California Republicans Once Again Left Wondering What’s Next

Once again, Republicans in California find themselves looking up and seeing a lot of desolation. They need to find a way to bounce back.

As I noted, yesterday, Orange County, California, once the stronghold of Republicans in California dating back to the beginning of the political careers of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, turned completely blue in the recent midterms. While many pundits have made note of this, much of the change that this election has revealed in what had once been a Republican stronghold can be traced to the same factors that have caused the entire state of California, once a state that was considered a Republican stronghold, to become increasingly blue. For the longest time, of course, the Golden State had served as part of what many people began referring to in the Reagan years as a “Republican lock” on the Electoral College, but things began changing in 1992 when Bill Clinton became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to win the state in a Presidential election. Shortly after that, the state began to slip away thanks to changes in demographics and the fact that the Republican Party’s shift to the far right on issues like immigration has turned off many Latino voters in the state. As a result, the GOP has consistently been bleeding seats at the Congressional level to the point where, starting in January, Republicans will make up just eight of the fifty-three Congressional Districts currently allocated to the Golden State. Additionally, Republicans have consistently lost ground in the state legislature in Sacramento to the point where Democrats now have supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature that would allow them to override any Gubernatorial veto assuming the party stays together. Finally, other than Arnold Schwarzenegger whose election was in many ways a fluke, Republicans have not elected a Governor in California since Pete Wilson was elected in 1990.

All of this has left California Republicans wondering how they can resurrect themselves:

In the wake of a near-political annihilation in California that has left even longtime conservative stronghold Orange County bereft of a single Republican in the House of Representatives, a growing chorus of GOP loyalists here say there’s only one hope for reviving the flatlining party: Blow it up and start again from scratch.

That harsh assessment comes as Republicans survey the damage from the devastation of a “blue tsunami” in California which wiped out five GOP-held House seats — with more still threatened — while handing every statewide seat and a supermajority to the Democrats in both houses of the state legislature this wee

The latest blows wiped out two more GOP seats in Southern California: Democrat Katie Porter, an UC Irvine professor, on Thursday was declared the winner over Republican Rep. Mimi Walters in a district which represents the beating political heart of Orange County, and Democrat Gil Cisneros completed the rout Saturday, winning the neighboring open seat formerly held by Republican Ed Royce.

“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,” says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.”

Republicans like Madrid also mourned another low point this week: the defeat of Southern California Assemblyman Dante Acosta, marking the demise of the last GOP Latino legislator — in a state where Latinos comprise the fastest-growing electorate.

“The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead,” wrote former state GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen, who startled fellow Republicans with a brutally frank op-ed this week saying Republicans must acknowledge their “serious problem” in California, particularly the effects of toxicity of President Trump.

GOP strategist John Weaver, who has worked California races and also has represented the presidential campaign of Ohio governor John Kasich, seconded Olsen’s view, tweeting that the effects of the Trump presidency have doomed any chance of resurrection. “In one fell swoop Trump & Republicans who willingly handcuffed themselves to him have turned Orange County into a GOP wasteland,” he tweeted this week. “You want to see the future? Look no further than the demographic death spiral in the place once considered a cornerstone of the party.”

Madrid argues that many California Republican leaders remain in complete denial of the fact that their continued support of Trump presidency has sealed the fate of the GOP — and last week’s midterm elections revealed the true extent of the GOP’s rot in California, where the state party has now shrunken to third party status.

“Now, it’s just open warfare. The barbarians have broken through the gates. The army is in full retreat,” said Madrid, who adds there’s no hope left for a party that for years has been on a path toward destruction. “Burn it to the ground. I want to reconstitute.”

Republicans looking at the ashes of the midterm results say they must envision what a new party will look like — after the current structure and its leadership has been entirely disassembled.

(…)

[A] growing number of Republicans in the party’s #NeverTrump wing — which includes prominent strategists like Rob Stutzman and Luis Alvarado — insist that a new beginning will rely heavily on a full-throated repudiation of Trump’s caustic divisiveness. They believe the rebuilding process could require years, if not generations, to rid the state GOP of the taint of a president who is blamed for ramping up anti-immigrant sentiment in a state that is home to more immigrants than any other in the country.

