Down in the Weeds: California, Part 2

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

In the previous entry, this writer outlined some of the demographic and cultural influences on the decline of the GOP in California.  There are two shreds of hope- one that seems destiny and the other that requires actual work by the state GOP.

As Victor David Hanson sees it, Californians will eventually tire of one-party rule.  Voters are worried about forest mismanagement, high taxes for minimal gain, rolling blackouts, unaffordable housing and an array of taxes.  The growing lunacy of the Democrat Left is one saving grace for the GOP in the state.  Many of the positions they have taken should scare the hell out of California’s remaining middle and working class.

State policies that endorse open borders may not even be popular with Hispanics born here or naturalized.  While governor Gavin Newsom moves to extend Medi-Cal to illegal immigrants, the national party is moving to wipe out the private medical insurance business upon which the middle and working class rely.  Is a generous handout to an illegal population a winning message among others losing their insurance on the private market?

Already, California’s draconian climate change policies are having a deleterious effect on the state.  Rising energy and housing costs in response to such measures have businesses and workers fleeing the state.  Future moves being contemplated affect the very thing that defines the commuter nature of California workers: transportation.  Costly boondoggles where mass transit is not convenient or even feasible are being proposed.

While it is true that first generation Hispanic immigrants tend to be more liberal (excluding Cubans), they grow more conservative by the second generation.  Perhaps, the GOP will have to wait a generation to make gains, but there are things they can do now to either lay the groundwork, or pull off a few surprises.

Since ballot harvesting is not going away in California, the GOP needs to match those efforts of the Democrats.  There are bona fide Democrat targets in California besides making plays for the districts lost in 2018 that were either close or reversed by ballot harvesting.  For example, Ami Bera and Jerry McNerney in the northern San Joaquin Valley rarely pull 53% of the vote for Democrats.

The first step is, of course, to recruit viable candidates and then make sure that come Election Day, voters have a choice between a Democrat and a Republican.  Under California law, primaries are non-partisan and the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.  Since this system was adopted, the Democrats have flooded the field with candidates in many districts.  Some of this is attributable to the fact that Democrats far outnumber the GOP in liberal strongholds.  But in many cases over the years, the GOP has thrown in the towel before a single political flier was printed or a vote cast.  In effect, you have a Democrat vs. Democrat general election.

Even where this situation may arise, it would likely pay dividends for the GOP to back the least crazy of the two Democrats that emerge from the primary.  Pumping dark money and support into opponents of people like Nancy Pelosi, Eric Swalwell, Adam Schiff, and Maxine Waters- regardless of their opponent- could possibly result in an improvement of the collective IQ of the House.  Naturally, a Republican defeating any of these nut cakes would be the best outcome, but realistically that is not happening in these districts.  If voters hear from the Democrat, they need to hear from the Republican 200 times.

Further, California’s growth engine was once dispersed throughout the state.  Today, it is concentrated in the ultra-liberal Bay Region.  This bifurcated economy between a sizable high-wage population, but a larger low-paid service industry works brilliantly to the ruling (Democrat) regime.  If tech industry giants continue to earn capital gains and feed the government in Sacramento, they can offer subsidies and further inducements to the poor.  Perhaps the GOP could play the class warfare game without the racial overtones played by the Democrats.

Naturally, no one believes Trump will win California’s electoral votes come 2020.  The action will be at the House level to win back some seats.  Given his approval ratings in the state, he may be toxic to some down ballot Republicans, but with Republicans having nowhere to go but up, aligning oneself with Trump is not a losing proposition.  Gaining name recognition as a pro-Trump candidate in a district held by Adam Schiff could prove to be interesting, if not comical.

Also, the state of the economy cannot be overlooked.  California is a perfect example of progressive policies killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Illegal immigration is ironically one area that can be used to the advantage of the Republicans.  Illegal immigration, especially in the era of the Democrat Politburo in Sacramento and Gavin Newsom, will overtax social services and decrease wages overall.  At one time not too long ago, Democrat politicians, unions and other liberal groups worried about the effects of low-wage illegal immigrants entering the country.  Today, it is the GOP sounding that warning.  Statistics clearly show that when two federal judges struck down the will of 59% of California voters with Proposition 187, these deleterious effects came to fruition and California became a beacon for more illegal immigrants which only worsened the situation.

