Is California’s Democratic Supermajority an Omen for the Rest of the U.S.?

The Republican Party's troubles in the Golden State began years ago and could not be mended in time for the election. Does the same fate await the GOP nationwide?

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JOE KLAMAR / AFP / Getty Images

A woman votes at the polling station at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Sun Valley, Calif., on Nov. 6, 2012

California has effectively become a one-party state. Election Day 2012 earned Democrats a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature, the first time in 80 years that any party has achieved that feat in California. That will allow them to pass virtually anything they want in the next legislative session, including crafting ballot initiatives or passing laws to raise taxes that have previously been opposed by Republicans. But the GOP’s newfound insignificance in this state legislature isn’t its greatest worry. Republicans are warning that if the national party doesn’t heed the example of California, it could head toward political irrelevance on a larger scale.

(MORE: The Winners and Losers of Election 2012)

That’s because it was the California GOP’s alienation of minority — especially Latino — voters starting decades ago that planted the seeds for its losses this month. Indeed, an important factor in Mitt Romney’s defeat was lopsided Latino support for President Obama. “California Republicans are becoming the white man’s party,” says Allan Hoffenblum, a former manager of local GOP campaigns in California who now publishes the California Target Book, an almanac on the state’s election campaigns. “Now I see the same thing happening on the national level. If the Republican Party doesn’t reform itself and become a viable party again, something else is going to replace it.”

There was a time when California was Republican. The state voted red in six straight presidential elections until Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992. Since then, it has voted solidly Democrat for President. Experts say this decline can be partly traced back to former Republican governor Pete Wilson’s endorsement of Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that aimed to deny undocumented immigrants access to public services. “Prop 187 really inflamed the very nasty polarizing debate over immigration and the hard rhetoric of the conservative right,” says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow at the USC school of policy, planning and development. The measure passed, but a federal court ultimately found it unconstitutional. More important, the state’s Hispanics found the proposition appalling and rallied their communities to reject it and the party that endorsed it.

(MORE: The Tarnished State of California’s Golden College System)

“These people were angry,” says Arturo Vargas, who at the time worked at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Since then, the GOP’s attitude toward Latinos hasn’t softened, and Hispanics’ allegiance to Democrats hasn’t either. Meanwhile, the Latino population ballooned with an influx of immigrants, only adding to the ranks of Democratic voters. Over time, districts that were traditionally red turned blue, and there were more areas where GOP candidates couldn’t be competitive. “History has shown that that moment galvanized Latino immigrants,” says Vargas, who is now executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “That’s why California is so blue today.”

Blue is an understatement. Not only did Democrats win a supermajority but Obama and the state’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate both got landslide victories, voters approved a key tax increase opposed by Republicans, and GOP voter registration dipped below 30%, which is not much greater than the percentage of voters with no party preference. Governor Jerry Brown too is a Democrat and could be re-elected if he decides to run again in two years.

(MORE: Jerry Brown’s Risky Crusade — How to Raise Taxes in California)

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro recognizes the state’s changing demographics are a factor in these losses. While much more measured in his comments, even Del Beccaro says the GOP’s inability to effectively engage minority voters in the state is a “warning.” “Republicans haven’t developed a relationship with Latino voters throughout the state,” he says in an interview. “They haven’t been aggressive enough talking to Asian voters, Latino voters, black voters and young voters.”

Del Beccaro, though, doesn’t believe it’s the end of the road for California’s Republican Party. Democrats’ current policies as well as new legislation they may pass with their supermajority — such as tax increases and heavy regulations on business — could make the economy worse in two years than it is now, which would prompt more voter discontent with Democrats, he says. “Republicans need to start working today, going into the districts, explaining that those policies are hurting jobs and developing relationships with voters so that two to four years from now, voters will consider them as an alternative to Democrats,” he says. In an editorial on Monday, the Los Angeles Times urged Democrats not to “go crazy” with new tax legislation. “Democrats, please. Slow down. Exercise some restraint,” the editorial read. “Please don’t crash, lest you take California down with you.”