This situation isn’t healthy, not just for California Republicans but for Californians as a whole and, ultimately, for the entire country. The viability of a political system such as ours depends on the existence of viable political parties that compete for and, ideally, share power to the point where compromises need to be made in order for things to get done. That’s not the situation in Calfornia today. Not only do Democrats control all of the statewide elected offices in state government, they also have supermajorities in the state legislature to the point that the Republicans who do serve there have virtually no voice. This same sort of situations exists in other strongly Democratic states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, of course, but at least in those states, the Republican Party has been able to put forward candidates for Governor that can win statewide, thus placing at least some check on the power of the legislature. In California, as in several deeply red Republican states, the dominance of one party over the other is so overwhelming that the second party, whether it be Republicans in California or Democrats in Wyoming or Alabama, is largely irrelevant. In many cases, one can point to both structural issues such as gerrymandering and political issues as being the reason for this dominance. Whatever the reason, though, it’s not something that’s healthy in the long-term and both Republicans and Democrats in California should hope that the GOP finds a way to bounce back from nearly two decades of losing.

In California as well as many other states, it seems fairly clear that there’s really only one reason that Republicans did as poorly as they did this year, and it can be found sitting behind the Resolute Desk. Nationally, the President’s Job Approval remains at historic lows, something that has been true virtually from the time he entered office and from which he has never recovered. Presently, for example, the RealClearPolitics average puts the President’s disapproval at 52.9% and his approval at 43.3% for a deficit of -9.6 points. By contrast, in California, his disapproval/approval deficit stands at roughly -24 points. Given numbers like that, it’s no surprise that the Republican Party in California paid the kind of price at the polls that it did. The President’s numbers are similarly bad in states like New Jersey and in New England, where Republicans suffered similarly spectacular losses. Looking ahead to potential problems in 2020, the President also has double-digit deficits in states such as Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all of which are home to the white, working-class voters that served as the base that put him over the top in the Electoral College two years ago. (Source)

All of this goes a long way toward saying that the problems that California Republicans find themselves in are not unique to their state. It’s similar to problems that Republicans in Arizona, Virginia, New England, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere also need to recognize. Notwithstanding the fact that they managed to pick up Senate seats in states that, by all accounts, they should have been expected to win anyway, the fact of the matter is that the Republican Party suffered big losses on November 6th not just at the Congressional level but among Governors and state legislatures. It’s also clear that there’s only one reason for these losses, and that’s Donald Trump and the fact that the GOP is now, effectively, Donald Trump’s Party. While there are many states in the Deep South and elsewhere where this close relationship with Trump isn’t going to become a problem, for Republicans in much of the rest of the nation this close association with the President is going to continue dragging the party down. Whether they want to continue letting that happen is a choice that Republicansboth in California and around the country, are going to have to make sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, I disagree with your basic premise. You say:

    In California as well as many other states, it seems fairly clear that there’s really only one reason that Republicans did as poorly as they did this year, and it can be found sitting behind the Resolute Desk.

    but the reality is that the CA Republican Party has been losing ground for years, long before Trump showed up on the scene. You also say

    They need to find a way to bounce back

    but I question that too. Why do the Republicans need to bounce back? They are caught in a death spiral. No one interested in wielding political power is attracted to the CA Republican Party. No one interested in the environment. No one interested in education. Addressing homelessness. Fire prevention. Water issues. Basically, no one interested in governance is attracted to the CA Republicans both because they have no power and because they aren’t for anything, only against. On the other hand, who is attracted to their party? Basically, racists, misogynists and people who want to own the libs. I believe they have passed the point of no return. While creation of a new party by starting at the Federal level is nearly impossible, it could be done at the state level, and certainly at the local one. The never-Trump Repubs should concede defeat, select some issues and start rallying around those. Call themselves the New Republicans or something like that.

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  2. EddieinCA says:

    The GOP we once knew is dead. My first vote for president was for Ronald Reagan, at the age of 20. I voted for Reagan twice, and Bush I, before voting for Clinton in 1992. I’ve not voted for a Republican since, with the exception of Pete Wilson for Governor in his first term.

    The GOP that I initially voted for died, to me, in 1992 with Pat Buchanan’s speech at the convention. It was racist, and xenophobic. It turned me off of the party, and it’s not gotten better since. Living in California, it was easy to see where the GOP was headed.

    But I failed to know, living in California generally, and Los Angeles specifically, how xenophobic, racist, homophobic many parts of the rest of the country was (and still is). If you think back to how the GOP kept ginning up the votes of rural whites with horror stories about affirmative action, then gay marriage, then the 2nd Amendment, then islamophobia, it’s been a natural progression from mainstream party to a party of minority status with few minorities in it.

