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It's OK That the California Republican Party Is Irrelevant

by: Robert Cruickshank

Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 08:00:00 AM PDT


One would think that in a democracy, the preferences of voters would drive political analysis. If voters abandoned one of the parties in droves to the point where that party became irrelevant, it would be a sign of a healthy political system that was adaptable and flexible to changing public views. If, however, one party became massively unpopular yet still wielded power and influence, that would be the sign of a failing political system - one that did not reflect the views of a democratic people.

In California, we have witnessed the long yet inevitable death of the Republican Party. Driven by a base that hates everything about 21st century California, from its diversity to its social and economic values, California Republicans have made themselves irrelevant by their refusal to abandon that crazy base or their own unpopular ideologies.

They lost every statewide election in 2010. They have not picked up a Congressional or legislative seat from Democrats in nearly a decade. The independent redistricting process found that the previous lines had been gerrymandered for Republicans and when they produced a fair redistricting, Republicans faced the loss of numerous seats. Republican party registration has been in decline for years. And the last time Republicans controlled the Legislature, the Beatles were still making records together.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. California Republicans do not reflect the values or desires or diversity of their state and so they are a dying party. Parties that get out of step with their electorates die - it has happened before (Federalists and Whigs aren't on the ballot) and more importantly, it is a good thing. It is a sign that democracy still works, even in a state with serious structural problems.

Yet it is wrong if you are someone like George Skelton who prefers to believe that a healthy democracy requires not a party system that reflects voter preferences, but an artificial one that represents left and right equally, even if the right has been rejected by the state's voters. In his column in today's LA Times, Skelton sees it as bad for democracy that the right is no longer part of governance in this state - even though voters have made it absolutely clear they want nothing to do with them:

A Democratic governor - basically a moderate - doesn't find it worthwhile to dicker with conservatives. Brown futilely tried for several months last year to reach a deal with Republican lawmakers in which they'd provide the necessary two-thirds legislative vote to place a tax measure on the state ballot.

Republican leaders wouldn't negotiate at all. A handful of unranked GOP senators agreed to talk. But for whatever reason - Brown wouldn't cross labor, Republicans feared anti-tax demagogues - bargaining broke down.

So Brown went the signature-collecting initiative route. To achieve his goal of placing a potentially winnable tax increase on the ballot, the governor felt compelled to deal with the far left. The right - the GOP - was irrelevant.

That's unhealthy in a democracy. And it's nobody's fault except the hard-right GOP's. The party allowed itself to become so weak in California that it has little to offer Democrats in bargaining. And what it does have, it refuses to offer.

This is absurd. The only reason Brown is going to the ballot is because of the undemocratic rule requiring a 2/3 vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Without that, Brown could have passed a tax increase in the legislature (as the Constitution intended) or he could have put something on the ballot for voters directly.

More importantly, there is nothing at all unhealthy about refusing to negotiate with a party that has been consistently rejected by California voters. If Republicans had made big gains in 2010, if they were a growing rather than a shrinking party, then maybe Skelton might have a point that they've earned a role in negotiating a ballot initiative.

Californians have made it clear they don't like Republicans and they don't like right-wing ideology or values. They have consistently rejected them. That's true of tax policy, where local tax increases routinely pass, and where most receive 50% of the vote even if passage requires the undemocratic 66.6% mark. The debate in California is about which taxes are the right ones to levy. To Republicans, the debate should be about whether any taxes at all should be levied.

But voters have rejected that too - Meg Whitman promised no new taxes and she lost to Jerry Brown by 13 points. Brown promised "no new taxes without voter approval" - indicating he was indeed open to tax increases - and is now governor.

Skelton's focus on an artificial and obsolete left-right equality means he doesn't grapple with the more interesting and relevant questions as to why Republicans and the right are dying in California. Just 20 years ago right-wing politics was quite viable in the Golden State. California was a swing state in the 1992 election, after having voted for Republican presidential candidates in each of the past five elections. In 1994 Republicans re-elected a right-wing governor, narrowly won the Assembly, and came close to taking the Senate.

It's been all downhill since then. The 1994 victory came by rallying whites against Latinos. But in the subsequent 20 years Latinos have soared in population and gotten politically organized to oppose the right and the Republicans. Many conservative whites left the state and those who remained have steadily grown more progressive.

