn to leave a party I believe in.”
He was a two-term Republican governor in a state where Democrats recently have held sway, after Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003. The former star of the silver screen was reelected in 2006 for a term, which ended in 2011.
The state’s current governor Jerry Brown and U.S. senators are all Democrats, and Republicans are outnumbered among the California’s U.S. representatives and in the state legislature.
Californians statewide next go to the polls June 5 to cast primary ballots in a number of races, including for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Diane Feinstein.
CNN Political Director Mark Preston contributed to this report