There may be pockets of optimism for the GOP.  Kevin Faulconer won his second term as San Diego Mayor, and John Lee won a seat on the LA City Council where Democrats lead 54%-12% in registration.  But, these are outliers.  At the local level, the key is not to nationalize the race.  Recruiting a diverse, but conservative Republican option to the Far Left Democrats will not pay dividends in the short run, but may down the line.  Although many blame Trump, the slow decline started before his arrival on the political scene.  It started with a state GOP apparatus who did a bad job of recruiting candidates and standing behind vulnerable ones by throwing good money after bad when they even decided to spend any money.

Rebuilding the middle class with a strong conservative economic message is a must.  In the past decade, the white population in California has declined by 700,000 while the Hispanic population has increased by 2 million and the Asian population by 1 million.  The largest demographic leaving the state are middle class workers with families between the ages of 35 and 44- a natural GOP constituency.  The state GOP is ossified and living in the 1990s where today they stress issues of little or no concern to voters.  A recent survey out of California found that 57% of respondents believe the next generation will be worse than their own.

Even middle class liberals like affordable homes, reliable energy delivery and a host of economic goods.  Waiting for the Democrats to implode the state seems to be, at this point, the best strategy the GOP has in the state.  Yet in 2018, not a single Republican made this case in their campaigns, save a few.  Outside of an initiative to repeal the recent gas tax- an effort opposed by the business/establishment Republicans- the GOP has no coherent message in the state for winning middle class people, or those aspiring to middle class status.  Even the gas tax repeal looks destined to fail.

On its current directory, California seems destined for one-party oligarchic rule where the progressive triumvirate of academia, media and the bureaucracy rule without effective opposition.  The only hopeful signs of any pushback are not coming from Republicans but independent candidates who view the “R” after their name as a liability today.  But many conservative views like fiscal prudence, charter schools and reviving the state’s economy beyond the tech sector could appeal to not only millennials, but also legal immigrants.  Local control over zoning and land use has the support of about 70% of the electorate that fears intrusive state control.  Many voters in the interior are growing weary of being under the Svengali gaze of Bay Area liberals.  There is palpable talk of displeasure with the Democrats among Hispanics in these areas fed up with rising energy and home prices.  These are issues upon which the GOP must pounce if they hope to restore any semblance of respectability in the state.

Instead, thanks to the uber-rich tech giants of Silicon Valley and ignorant liberal Hollywood cast of misfits, they stand in stark opposition to the reality of California and what progressivism has wrought.

  • one of the lowest consumer confidence ratings in the country;
  • the boondoggle of high-speed rail projects;
  • highest in the nation poverty rate;
  • one of the leading states in terms of income inequality;
  • low rates of home ownership;
  • some of the nation’s most notorious worse highway systems;
  • underperforming schools;
  • homelessness problems in LA and San Francisco, especially for immigrant families despite lucrative state benefits;
  • large swaths of these cities looking like Mogadishu or the poor sections of Mumbai.

What is needed is an infusion of Trumpist populism in breaking with the gentry Left.  Focusing on these fiscal issues also serves to drive a wedge between Democrat politicians and their union backers.  On the fiscal issues, Trumpism denies Democrats a place in the center and leaves them relegated to the fringe and failing Left.  To appeal beyond a shrinking base, the California GOP needs to center on the following:

  1. reigning in the untenable public sector pension problem;
  2. reform of schools including school choice programs, and;
  3. decrease the cost of energy.

By focusing on these areas, perhaps enough voters will be convinced they have been dunces and Democrats are the dupes of special interests at odds with the electorate- the teacher unions, public employee groups, immigrant rights groups, and green energy charlatans.  Most importantly, it aims to win back homeowners rather than transient renters.

Next- Summary and observations