On the Possible Loss of a Political Marriage

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The calls and questions have been coming at me since the news broke last night, so let me answer here: I don't know the personal particulars of why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have separated. And I don't particularly care to know the personal details. They are two very good people with a great family, and I hope they figure things out in a way that makes them as happy as they can be.

But since this is a blog about how California is governed, I can't quite get away with ignorning the subject entirely. It is political news, after all, that the two people most responsible for the political course of the state over the past seven years -- and for policymaking (at least policymaking not already determined by voters) -- have separated.

The Schwarzenegger-Shriver union is more than a marriage. It is also a political and professional partnership between two people who were deeply involved in communicating with the public about everything from how to manage an ailing, elderly parent (the subject of one of Shriver's many books) to the peril of California's unfunded pension obligations. In discussing all sorts of problems, Schwarzenegger and Shriver held up their own marriage as a public symbol of even the most difficult problems could be resolved with respect and negotiations.  

That marital narrative -- of how two very different people from different places, different backgrounds and different political parties could make it work -- was an important one for the state. This split, by undermining that narrative, is bad news for us all.

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