    Do you think Arizona will stay Red much longer? Texas? If Texas turns blue, and it might be a battleground in 2020, the GOP can kiss of the Presidency for the foreseeable future.

    As the old saying states, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” It’s just a matter of time.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This situation isn’t healthy, not just for California Republicans but for Californians as a whole and, ultimately, for the entire country. The viability of a political system such as ours depends on the existence of viable political parties that compete for and, ideally, share power to the point where compromises need to be made in order for things to get done. That’s not the situation in Calfornia today. Not only do Democrats control all of the statewide elected offices in state government, they also have supermajorities in the state legislature to the point that the Republicans who do serve there have virtually no voice.

    The situation in Misery is the mirror image with the GOP on top with almost absolute power. Fortunately for us Grietens was so full of himself none of the GOP in Jeff city could stand him and pushed him out. Our new Governor, Mike Parsons, seems like a perfectly reasonable person with a solid grounding in reality, so we’ve dodged a bullet for the moment. In 2 years tho, the rabid base may well turn on him and who knows what we might end up with then. If it is a person who recognizes and wants to work with the existing power structure in Jeff City rather than dictate marching orders to them, I could find myself living in a 3rd world oligarch real quick.

  4. just nutha says:

    Already been said, but allow me to reiterate

    California Republican leaders remain in complete denial of the fact that their continued support of Trump presidency has sealed the fate of the GOP…

    …because they see no problem with who Trump is in that he is only supporting what they all believe and want done.

    He’s not a catalyst, only a mirror. Republicans and conservatives haven’t become anything they weren’t already before Trump came down on the escalator.

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  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    a new beginning will rely heavily on a full-throated repudiation of Trump’s caustic divisiveness

    Good luck when people like McClintock, Nunes, Hunter, McCarthy, etc. are still in office. If anything, it looks like the GOP is going to double down on being even more white nationalist.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @just nutha:

    He’s not a catalyst, only a mirror.

    Couldn’t have said it better.

  7. Ol Nat says:

    The viability of a political system such as ours depends on the existence of viable political parties that compete for and, ideally, share power to the point where compromises need to be made in order for things to get done.

    Here in California the fulcrum is just really off-center, so the checks and balances are actually still happening, they’re just happening between the Left and the far Left.

  8. Mona says:

    @EddieinCA: I, too, voted Republican until ‘92. I had just been selected as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, and after the GOP convention I thought to myself, these bozos couldn’t even “let” 1 woman speak from a position of, something, anything? They clearly didn’t represent me anymore.

  9. Kathy says:

    I think part of the reason some states get to be dominated by one party to the almost total exclusion of the other, lies in the near end of legislative compromise.

    For example, a moderate Republican candidate for Congress might be attractive to voters along a broad middle spectrum. But once elected, he’s likely to vote along party lines in Washington, where the Republican agenda is much farther to the right than our hypothetical Congressman and his voters. Vice versa for moderate Democrats.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ol Nat: Here in Misery, it’s between the right and the far right.

    @Kathy:

    I think part of the reason some states get to be dominated by one party to the almost total exclusion of the other,

    Gerrymandering. Hence the fear of being “primaried”.

  11. Slugger says:

    Don’t know anything about California, but a college friend became an exec at Hewlett Packard. When the GOP appeared to take Carly Fiorina seriously, he was livid and lost to the Republicans. She won 20% of the votes in her home precinct. I was going to make remarks about people who can’t carry their home constituency, but I checked the 2016 election in NYC.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    I’m far from an expert in CA politics, but didn’t the Rs pretty much bankrupt the state? Why would people elect a Party that’s shown it can’t govern. And isn’t the national Rs tax cut, with it’s deduction cap hitting CA hard?

  13. Timothy Watson says:

    It takes a lot chutzpah for the California GOP, the party of Pete Wilson and Prop 187, to complain about toxicity and xenophobia.

  14. Tyrell says:

    @Ol Nat: But look at the situation of the Democratic party – moving further to the left, more socialists running, and out of touch with the values of the working class people. Not the party that I knew long ago. There are still plenty of Democrats down here that are active in local and state politics. There are enough that could swing the party back to the middle if different leaders ran the party. Party leaders in the great southern tradition of Lyndon Johnson, Sam Nunn, Jimmy Carter, John Connally*, Sam Ervin, William Fulbright, and Wilbur Mills.
    *John Connally – the man who survived Oswald’s assassination attempt.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    POLITICO has an article, How California Gave Us Trumpism. Points out that Bannon, Stephen Miller, and a bunch of their sort grew up, and like Breitbart still operate , in California. The writers point out that if your inclined to be terrified of diversity and political correctness, California is the place to set you off. They also point out that one of the enabling factors is that in CA conservatives are so far from power that they can be as crazy as they want with no real world consequences.