California has changed, and its political system and its parties ought to change with it. If a party refuses to change and adapt, then that party should rightly suffer the consequences at the ballot box. That's exactly what has happened to the Republicans. And that means they have lost any claim to playing a role in the governance of this state.

Ultimately, this raises the question of whether Skelton is still a useful political commentator on California issues. He clearly has a lot of background and expertise. But he also seems to not understand modern California. Until he realizes that the death of the Republican Party is a healthy thing for democracy, he's going to keep advocating for unhealthy political practices merely out of a misguided desire to uphold political balance at the expense of political reality.

Robert Cruickshank :: It's OK That the California Republican Party Is Irrelevant
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I don't think he disagrees with you (5.00 / 1)
At least in this editorial, he seems to be saying exactly the same thing you are. Republicans have blown any opportunity to provide input in state policy by veering hard right in a way most Californians find offensive. Republicans refuse to negotiate and have nothing to offer, so Gov. Brown has no choice but to negotiate to the left.

The only difference is that Skelton laments this, because he seems to think Republicans could move Gov. Brown's policies at least a little to the right by dealing with him. Instead, they shut him out and push him further left. This is entirely consistent with what you're saying.

Skelton does make a good point that a key piece of evidence whether California's voters really have abandoned all conservative ideas will be how they vote on these initiatives. While voters here do elect a large majority of Democrats, they do reject liberal initiatives (and support conservative ones) fairly regularly. As Skelton suggests, this implies at least some support for conservative ideas among a majority of voters. He's just saying that Republicans have given up any hope of appealing to this conservative streak by tacking hard right and refusing to negotiate.

To me, that sounds entirely consistent with your points.


I disagree (0.00 / 0)
Skelton seems to want centrism for its own sake. I am more concerned with what the voters want.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Centrist? (0.00 / 0)
I don't think he's even trying to be "centrist." He'd probably admit to prefer a conservative state government. That's obviously where you and he differ (and I side with you).

But on the main point of his editorial, I think you both agree--that by refusing to accept reality and negotiate, Republicans have killed any chance to make a conservative voice heard. The difference is just that he laments that fact, while you (and I) do not.

I still stand by my other point that Californian voters are not necessarily as liberal overall as you or I, based on their history of voting on initiatives. As further detailed by the commenters below, this history does not show a clear progressive bias.


[ Parent ]
Proof? .... (0.00 / 0)
Skelton does make a good point that a key piece of evidence whether California's voters really have abandoned all conservative ideas will be how they vote on these initiatives. While voters here do elect a large majority of Democrats, they do reject liberal initiatives (and support conservative ones) fairly regularly.

Are you talking about Prop 8?  How much money did out-of-state orgs throw at that?


[ Parent ]
chump may mean this... (6.50 / 2)
I think chump's comment should give us pause.  Does he have a point?  Well,  Phil, if your thirst for Repug blood can never be sated... I'm not sure you are interested in looking further at this.  

If, however, you ask a sincere question, then here is what I found:

2008  The California Democratic Party took a position on 11 of 12 propositions on the Nov. ballot.  The voters agreed with 7 of the 11 positions.  I will add that at least 3 of the props were not really Left vs. Right ($ for children's hospitals, to help vets buy homes and high-speed rail studies) so on more idealogical issues, the Dems were 4 for 8.  The Courage Campaign was the same outcome.

2010  The Democratic Party took a position on 8 of 9 propositions on the November ballot.  Voters agreed on only 2 of those 8 positions (passing the budget with a simple majority and not suspending our environ laws until unemployment dropped).  Courage Campaign was the same 2 for 8.

2010 June election saw Public Campaign Funding rejected and the passing of the Top 2 Move Onto General Election (I am not sure if either of these outcomes were what Liberals wanted).

So Phil, you can decide what you will, but I am thinking that chump just MAY have a point worth considering... nah, easier and more fun just to rant at those irrelevant, nasty Repugs....


[ Parent ]
Skelton contradicts himself (4.25 / 4)
The first part you quoted says it all, "A Democratic governor - basically a moderate - doesn't find it worthwhile to dicker with conservatives. Brown futilely tried for several months last year to reach a deal with Republican lawmakers in which they'd provide the necessary two-thirds legislative vote to place a tax measure on the state ballot."

Let's break this down:

Brown doesn't find it worthwhile to negotiate with conservatives. Why is that?

Because he tried it for several months and they wouldn't budge. As Skelton fails to note, not only did the GOP refuse to move on ANY of the things Brown wanted, they added a list of something like 53 demands to what he'd already offered. I have a copy of the GOP letter around here somewhere. It's pretty clear they're not actually negotiating. I've seen kidnap ransom notes that were more flexible.

So they failed to reach a deal. This is not, as Skelton asserts, because Brown refused to bend. He did. The GOP rejected everything he offered and asked for things they knew he couldn't get support for. In other words, they just jerked him around and then tried to make it look like his fault. If Skelton is dumb enough to fall for the trick, then you may be right, he's no longer fit to be a political commentator for any major media outlet.

As for his point that we need two parties, we really don't. We could have three or five. And none of them particularly needs to be conservative. The purpose of a political party is to represent the values of the members. Since Decline to State is quickly becoming our largest political registration, I'd hazard a guess that more and more voters find our political parties lacking. But election results certainly tell that story for Republicans. What we absolutely DO need is a system of political representation that's capable of the give and take that's necessary to accomplish what's best for citizens. In other words, one that's capable of governing.

The true story of this failed "negotiation" demonstrates that the California GOP is no long willing to participate in governing the state. Or the nation, for that matter, as they're doing pretty much the same thing in Washington, D.C.

The Republicans are being protected by media that lies about what's actually happening--as Skelton as done here. Or worse, as they do on conservative radio and TV where they do more than leave out inconvenient facts, but actually make up ones that better fit their agenda. Combined with the historic election cycle swing of voters deciding they didn't get all of what they wanted in the last election, or didn't get it fast enough; Republicans made gains in 2010. And voters are pretty horrified about what they did with their office. Look at Wisconsin and Ohio. Unfortunately, the GOP elders are not stupid. They timed their wins well and have been able to gerrymander safe seats that will protect their access to elected office for the next decade. But that doesn't mean they represent half the voters in California or the country. They don't.  


out of power (5.00 / 1)
cfinnie,

I think you jumped a bit equating sacramento to DC.  The GOP is doing what every out of power party does. Or have you forgotten how the Dems in DC behaved with Bush in power.  I will give you that the GOP approach trying to get into power is different.

Again using DC as a comparison - when the GOP finds itself out of power it argues principles and motivates the hardcore. This is generally because the GOP is based more on motivated turnout than hoping on massive droves - the angry party.  The Dems in contrast are a party of "numbers"  just bus them to the polls and they'll vote.  thats why the angry party is the GOP where the Democrats tend to be more wishy-washy (though there is certainly passion on the left).

When it comes to out of power the GOP needs to rally - or better anger up - its base to get turn out and funds. When the Dems are out of power they need to through a big net to get the numbers in an election so they will temd to moderate and even for the GOP on what is seen as broadly popular laws (as Bush's wars were at the onset).    


[ Parent ]
When Bush was in power? (0.00 / 0)
In what ways did you find the Democrats behavior similar when Bush was in power? I don't remember anything like this myself. But I'm willing to hear any examples you have.

[ Parent ]
C'mon cfinnie! sure you remember... (0.00 / 0)
the blocking of legislation by Democrats on The Patriot Bill? Bush's energy bill? The border security bill? Parental notification bill? Class-action lawsuit reform? judicial nominations? social security reform? India nuke agreement?

Bottomline is that the party out of power does whatever it can to stop the agenda that is in power.  Doubt it? imagine if the GOP ran CA now, you think the Dems would be voting for all their issues? on gay rights, the environment, really?

The party out of power obstructs. Thats what they are supposed to do. Its the opposition. If not they'd be the same party.


[ Parent ]
On why GOP fails in CA (4.00 / 2)
To follow up - The GOP is trying to do its usual anger and principles rally in California to gain power.  But because CA is more laiid back and its a wealthier state so paying some taxes don't seem anathema, and social issues don't get everyone as fired up it totally fails.  The GOP trying its national strategy or trying what works in the South is what is killing.  Part of that is sticking to principles that CA has moved on from, the other part is that the consulting intelligentsia gets its victories elsewhere and foolishly applies them here (i.e. Rove in 2005 advises Arnie).

the "elephant in the room" no pun intended on this article is that with the crash of the GOP (and decline of Dems_) what takes its place.  the Dem label still has clout so I expect it to start cleaving.  More and more it will be the progressive Dems fighting the Biz Dems (i.e. social moderate GOP party switchers).  And I think Biz will win.  It won't be called the GOP, but it will certainly be a slimmed down version of it.


