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Analysis: With No Statewide Winners Tuesday, Is California GOP Doomed?

John Cox makes a final wave goodbye to fellow Republicans (including county party chair Ton Krvaric at lectern).
Share This Article:John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe makes a remaining wave goodbye to fellow Republicans (together with county get together chair Ton Krvaric at lectern). Photograph by Ken Stone

By Ben Christopher  | CALmatters

Sporting starred and striped jackets and “Make America Great Again” hats, the California Republicans who gathered on election night time within the U.S. Grant Lodge in downtown San Diego have been in a remarkably chipper temper.

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They cheered when the outcomes got here in from Florida, displaying the GOP candidate gained the slender race for governor. They lustily booed and jeered when the face of San Francisco Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the probably subsequent Speaker of the Home, appeared on the monitor. If the assembled celebration activists have been disillusioned by the truth that, nearer to house, that they had misplaced their bid for each statewide workplace within the state, most appeared to take it in stride. Definitely, nobody appeared notably stunned.

Simply because the polls predicted, John Cox, California’s Republican candidate for governor, misplaced the job to Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Actually, not one of the 5 Republicans vying for statewide workplace this yr gained their races. Within the contests for the 2 remaining statewide workplaces and the U.S. Senate, a Republican candidate didn’t even make it onto the overall election poll. That leaves GOP voters with no single statewide consultant for the third election cycle operating.

CALmatters logoIncluding insult to damage, the one right-of-center candidate to mount a sensible statewide marketing campaign was former Insurance coverage Commissioner Steve Poizner, who received so far as he did after ditching the Republican model completely and operating as a political unbiased.

With votes nonetheless being counted, Democrats additionally have been inside putting distance of reclaiming supermajorities in each the state Meeting and the Senate.

Perhaps most painful of all was the destiny of Proposition 6. This was the trouble to repeal a current improve within the fuel tax—or, on the very least, to faucet into the California voters’ historic dislike of upper taxes and costly commutes, and persuade them to as soon as once more vote Republican. Whether or not the attraction labored to gin up sufficient turnout to avert disaster within the GOP’s weak congressional districts, was not but clear. However the measure failed.

Republicans have been fast in charge the defeat of Prop. 6 on Lawyer Common Xavier Becerra, a Democrat whose workplace was chargeable for writing the textual content describing the measure on the poll.

“A lot of people are going to wake up tomorrow very angry because they were tricked,” stated San Diego Republican Get together Chairman Tony Krvaric. He pointed to polling that confirmed voters permitted of repealing the fuel tax, however not Proposition 6. (An alternate rationalization provided by Public Coverage Institute of California president Mark Baldassarre: Voters approve of the low fuel taxes in idea, however fearful concerning the particular penalties of repeal).

“We won on the issue,” Carl DeMaio, who chaired the “Yes on 6” marketing campaign, insisted. The lesson he took from the election wasn’t that the message itself was flawed, however that the get together merely must battle more durable.

“Every single election, every single race we are going to make the fraudulently stolen gas tax repeal initiative a main issue in regular elections and, yes, I predict, a couple recall elections very soon,” he stated to the gang. DeMaio has vowed to recall Becerra, in addition to Democratic state Sens. Anthony Portantino and Richard Roth. He then led the gang in a cheer of “We will fight!”

It was a cheer of defiance within the face of the declining fortunes for the GOP. That, in fact, shouldn’t be a brand new story. Earlier this yr Republican registration amongst California voters dipped under these of political independents, making the celebration of Ronald Reagan the state’s third hottest political affiliation behind Democrat and “no thanks.”

However as nationwide Republicans secured their grip on the U.S. Senate whereas surrendering management of the Home, for California Republicans, the 2018 midterms do really feel like a brand new low.

It’s been greater than 130 years since Californians changed a Democratic governor with one other Democratic governor. And whereas Gov. Jerry Brown was a fiscal conservative by Sacramento requirements, Newsom could possibly be thought-about the stuff of Republican nightmares: a San Francisco progressive who helps single-payer healthcare, picks Twitter fights with the president and has flirted with the thought of reforming Proposition 13, the property tax-capping poll measure that helped give start to the fashionable conservative motion and the Reagan revolution.

“This will be the third time that higher taxes have won as an argument at the ballot in California,” stated Invoice Whalen, a former speechwriter for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Establishment. In 2012, voters authorised Proposition 30’s “millionaire’s tax” after which voted to increase it once more 4 years later.

The truth that the typical California voter elected not simply to stay it to millionaires this time, however agreed to pay greater taxes on the pump, may recommend that “taxes are not the third rail” of California politics that they as soon as have been, he stated.

“I think Republicans forgot that it’s not 1978 anymore,” added Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna School, referring to the yr that voters authorised Prop. 13 by an almost 30-point margin. “That was a different time and a different electorate.”

For positive, California has modified lots during the last 30 years. However even because the state has grow to be extra ethnically and racially numerous, the profile of the standard Republican voter has stayed comparatively static: comparatively white, previous and prosperous. Fortuitously for the state GOP, this is identical demographic area of interest that the majority predictably seems to vote. However within the absence of a message which may start to persuade Democrats and independents to modify events, which will solely postpone the inevitable. In line with the Public Coverage Institute of California, millennial voters are extra doubtless than their elders to determine themselves as liberals, favor single payer healthcare, and oppose the president. 

“This is a failing franchise,” stated Whalen. He argued that the state social gathering has two elementary issues: “message and messengers.”

Cox himself lays the blame for no matter messaging shortcomings his personal marketing campaign skilled, a minimum of partially, on the press.

“I wanted to have a dialogue and a discussion about what we needed to do to get rid of that money in politics,” he stated. “At some point in time the message has got to get out and it’s got to be the media.”

However in response to Whalen, the celebration places itself at an obstacle when probably the most outstanding state Republican on this yr’s poll, Cox, was comparatively unknown to most California voters previous to the ultimate months of the marketing campaign. These additional down on the poll have been—and certain nonetheless are—largely nameless to all however probably the most politically engaged. With the exception of Steven Bailey, the retired El Dorado County decide who ran for lawyer basic, not one of the social gathering’s statewide candidates had expertise in elected workplace.

“You’re counting on rookie quarterbacks to lead you to the Super Bowl,” stated Whalen.

However even the place skilled Republican political leaders do exist in California—metropolis, county and congressional representatives more and more concentrated within the exurbs and rural stretches away from the state’s populated coasts—it’s robust to persuade an all-star participant to hitch a workforce with such a awful monitor report. A Republican hasn’t gained statewide since 2006. And a type of candidates was Arnold Schwarzenegger, the uncommon “international movie star willing to run for office,” stated Pitney. “But that bracket seems empty right now.”

Within the lead as much as the June main election, state get together insiders a minimum of thought that they lastly settled on an interesting message.

“I’m telling every candidate: When you run for office, you should come out…with ‘repeal the gas tax’ and ‘oppose the sanctuary state,’” Krvaric informed CALmatters earlier this yr.

However as late as of this spring, the majority of Californians stated that they help state insurance policies to guard undocumented immigrants.

Manuel Pastor, a sociology professor on the College of Southern California and the writer of State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Exceptional Resurgence Imply for America’s Future, says that the state already tried that political line within the 1990s. In 1994, state voters handed Prop. 187, a poll measure that might have stripped undocumented immigrants of state providers had it not been struck down by the courts.

“That was when we should have been paying attention to how to restructure our economy instead of turning inward and blaming other people for the problems that we had,” he stated. However whereas the nation as an entire might now be having its personal “Prop. 187 moment,” introduced on partially by nationwide demographic tendencies that mirror California’s a couple of many years again, voters right here have “wisened up from that experience,” he stated.

