On Friday October 15, 2013, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute hosted an incredible conversation between Governor and USC Downey Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the well-known political commentator and host of MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews. The widely-admired USC Professor Kevin Starr moderated the event with a series of questions and comments that grew out of Mr. Mathews new book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.
The Schwarzenegger Institute’s Global Director, Bonnie Reiss, introduced the event, highlighting the ways in which the evening’s topic and speakers fit perfectly with the Institute’s post-partisan focus. Mr. Matthews then jumped right into the conversation with a riveting description of the relationship that emerged between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill—two opponents who became friends and worked together for the benefit of the country (often after 6pm and over drinks). Based on his own observations, Matthews noted that while Reagan and O’Neill were “definite political rivals,” they also shared a “joint loyalty to American self-government” that dwarfed their personal and ideological agendas.
Invited to speak about his own experience with party-driven politics, Governor and Professor Schwarzenegger outlined the creative plans that he had promoted, including redistricting and the top-two primary reforms, in an effort to give the people of California more political power. Schwarzenegger noted that party leaders fight reform and routinely refuse to collaborate and this is why Matthews’ message is so important today: it highlights the reality that fierce rivals can and should work together for the benefit of the people.
The event was held in USC’s beautiful Doheny Library, with a large crowd of USC students, faculty, policymakers, and community members—many of whom had terrific questions and all of whom seemed to hope the conversation would continue late into the evening. In fact, at the end of the event, the audience crowded around both Schwarzenegger and Matthews in an effort to continue the conversation about politics in a more casual fashion.