    They do mention that Californian Peter Thiel funded a lot of this, but I see no mention of the Mercers who funded Breitbart. They do mention the Claremont Institute, home of the “West Coast Straussians” who provide a lot of the “scholarly” underpinning for the Koch/Mercer sort of libertarian wet dream, but without mentioning their funding (Sara Scaife Foundation).

  16. EddieInCA says:

    @Tyrell:

    Tyrell says:
    Monday, November 19, 2018 at 21:31
    @Ol Nat: But look at the situation of the Democratic party – moving further to the left, more socialists running, and out of touch with the values of the working class people.

    Tyrell –

    I’m tired of hearing this!! Out of touch with working class people? Really? Seriously??

    Which party fights for a living wage – to help working class people?
    Which party fights for affordable health care – to help working class people?
    Which party fights for higher taxes on the rich – to help working class people?
    Which party fights for worker safety and better wages through unions – to help working class people?
    Which party fights for the environment, clean air, and clean water – to help working class people?

    C’mon, Tyrell, you’re smarter than this.

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  17. al Ameda says:

    @One American:

    It was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60’s -80’s not knowing or caring one bit about politics.

    I grew up in the suburbs about 15 miles north of San Francisco in the 60s. It’s very affluent now, but it was very working and middle class then. Back then it was very common for our representatives to be moderate Republicans. From a general policy standpoint there was not as much difference between a Republican and a Democrat as there is today.

    But as you know, Vietnam, Civil Rights and Equal Rights changed all of that, and 40 years later we’re at a place where, here in the Bay Area, with the exception of very local politics, a state or federal level Republican politician has almost no chance of being elected.

    Some of my favorite national politicians were moderate Republicans – Jacob Javits, Mark Hatfield, Robert Stafford, John Chaffee, Clifford Case. Yeah, I miss that.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @EddieInCA: But but but guns. And Jesus.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    The future of the GOP in California is annihilation.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: California is one of the few places I can see giving rise to a third party, such as the “New Republicans” I mentioned above. It’s big enough to be its own country, and has a voting block in the House big enough they could sway a decent amount of votes. In our past such regional third parties usual ended up being absorbed by one of the main parties (and changing them in the process) or, very rarely, taking the place of one of those parties.

  21. EddieInCA says:

    @MarkedMan:

    That would be amazing… but for what issues would they stand?

    I mean, everywhere the GOP has taken complete control has proven to be disastrous when they implemented GOP policies. Kansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Alabama, etc. Ironically, when the Dems take control in some of these places (Kentucky, Florida, Missouri), things change for the better, only for the GOP to screw it up when they get control again.

    I’m done fighting for people who refuse to fight for themselves because of Jesus, Guns, and Gays.

  22. Teve says:

    California is one of the few places I can see giving rise to a third party, such as the “New Republicans” I mentioned above.

    A name change won’t do anything. Their central problem is their base is angry rural uneducated Bible-lovin elderly white men, and that base is shrinking.

    trump’s base isn’t enough

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Nate says not enough to win the presidency. I fear they’re still enough to hold the Senate and maybe take back the House as long as their gerrymanders and vote suppression are still in place.

  24. Kari Q says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m far from an expert in CA politics, but didn’t the Rs pretty much bankrupt the state? Why would people elect a Party that’s shown it can’t govern.

    It’s more complicated than this, but basically yes.

    Until 2010, the legislature needed a 2/3 majority to pass a budget and Republicans held just enough power to keep that from happening, refused to compromise, and so the budget was late every single year, forcing the state into emergency measures.

    It wasn’t the representatives fault entirely; their voters demanded that they act that way. Any Republican lawmaker who did compromise and voted for the budget immediately lost the next primary, so compromising wasn’t in the candidate’s electoral best interests. The only ones who were willing to do it were those who were about to be term limited out and had no further political ambitions. They were not common.

    The racism and xenophobia lost Hispanics, the refusal to compromise lost the moderates. Trump was the coup de grace; the party was already mortally wounded.

    And isn’t the national Rs tax cut, with it’s deduction cap hitting CA hard?

    It is, but I’m not sure that people have really realized that yet. Since it won’t really show up until April, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised.