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Prop 187, Pete Wilson, and the CRP

by: Brian Leubitz

Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:17:26 AM PST


Governor Pete Wilson and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley at Los Angeles Metro subway opening day, January 29, 1993New York Times looks at the fallout of Prop 187 and anti-immigration politics

by Brian Leubitz

In 1994, Pete Wilson was looking at an election that was something of a risky proposition. The economy, like most of the country, was scuttling, and his favorable numbers weren't doing so well.  As the race for the Democratic nomination shaped up with Kathleen Brown (sister of the current governor) easing to victory over (now Congressman) John Garamendi and Tom Hayden, the dynamic was not looking to be an easy win for Wilson.

Yet in November, Wilson had claimed a 15 point victory over Brown. What happened in those years? Before Karl Rove rose to national prominence, and this became a term, it was Rovian politics at its best. Wilson knew he needed something to both turn out his base as well as tear some undecided voters, whatever the cost.  The cost turns out to be the future viability of the California Republican party by going all out for Proposition 187, the egregiously (and unconstitutionally) anti-immigrant measure that would have blocked the state to providing most services to immigrants.

It worked in 1994, with the issue serving as a wedge that motivated the majority white voting bloc to lean heavily towards Wilson. Yet, just as surely as it worked in 1994, the fallout has been devastating to the CRP. Every few years, some reporter writes about the legacy of Prop 187.

As Congress begins debating an overhaul of the immigration system, many in California sense that the country is just now beginning to go through the same evolution the state experienced over the last two decades. For a generation of Republicans, Gov. Pete Wilson's barrages on the impact of immigration in the 1990s spoke to their uneasiness with the way the state was changing. Now many California Republicans point to that as the beginning of their downfall.
*** **** ***
"The fact that the Republican Party got identified with anti-immigration has made things very difficult for them," said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California, which closely monitors shifts in the state. "It is what is going on nationally now, but California started much earlier."(NYT)

The Republicans are now attempting to dig themselves out of that mess, but it takes more than a few platitudes to make up for a generation of words and deeds. The demographics make it nearly impossible to win statewide election without a considerable portion of the Latino vote. And, interestingly enough, this is where Texas looks like it may be following in California's footsteps. The two states now have nearly half of the nation's Latino population, and both are rapidly growing.

California has always been on the leading edge, especially in politics. As goes California, so goes the nation. Jim Brulte and his CRP compatriots have a lot of colleagues in the same boat across the nation. Changing the dialogue is a gargantuan task, and one that may terrify much of the activist base.

Photo credit: Metro Transportation Library and Archive. Gov. Pete Wilson with LA Mayor Tom Bradley

Brian Leubitz :: Prop 187, Pete Wilson, and the CRP
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'White Power' Wilson (1.00 / 1)
A lot of people forget that 'White Power' Wilson worked for Richard Nixon

The Republican Party of that time worked on its'
'Southern Strategy' under Nixon
The strategy was to attract white voters from the Democratic Party in the South
Racial prejudice was the tool used

Wilson used s similar strategy during his Gubernatorial career
The only difference was to polarize white people against Latinos rather than Blacks
It worked
Temporarily

Republicans are reaping what they have sown
They've alienated Latinos, African Americans, the LGBT community, feminists ....


Wilson (8.00 / 1)
What you say is true to a point, but I think you miss one thing.  Wilson had a theory for how the Republican party coul be the majority party which included things like being pro-choice and being to the left of many Democrats on the environment.  If you look back at newspaper stories from the time, you will see many people saying Kathleen Brown couldn't win and that voters hadn't yet focused on what she believed in.  (Most early polls showed her in the 30's among conservative voters who just didn't like Wilson).  The only reason I bring this up is not to defend Wilson or the racist campaign in support of 187, but simply to say that like most politicians, he wasn't just trying to elect himself, he did have some long term goals for where he thought the state (and the nation should be going).  But he also did leave the Republican party split in a way they have never recovered from, because they have lost both the female vote and the latino vote and still haven't been able to unite around a message to either group.  But at some point, they probably will and Democrats need to worry more about showing how important government programs are for everyone and how they can be efficient than they need to try and demonize Republicans.    The Reps at the top are primarily about money and will make any sort of compromises that are necessary for their main goal.  We on the other hand will have the conflicts that always exist between different ethnic and income groups that we need to bring together and that will be a tough sell if the other side ever gets their act together.  JMO!

"Liberal Fascist" (1.00 / 1)
A posting had this term.  It is inflammatory, does not contribute to productive discussion, so I blocked that post.

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