As for the fuel tax message, which Cox made one of many cornerstones of his marketing campaign, the election outcomes converse for themselves.

The hole between the preferences of the state get together’s base and people of the typical voter appear more and more unimaginable to bridge. And but that’s exactly the duty earlier than any Republican candidate who hopes to compete statewide.

Cox confronted his personal model of this problem together with his on-again-off-again relationship with the president during the last yr. In 2016, Cox, famously, didn’t vote for Trump, as an alternative casting his poll for the libertarian Gary Johnson. However in a lead as much as the June main, Cox noticeably warmed to the commander-in-chief, touting their biographical similarities and their mutual help for a southern border wall. It was the president’s endorsement that helped Cox safe a spot on the overall election poll.

However as soon as Cox discovered himself competing for a wider electoral viewers, he started doing his greatest to distance himself from Trump’s extra controversial insurance policies and tweets, however with out offending the president’s many supporters. “I’m not running for president,” he has stated, using a protection widespread amongst Republicans throughout the state, and nation.

The state social gathering gained’t have a simple time distancing itself from Washington D.C. anytime quickly, even when it needed to, stated Graeme Boushey, a political science professor on the UC Irvine.

“With a national GOP that has itself moved towards more extreme politics, it’s hard for the state GOP to escape that shadow,” he stated. Politics are more and more nationalized, he continued. Many citizens don’t know who represents them in Sacramento, and even in Congress, however they do know who the president is and to which celebration he belongs.

Given the president’s political intuition to attraction to his base, (a base that more and more doesn’t seem like California) and never the citizens as an entire, that places the state GOP in a bind, he stated. “If that’s going to be the argument that the party has for the next ten years I don’t know that the Republican party nationally, and certainly not in California, can sustain that.”

As soon as once more shutout from statewide workplace, a number of the California candidates for statewide workplace stated they hope to as an alternative to advance conservative coverage in California by way of poll measures.

Voters “don’t want anything with an ‘R’ next to its name,” stated Konstantinos Roditis, the candidate for controller who had the “R” subsequent to his identify. “If we want to make change in California that people want, the best way, I believe is to do it through the initiative process.”

Each he and the candidate for treasurer, Greg Conlon, mentioned the potential of placing a state proposition on the poll aimed toward decreasing California’s public sector pension legal responsibility as quickly as 2020.

“Our positions are not really Republican, they’re really bipartisan because the people want it,” stated Roditis. “Democrats in Sacramento don’t want it.”

Within the short-term, the California Republican celebration’s biggest hopes for broader political relevance might lie with the governor-elect. Many Republicans consider that Californians will tire of Democratic rule if and when Newsom begins to push by way of the various formidable and costly insurance policies he’s promised on the marketing campaign path.

The lesson of the previous few elections is that Californians have a modest urge for food for sure taxes, stated Jack Citrin, a UC Berkeley political scientist who has written concerning the politics of the California tax revolt. “It doesn’t mean that Californians are ready to embrace all kinds of higher taxes,” he stated. “I would bet you that if you put Proposition 13 on the ballot as it applies to homeowners it would pass again easily.”

A recession, and the finances crunch that may probably comply with, might end in an identical political backlash. “You can’t sit around and wait for the revolution,” stated Whalen. “But I would not get too far down the road with grim prophecies. Things can change quickly in politics.”

Simply assume again to 1974. Within the midterm elections after the Watergate hearings and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the state Republican Social gathering misplaced 5 seats in a once-in-a-generation electoral pummeling. However six years later, Ronald Reagan, one other Californian, ran for president and gained.

“This Republican Party will be back in this state,” Cox stated, “and our path to success is going to be based upon delivering the quality of life that people need so desperately.”


CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media enterprise explaining California insurance policies and politics.

Evaluation: With No Statewide Winners Tuesday, Is California GOP Doomed? was final modified: November seventh, 2018 by Editor

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