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December 3, 2010 6:40 PM   Subscribe

California's ailing Republicans: A dying breed? 'Republicans are relishing the coming of a new day on Capitol Hill. But across the country in California, the party of Nixon and Reagan is drifting toward obscurity. The latest sign of imperiled health: In a year Republicans notched big victories in Congress, governor's offices and statehouses around the nation, California Democrats made a clean sweep of eight statewide contests on Nov. 2. Democrats padded their majority in the Legislature, where the party controls both chambers and no congressional seats changed parties. California counted more registered Republicans in 1988 than it does today, even though the state population has since grown by about 10 million.''It's been said the future happens first in California, and the state hit a little-noticed milestone this month that will have implications in voting booths for years to come. For the first time, Hispanics account for more than half the students in the state's public schools. They will be tomorrow's voters.'

'Latino backlash against Republicans drove the debacle, as illegal immigration occupied a central place in the gubernatorial campaign -- first in the GOP primary when Steve Poizner pushed Meg Whitman to the right by accusing her of being insufficiently hard line. Even Gov. Pete Wilson, the face of the unpopular 1994 ballot measure Prop. 187, made an appearance in a Whitman ad, saying she would be "tough as nails" on illegal immigrants.'
'Latinos, who made up 22 percent of the midterm turnout in California, increasingly see the Republican brand as toxic. More than one-third of Latinos said they would never consider voting Republican, while another 31 percent said Republicans should move closer to the center and nominate less conservative candidates.
At the same time, 50 percent of registered Republicans said candidates should stick to core Republican principles and nominate "true" conservatives, while 36 percent of Republicans prefer less conservative nominees.'

'"One of the challenges facing Republicans is that California is more moderate than the rest of the country," Spillane said. "We need to establish an identity that's different than the national identity."
It will take more than image makeovers to be taken seriously in a state that may be becoming intractably Democratic, said Manuel Pastor, an American Studies professor at the University of Southern California.
"Republicans think they have an image problem with the Latino community," he said, "but it looks like they have a policy problem."'

But is there a glimmer of hope for the Republicans in California? Perhaps. 'A poll published last week held a glimmer of hope for the California GOP: Asian voters, unlike other minorities, are willing to consider Republican candidates.'

'Dan Ichinose, director of the Demographic Research Project at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which helped formulate and finance USC's participation in the survey of Asian voters, said the views of California's Asian minorities may change over time.

"Many folks do carry attitudes from their countries of origin and cultures in those countries," he said. "As more are born in this country and become more comfortable in living here, those attitudes fall."

For now, the attitudes are giving Republicans a chance; whether they make the most of it depends on how avidly the parties pursue the new voters.

"They're sort of a classic swing group," said Junn, born in Georgia to parents who emigrated from Korea. "Whoever makes the move to get these immigrants will get them for generations."'
posted by VikingSword (47 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The GOP is capitalizing on a mess they made - specifically, the economy - and then refused to help fix for political reasons.

It worked, and they regained the House, but here's the kicker: they have two years to fix the problem. The Democrats have been banging a steady drumbeat of "Bipartisanship" for the past two years, and will do the same for the next two, announcing stunning compromises and olive-branch gestures, which will invariably be pushed back into their face.

And then the Democrats will fucking destroy them in 2012, by pointing out that not only did the Republicans create the problem, they refused to do anything to fix it. Polls consistently show that the Republican gains were a desire for change, and emphatically not due to general support for ultra-conservative politics. Votes are willing to put up with ultra-con tea-partying, but only if it shows results. If it doesn't, they'll come across as a bunch of mean-spirited buffoons unable to get anything done.

Unless they drop the no-compromise bullshit, and fast, they will be in a world of hurt, and lock themselves out of Washington for a generation. I don't think they can.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:49 PM on December 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


The GOP is considered the party of the white middle class. And, increasingly, there are fewer people fitting that demographic in California.
posted by Yakuman at 6:56 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rather than dwindling opposition from the right I'd rather see increased opposition on the left. The Ds, even in CA, could stand to defend that flank a bit, to put it mildly.
posted by DU at 6:58 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


fwiw, a mere year ago many considered the GOP to be strictly a regionalist party, the south and parts of the Western Midwest.

Yeah they are in serious decline in Calif (and I wish everywhere else) but I suspect they'll make a comeback, even there, at some point.
posted by edgeways at 7:11 PM on December 3, 2010


And then the Democrats will fucking destroy them in 2012, by pointing out that not only did the Republicans create the problem, they refused to do anything to fix it.

This is in line with something I've been thinking since the election. While it's very much in the Republicans' favor to keep the economy in the shitter until the 2012 election season, they can't overplay the hand and they need to walk a fine line. Their main constituency, business owners and the wealthy (or at least, what WAS their main constituency...) really, really wants the business cycle to turn around and the economy to pick up. Improved asset values, more employment. Corporate coffers are just bursting with pent-up cash, waiting for some demand to service as soon as anyone is confident enough to get the ball rolling.

IF the democrats can turn the economy around, somehow, some way, they have an epic opportunity. They can sit down the the top bankers, industrialists, and investors in a room and say, "now listen here. These fucking crazy tea party-owned republicans have been trying for the past TWO YEARS to keep you down just to improve their election chances, and WE SAVED YOUR ASS. Who are you going to trust going forward?" And if the election was really humming along, it could be a persuasive argument. If you could peel the money away from the crazy, the Republicans would have a long walk in the woods before they were in power again.

Anyway, I don't trust the democrats to execute on this, mind you. And I'm not ultimately sure how I'd feel about it, because in some ways it would be the ultimate capitulation to centrist technocracy - there would be precious little "progressive" about it. Still... at least the tea party would be chased out of town! And that's gotta count for something.
posted by rkent at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the words of my lovely, eloquent wife,

"Good. Fuck 'em."
posted by notsnot at 7:17 PM on December 3, 2010 [16 favorites]


I think in the coming years we are going to see increasingly serious attempts at the national level to retroactively revoke US citizenship for Mexican-Americans.

The Republicans are blind towards their "Latino Problem" right now. They can count on millions of votes from middle-aged whites in middle-America. But over the next decade or two, several tens of millions of young latinos will be approaching voting age, and they will have children, and their children will have children and so on.

There really isn't a good way for the GOP to capitalize on this. They must exclude Latinos in Texas if they want to include white church-goers in Ohio. There is a significant percentage of white people in this country who believe (very strongly) that the US is being invaded by a hostile foreign power across our southern border, and that Mexican-Americans are Americans in name only. The GOP base truly does equate whiteness with American-ness.

Once the full reality of the situation dawns upon Republicans -- the reality that whites will be a minority in the United States by 2050 or so, possibly sooner -- you're going to start hearing calls for people with brown skin to be expelled from the US, no matter their citizenship status.

Sound hyperbolic? Maybe. But you also have to remember that immigration from Mexico represents a fundamental shift in the American way of life: fundamentally away from white capitalist protestantism towards a more brown, more socialistic, possibly more secular way of life. I think this is a good thing, but many, many millions of American whites are prepared to kill and die to keep this from happening.

I envision a future America not totally unlike the former Yugoslavia: roving bands of xenophobic "militias" going from town to town and "cleansing" them from undesirable races. The GOP rhetoric against Mexican immigration (and indeed, against Mexicans themselves) is already taking on "clash-of-civilizations" dimensions. It's becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between GOP hatred of illegal immigration and a generalized hatred of Mexicans.

I wish I could be more optimistic but I just don't think this is going to end very well.
posted by Avenger at 7:20 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The GOP is capitalizing on a mess they made - specifically, the economy - and then refused to help fix for political reasons.

The problems are vastly deeper than a single state legislature. I'm not saying California is well-run -- far from it -- but even if they were effing brilliant, their control over the world economy is minimal compared to the influence exerted by Congress and the central banks.

California's real local problem is their refusal to pay for what they use. Paying off that debt is going to be a gigantic albatross around their neck for decades.

What was particularly frustrating was seeing Arnold trying to bring their fiscal horse in order, and be absolutely hated for it. Even here on MeFi, where people should know better.
posted by Malor at 7:21 PM on December 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think California's closet GOP population is in fine shape if the recent no-vote on pot is any count.
posted by Peter H at 7:25 PM on December 3, 2010


fundamentally away from white capitalist protestantism towards a more brown, more socialistic, possibly more secular way of life.

For one thing, that's a deeply Catholic population. If anything, their presence should swing the country more toward religion, not less.

And moving toward socialism in any kind of lasting sense, when we already borrow about a third of our spending, isn't going to happen. Even if it moves that way for awhile, it'll be a very temporary thing until the fiscal house of cards collapses.

"More brown" is a safe bet... it's probably the least important part of what's going on, yet it's that, more than anything else, that has white conservatives riled. God, those people are clueless.
posted by Malor at 7:26 PM on December 3, 2010


Avenger wrote: "Sound hyperbolic? Maybe. But you also have to remember that immigration from Mexico represents a fundamental shift in the American way of life: fundamentally away from white capitalist protestantism towards a more brown, more socialistic, possibly more secular way of life."

More secular? More Catholic, maybe. Or, maybe I'm wrong about that. I hope so.
posted by smcameron at 7:30 PM on December 3, 2010


More secular? More Catholic, maybe. Or, maybe I'm wrong about that. I hope so.

Oh don't worry, you are. San Antonio (where I live) is 60% Latino and heavily Catholic, but Latino Catholics are, for the most part, culturally Catholic.

Everyone here is Catholic, but the gay bars, strip clubs and massage parlors are full on Friday nights, while the churches are mostly empty on Sunday morning. You have nothing to fear from imported Catholicism.
posted by Avenger at 7:33 PM on December 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm interested in finding out how the decisive GOP victory in state governments -- especially key swing states like Ohio and Florida -- will play out in terms of the 2012 campaign, not to mention the upcoming redistricting process (whose effects will be felt for years to come). How much will Republican governors be able to do to shape the GOP primary, or undermine Obama in the general?

Also, it's looking like opportunities for Democrats in the Senate will be limited in the next cycle, as they will be defending something like 2/3rds of the seats up for re-election. If they can't win back a supermajority, they're going to be just as legislatively hobbled as they were the last two years. If abuse of the filibuster isn't addressed, they might as well disband, because the current GOP has proved more than willing to act like unprecedented asshats in order to derail anything and everything they can.

At least the coattails of a presidential race will help bolster the Dems like they couldn't this year when the White House wasn't at stake. Well, they will as long as Obama's approval ratings remain relatively healthy.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:35 PM on December 3, 2010


It doesn't matter because house district minimums (1/state), control of state legislatures, the senate and the electoral college make these numbers irrelevant. The republicans are wildly unpopular now and yet they managed to win the election everywhere else. Also in case you missed it the Republicans now have: Susana Martinez (Gov New Mexico), Macro Rubio (Fla Senate), and Brian Sandoval. In fact despite the fact that Sandoval ran against immigration reform and against hispianic issues he did well enough among hispanics to win easily. Also future president George P Bush.

Trends are actually looking better for the Republicans in California. First of all the new non-partisian redistricting initiative helps make more seats competitive for them. Second the dysfunctional legislature means you only have to hold 1/3 of the seats to block the budget. The tax situation can't be fixed because of the initiatives. You also can't cut spending because of initiatives. Thus we see that Republicans can still hold tremendous influence over California politics without actually holding much of the elected power.
posted by humanfont at 7:36 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was considering FFPing the following: The Truth About California but I think it somewhat overstates its case and I'm sure somebody here could find plenty of flaws in the argument, but still, the "Economic Basketcase" image of the state is definitely overstated.

Two political points:

In the last election, a proposition was passed changing the way California does reapportionment, making it a LOT less partisan and Gerrymander-able. That could give Republicans a chance to gain more Congressional and State Legislature seats, since the Democrats had dominated the process in the past, but to do so, it might also put some 'safe' GOP seats in play.

And a couple California Republicans will be getting plum jobs in the GOP-run Congress next year. Kevin McCarthy, the new Whip, is a VERY smart campaigner who might be an important force to try to keep his party from sabotaging itself. On the other hand, Darrel Issa, one of the most corrupt politicians in the state IMO, will be in charge of the committee that does Congressional Investigations, and has declared openly that his main goal in the next two years is to discredit Obama (and ALMOST declared that his ultimate goal is getting him Impeached).

We WILL be living in Interesting Times.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


New Orleans is a very heavily Catholic city, and we have Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. Catholics are much less hung up about certain kinds of sin than the Protestants, in part because they have absolution rituals and probably more because they just don't see certain things as being as sinful.

I'm gladdened by the intrusion of Hispanics into the Republicans' oligarchal plans, but I am a bit worried about some reports that the Evangelicals are making headway among them.
posted by localroger at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2010


their control over the world economy is minimal compared to the influence exerted by Congress and the central banks.

Who do you mean by "their"? I ask because, depending on the source, California has the 7th or 8th largest economy in the world.
posted by Ardiril at 7:49 PM on December 3, 2010


Given time I'm sure the Republicans will figure out a way to effectively play to the fears of Latino voters too!
posted by ian1977 at 7:53 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Republicans are blind towards their "Latino Problem" right now.

Well, Newt is aiming to fix that.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:53 PM on December 3, 2010


California is the broken cousin.
posted by Mblue at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2010


California is the broken cousin.

Maligned state is actually saving the rest of us.

