SANTA MONICA, Calif.—In another world, Arnold Schwarzenegger might be an elder statesman in his party. The former Republican governor of California might even be a top ally of the entertainment president: They used to be friendly, and Schwarzenegger was Donald Trump’s successor on Celebrity Apprentice.
In Trump’s world, though, Schwarzenegger is a GOP apostate. Fresh off of playing the president of the United States in a new movie—the upcoming Kung Fury 2, which has a plot about “Thundercops,” time travel, and the Miami Kung Fu Academy—Schwarzenegger is coming into 2020 trying to sort out his role in politics in the year ahead. He thinks Republicans should follow his lead on environmentalism and redistricting reform. He thinks the whole country should follow California’s lead on integrating economic growth into environmental protection.
Forget about the Green New Deal, he told me: “There’s only one deal, and that is the California deal.”
For now, Schwarzenegger’s involvement in the presidential race is much like the rest of the country’s: as a skeptical and unimpressed viewer. A big part of why he thinks show business has consumed politics is the length of campaigns, and the need to keep up with attention spans. That said, he hasn’t been impressed with the Democratic candidates’ chops. “They should take acting lessons, all of these people up there on the stage,” he said. “‘Oh, it was appalling that you used to endorse this,’ and ‘How could you have done that? Oh my God, it was horrendous!’ They do this whole drama as if it really affects their life. And then they walk off the stage again and smile and laugh.”