[ Parent ]
I've said again and again... (4.50 / 2)
For the lefties here to be careful what they wish for.  No Dem is going to want to be the deciding vote for a tax increase.  By rendering the GOP irrelevant they have opened the way for business interests to take contrl of the moderate Democrats.  This development along with the top 2 system is going to lead to what could best be described as a liberal/libertarian mis-mash where moderate Dems and libertarian leaning GOPers will set the agenda.

The social cons are about to go extinct.

Hi. I'm Charles.  I worked my way from homelessness to a business owner.  Be what you have it in you to be!


[ Parent ]
and progressives lose to... (4.00 / 1)
without the social conservatives to make the far left look reasonable they lose to.

[ Parent ]
Contact Information (0.00 / 0)
Hi there, I would like to send you some information regarding the War on Women.  Do you have an email where I can contact you?  I didn't see it on here anywhere.

Regards - Suzy


The Irrelevant GOP (4.67 / 3)
Here is a joke that I think sums this whole thing up:

What is the difference between a terrorist and a Republican? You can negotiate with a terrorist.  


Great Line !! (0.00 / 0)
Two thumbs up !!

[ Parent ]
Democrats and Propositions (0.00 / 0)
I can be a Democrat and vote against Propositions.  The Proposition system to me is not user friendly.  Often the information I receive is difficult to understand, twisted in the media to the point I do not trust it and involves spending massive amounts of money when the state is broke.  Democrats are not reckless spenders as Republicans like to believe.  The faction I truly distrust are the corporate stooges and their use of the system for their personal profit.  I would like to see the Proposition system modified, limited to Californians, easier to adjust by the legislature with total on-line disclosure regarding money behind the proposition. Republicans have supported Grover Norquist, obstructed through Proposition 13 and pandered to the wealthy.

The internet helps... (0.00 / 0)
 To expose the corporate stooges that concern you. We have plenty of problematic Democrats both at home and nationally.

Lanny Davis is just such a person. Not involved directly in policy making, he is however a corporate shill that votes for Democrats...

DiFi days are numbered....

Somebody needs to point out who I need to keep my eye on in Sacramento...


[ Parent ]
Germany? (0.00 / 0)
 Business Friendly Liberals/Progressives is known as the "Free Democrats" in Germany.

They didn't support Merkel when she signed law to force ALL Nuclear Plants to close in 20 years.

The Tea Party is basically the "Nazi Party" and yes they are apart of Parliament in Germany. They are connected to the murders of several people, usually Turks and Arabs over a nine year period.

So instead of their rank and file involved in racial motivated killings (which they are involved as well in American, don't get me wrong) what gets most media attention here is the murder of abortion clinic doctors... But still killing those they either hate or disagree with.

Those of us on Calitics are likely apart of the what's the  Green Party in Germany which is HARD Left, no different than the California Green Party or National Green Party, when the Christian Democrats mirror our own Federal DNC.

I don't see a problem with the GOP being irrelevant. In Los Angeles or the Bay Area only the most MODERATE of Republicans even got to be Mayor and this is because both areas are diverse.

In mostly White areas like the Central Valley, San Diego County, Ventura County, Orange County and around the Sacramento Delta tend to go either direction, with Orange County and Central Cali, along with the desert communities almost always vote Republican.

It seems that trend is changing in Orange County though.

I don't know who we have to push/remove in order to get Universal Health Care, but it will be just as easy to target more centrist Democrats as it is to target hard core Republicans.

If the rest of the country doesn't want to be more like Europe (minus its Central Bank and Large Bank created problems), I know we in California want to be more like Europe.

Free Higher Education (been there, done that, need to return too it)
Health Care For All (already in San Francisco)
High Speed Rail (About to break ground)
Strict Environmental Policy
Embrace Diversity

I am very bullish on California succeeding long term when most of the country will face serious problems mostly because the opposite ideology is in power.

Don't be surprised in the next 2-3 decades if the middle of the country and Deep South look like wastelands...

 


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