I understand there are some structural problems in the state government: there's a certain extent to which the system simply does not let elected officials govern: the initiative process and 2/3 requirement combined with certain party stances mean that the legislature is somewhat hamstrung, the split executive offices hamstring the governor, too.

Those things need to be fixed. I could also pick on a few of my favorite policy hobby horses. But based on what I see, California isn't "broken," and I'm inclined to lump in such pronouncements with the rest of the Republican claims about how it's deficit spending by those darn Democrats that's been hobbling our economy.
posted by weston at 8:01 PM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


The fundamental problem for Republicans in California, is that they have no ideas to offer. Cutting taxes is not going to work here, what with prop. 13 and massive deficits - are you seriously going to propose cutting revenue even more? That's a non-starter. Then there's "cutting regulations" - not a very powerful appeal in CA - the voters here identify lack of regulation with the Enron type scandals that caused horrific problems with the cost of electricity here. Besides, apart from the farm lobby, the state is sensitive to environmental concerns. So what do the Republicans really have to offer in the way of ideas? Right, lifestyle issues aka, the politics of division and hate: hatred of racial minorities, immigrants, gays, anyone who is not a white protestant, women's rights and so on. But hate does not sell, long term, and it stopped selling in CA sometime in the 90's - the last hill is gay rights, and that too is turning away from the Republicans.

Apart from that, Republicans have nothing. Of course there's the usual gaggle of unexamined slogans which still find some purchase with a portion of the population: "fiscal responsibility" (though the Republicans are increasingly not associated post-Bush with fiscal responsibility), and "law and order" (which is weak sauce and not decisive for the majority of voters).

So why would they win? They have nothing to offer the California voter. The GOP is in a pickle here in CA, and their base makes it ever harder for them to climb out of this.
posted by VikingSword at 8:11 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


And then the Democrats will fucking destroy them in 2012,

Oh, how I wish I had your confidence.
posted by emjaybee at 8:15 PM on December 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


So why would they win? They have nothing to offer the California voter. The GOP is in a pickle here in CA, and their base makes it ever harder for them to climb out of this.

Remember Grey Davis.
posted by humanfont at 8:28 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


And then the Democrats will fucking destroy them in 2012,

Hahahaahahahahahahahaha! Oh, man, that is hilarious.

Wait, you're serious?

Republican voters will turn out in force in 2012, because Obama will be up for re-election. And this past 2010 election has proven that logic and history and responsibility have no impact on who they vote for. Economy still in the dumps? It wasn't the Republicans fault for blocking every piece of legislation, it was Obama's fault!

They may control the house and everything good they'll take credit for. Everything else? It was Obama's fault.
posted by formless at 9:38 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Despite the big story being the Democratic sweep (which as an unabashed partisan makes me pretty happy), The Economist is more encouraged by the idea that "[California's] change of direction is constitutional":

Whether Republican, Democratic or independent, all voters will henceforth be able to choose any candidate from any party in the primary; the top two candidates will then face each other in the general election even if they are from the same party. Throughout their campaigns politicians must therefore speak to the whole electorate, not only their base. To make the legislature’s main task—passing a budget—easier, voters also lowered the required margin to a simple majority. Many of the interlocking elements of California’s dysfunction have thus been dealt with.

Whaddaya know, the proposition system sometimes does the state good.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:49 PM on December 3, 2010


I think California's closet GOP population is in fine shape if the recent no-vote on pot is any count.

That's not really the best assessment, as many pro-pot people were anti-Prop 19.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:59 PM on December 3, 2010


kittyprecious, that's really, really good news. With those changes, there's a good chance they'll be able to start moving toward sanity again.

Huh, I was starting to think you couldn't get any sense out of California at all.
posted by Malor at 10:43 PM on December 3, 2010


Whaddaya know, the proposition system sometimes does the state good.

We've had this in Washington the last two elections. It's no different than the way it was before. You get a handful of races where you get two Democrats or two Republicans, but for the most part it's the same old election -- Seattle liberal democrats, eastern Washington arch-conservatives, Centralia-Chehalis ultra-libertarians, and a mix of the three squaring off in the suburbs.

There's no difference between the Jungle Primary we have now and the open primary we had before, and nothing about the government has changed as a result. California will discover the same thing. This isn't a panacea. Doesn't hurt the system, but it doesn't solve the gridlock problem, either.
posted by dw at 11:16 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama will win in 2012 because he's an incumbent and the Palin v. Romney bloodbath with be quite an expensive spectacle.

But it will be a lot closer than it should be.
posted by bardic at 12:55 AM on December 4, 2010


Like Jason Voorhees, the Republican party always comes back to life, even when everyone hates them. I have no doubt they'll have all three branches in 2012.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:28 AM on December 4, 2010


The republicans are wildly unpopular now and yet they managed to win the election everywhere else.