Still, Republicans in other parts of the country are seeing California as a potential bad omen. Jorge Luis Lopez, a Miami Republican who has led fundraising efforts for multiple campaigns and volunteered at the grassroots level for Romney, said Republicans are “doomed” in Florida and on the national level if they follow the path of the harsh rhetoric that hurt California’s GOP. In fact, a poll by Miami’s Bendixen & Amandi International showed Obama nearly pulled off majority support from Cuban Americans, whose support for the GOP used to be a given. “If Republicans want to engage the Latino community, we have to be able to get past the initial question of how compassionately we’re going to address the immigration issue in America,” Lopez says.

(MORE: Obama’s California Bullet Train Is Still on Track)

Indeed, the big question is whether Republicans are willing to work with Democrats to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. While recent overtures by House Speaker John Boehner suggest his party may be ready to do so, pure legislation may not be enough. Years of harsh rhetoric — made worse by Romney’s calls for self-deportation during the primaries — has led some Latinos to think the GOP regards them as inferior, says Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. And that needs to be mended if the GOP is to right the ship. As Schnur says, “A  Latino business owner isn’t going to want to hear what a candidate has to say about the capital gains tax until he’s convinced that politician doesn’t consider him and his family to be something less than human.”

96 comments
brucelanc
brucelanc

I have a time magazine around here from 2009 that has an article entitled "Will California Become the First Failed State?".  The article talks about many of California's budget woes and links more than a few liberal policies to their failing economy.  -  To answer that articles titles' question in regards to this article, "Yes."  Now that California has a super majority of Democrats running its government, it will indeed become the first failed State.  It isn't far from it now and quite frankly, it's a real surprise they didn't fold in mid-2011.  As of May of this year, California's budget deficit was 16 billion dollars.  California's total public debt calculated in Sept of this year is something just over 617 billion dollars (yes.  I typed that right - six hundred seventeen BILLION dollars).  Their liberal leadership has put them on track to have a total public debt exceeding a trillion dollars by Sept or Oct 2013.  Personally, I think they reached the tipping point with their public debt over a year ago and now they're on borrowed time no matter who is in charge.  They will become the first failed State in the near future.  The public isn't interested in any more trillion dollar bailouts so the US Govt won't be picking up the tab.  They have no where to turn. 

IhnSong
IhnSong

Why illegal immigrants deserve to be protected by law since they entered here illegally?

Since most illegal immigrants are Mexicans and other Hispanics, the Hispanic group

use the race and trying to connect racism to the opposition to illegal immigrants.

If More Whites from Europe and South America (such as Argentina or Uruguay) and

they exceed Non-White Mexicans, then  how  those liberal latino groups  view the issue?

The only way to end racist dispute and end illegal immigrant problem is

this:  Let USA and Mexico be united and emerge as a single nation with 400 million people.

IhnSong
IhnSong

California is liberal not because of latinos. See Texas ,which has similar proportion of latinos but overwhelmingly Republican.

Here I predict, if economy is terribly bad as of 2014 and since democrats are incumbents' party both nationally and in california,

there fore what happened in 2003 (recalled Grey Davis the Democratic governor who failed) could happen again here.

Texas Whites are more conservative than Calif whites and Texas latinos are more likely vote for GOP than here California.

As Latinos increased in California ,more more whites in California would shift to GOP and GOP also may gain from some

Latnos and Asians as they share similar value on cultural issue, Then California GOP will revive again.

elreyjones
elreyjones

Make it a felony  to overspend any budget and you'll see how many of those filthy demoncrappers will vote for the demoncrapping party.  They are felony thieves in that party. They steal from producers and give to freeloaders.

elreyjones
elreyjones

These Democrats are evil evil people.  They are thieves.  They steal, rape, loot, and are very racist.  Even if they rule, all I want is my first amendment rights to tell these evil bolsheviks that they can shove immigration and corruption up their pink a-holes. 

twitsanon
twitsanon

@brontyman but california also has term limits, which might prevent some of the corruption

twitsanon
twitsanon

@brontyman i'm going to be watching this one carefully. NC had democratic control for years, and ended in a lot of corruption

JamesWallace77
JamesWallace77

And what Republican recently floated the idea of making Hispancs "Honorary Whites"?  Ye gods,do they really think that's all it takes?  They are on their way to Jurassic Park.

Martian_14
Martian_14

Ah.... The beginnings of a dictatorship of lunatic liberals who will pass any types of idiotic of laws. Everything will be legal and OK, everything will be free (the super-nanny state will pay for everything, right?) and in a couple of years they will bankrupt California. 

