Schwarzenegger Becomes Eligible for Medicare

Arnold Schwarzenegger, senior citizen?

We'll leave that judgment to the masses, but the former California governor turned 65 Monday.

Schwarzenegger achieves Medicare eligibility at a time of multiple transitions in his life. He's moved out of public office and returned to movies, with a vengeance. He's separated from his wife, Maria Shriver. His autobiography, Total Recall, is due out this fall.

And he's doing even more in terms of working for smarter global policies, including cooperation between the world's region on climate change and energy.

Politically, Schwarzenegger is considered a spent force. He left office highly unpopular with Californians.

And he doesn't seem to have much of a future in California politics, since as a moderate Republican he has no natural home. Democrats dominate the state and he's been a leading internal critic of his own party.

But, for all the evidence one could use to argue that Schwarzenegger is in decline, the following is also true as of this writing. The largest state in the U.S., California, has only one national political figure, and that's Schwarzenegger.

No one has a true national profile or following.

Gov. Jerry Brown could grab that profile, but he's so hunkered down, he doesn't say much to move the national needle.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein doesn't drive headlines.

And the up-and-coming generation of California politicians has yet to fully emerge, though Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa have had their moments of national attention.

Schwarzenegger, even at low ebb, surpasses them all. So the California political question, on this milestone birthday, is whether he's given up politics for good.

Or if, someday soon, he'll be back when he'll be back.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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