Oh. really? The Republicans lost every contest in Massachusetts. Every one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 AM on December 4, 2010


Apologies. The Republicans did improve in the MA House. They now have 32 out of 160 House seats, up from 16. However, they lost a state Senate seat, and now have 4 out of 40.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on December 4, 2010


Proclamations of a coming permanent majority always look foolish in hindsight.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:21 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


To Quote a great man: "We must go forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom."
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Second the dysfunctional legislature means you only have to hold 1/3 of the seats to block the budget.

Not any more. We just voted for budgets to be passed by a simple majority.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2010


One political truth I've learned over the last couple of decades...never, ever underestimate the ability of the Democratic party to fuck itself up and its constituencies over.

I wish I could be more optimistic, and I'd love to hear arguments to make me that way, but the string of squandered advantages, missed opportunities and unprovoked foot-shootings goes back uninterrupted to 1988 and probably beyond.

Maybe there's a new generation of national figures coming up that will push a liberal agenda as vigorously and unapologetically as the conservatives have pushed theirs. But I don't see it happening.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2010


What was particularly frustrating was seeing Arnold trying to bring their fiscal horse in order, and be absolutely hated for it. Even here on MeFi, where people should know better.

Really, Malor?

How does reducing the state's Motor Vehicle registration fees -- Arnold's first act upon winning the governor's mansion and his shiniest campaign promise -- fit in with "trying to bring [the state's] fiscal house in order"? That single move added $4B to the state's debt. Per year.

Or maybe you were thinking of one of his bond initiatives -- you know, high speed rail, or bio research, or green energy. All worthwhile endeavors, to be sure -- and all funded with more debt.

What's frustrating is seeing people cling to the idea that Arnold was fiscally responsible when the evidence demonstrates the opposite. Even here on MeFi, where people should know better.
posted by notyou at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Apologies. The Republicans did improve in the MA House. They now have 32 out of 160 House seats, up from 16. However, they lost a state Senate seat, and now have 4 out of 40.

Scott Brown won earlier this year. Hardly a bad year for them, given the shallow bench. They've held the governors office quite a lot in the last 20 years.

Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Nevada also have large Latino populations, but they are increasingly or simply remain republican strongholds.
posted by humanfont at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2010


New Mexico is hardly a Republican stronghold...too many poor non-white people.
posted by notsnot at 10:39 AM on December 4, 2010


"Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Nevada also have large Latino populations, but they are increasingly or simply remain republican strongholds."

Yes. I think the Cubans are somewhat of a special case, but I'd note that the strength of white Republican support in the other states mentioned seems somewhat tied up with a dislike of the Latino community and dog whistle racist politics (see the support for Joe Arpaio, for example). That clear association in the public mind is something that will really hurt Republicans when the demographic tipping point comes.
posted by jaduncan at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2010


The Modern Bipartisanship - This Modern World
posted by Daddy-O at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Where people should know better
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Scott Brown won earlier this year. ... They've held the governors office quite a lot in the last 20 years.

We were talking about the November elections. Note that Brown's lame, party-anointed opponent won reelection to the state AG office, and Obama's friend Deval Patrick retained the Governorship. The Republicans have a hopeless position in the House (25%) and the Senate (10%). Your original statement was that "they managed to win the election everywhere else." They did not.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2010


More socialistic? Hasn't anyone been reading about the City of Bell? Much of Mexico's local government is deeply corrupt, and Bell's city government took full advantage of the naivete/passivity/forbearance of the locals. Bell closely resembles the exact corruption people had left behind in Mexico.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:30 PM on December 4, 2010


New Mexico is hardly a Republican stronghold...too many poor non-white people.

New Mexico voted for the Republican candidate in 6 of the 10 elections since 1972. So, no, not a stronghold, maybe, but not really all that much of a Democratic sure thing either.
posted by blucevalo at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2010


Ok yes technically the Republicans did not win everywhere else, they only picked up 10 govenorships and 63 house seats, narrowed the democrats edge in the senate and took control of many state legislatures right before redistricting. They delivered a shellacking of the Democrats, as one insider called it. Sorry for the hyperbole. I guess I'm just underwlemed by the predictions that the Republicans a finished in Califronia or elsewhere. We just saw them win a national election despite having had approval ratings in the mid 30s for most of the last two years. Things look bleak for the Democrats at the moment. So lets not take CA for granted. Romney could probably take it in 2012.
posted by humanfont at 7:31 PM on December 4, 2010


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