Spanish will be the state language, Christians will have to go on hiding and the working class will be burdened with all sorts of taxes so that the freeloaders can keep on doing what they do best: Nothing!!!

There are no free meals, except in California!

JRB416
JRB416

And that is why California is the basket case from hell. One party socialist rule leads to bankruptcy, the fleeing of the productive class, war on business, and an economic death spiral.

bammbamm1961
bammbamm1961

Watch out for what you vote for! - I am a 5th generation Californian (since 1863) and a republican. If they start to cater to Unions more than now (Schools, Fire, Police) I will take my money and head elsewhere. Really. 10.3% taxes, property Taxes and a greatest fear that increases to public employees will casue even greater need for more California revenue.

So, we will sell our home, move our company as it can just as easily be based in Minden, NV (we love skiing) and buy a beach hom ein Costa Rica for retirement.

If that tend were to happen - the tax payers in California will flee and then all you democrats can start trying to tax each other.

xenawarriornurse
xenawarriornurse

Funny... the republicans are just now figuring this out... figuring out that they are on the list for potential extinction should they not heed the warnings and listen to the people...  Eventually the minorities (meaning everyone not male and white) will rise up and find their voice.  Looks like that day is here.  And, the Democrats might heed a little bit of warning too because they have become nothing but a bunch of limousine liberals (per Bill Maher) and should they not listen up they could join their counterparts on that list.  We need representatives that actually represent the people... I mean, if you live in Bel Air then I guess your rep should be a multi zillionaire... However, for those of us who live in middle/low income areas WHY are we being represented by the same zillionaires?  There is (and really hasn't ever been) a true balance anyway... especially since a pre-requisite for even running for office is that you are rich or have a rich family!  Maybe that can change at some point... 

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

All liberals should write a thank you letter to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for creating the conservative self-righteous echo chamber that helped reelected Obama.  :-)

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

I'm an independent who generally supports Democrats these days since the GOP has decided to slam itself up against the right wing wall.  However I have to say it's a good thing Jerry Brown is back in the governor's seat.  He may be a Democrat, but he's one of the most contemplative and solid governors California has had.  Jerry won't let the Democrats become kids run amok in a candy store.  Without Jerry, even as a Democratic supporter I might be worried.  :-)

pjthompsoncpa
pjthompsoncpa

AZ has a Republican Super majority....they pass crazy laws.  

US1776
US1776

.

The GOP is Dead !

R.I.P.

1854 - 2012

The Whig Party finally dies.

.

Tec9
Tec9

As a Californian, I have to say that we didn't vote for the Democrats because they have all the answers. We did it because they're simply the (slightly) lesser of two evils. The Republicans won't return to relevancy here until they return to their more moderate roots that they dropped decades ago, when they dominated the elections here.

US1776
US1776

.The GOP is Dead !R.I.P.1854 - 2012The Whig Party finally dies.

.

Loqucious
Loqucious

California has fallen over left for decades now, I think just about everyone would agree with this. What do we have for it? We have a massive cost of living that ensures home ownership in the largest cities is basically out of reach of the average worker, much more so to minorities. We have massive numbers of costly laws to supposedly protect the environment yet we have 8 of the top 10 worst air polluted cities in the nation and in many cities the natives know better than to drink the tap water. We have massive numbers of laws directed at education yet our children are nearly the most ignorant in the country. We have a crime rate that is absurd. Our city of Stockton is experiencing out of control crime, police warning to stay away. Most of the top 10 cities for car theft are right here. We have massive taxes on gasoline yet our roads are in large part miserable. The infrastructure of this state is equally miserable with no real plan to finance an improvement. Our politicians are caught lying REGULARLY yet we vote them back in office as if we are experiencing Stockholm Syndrome. Our state unions blatantly control the political climate in their favor creating a priviledged class. We have in most cases the highest tax rates in the nation (specially when adding in fine's and fees), yet we have done nothing but decline for the last 20 plus years. Our business climate is abysmal, even companies whose leaders blatanly follow a leftist ideology state that California is not a place to do business. Dozens of major companies have moved out of state or expanded elsewhere citing the poor business climate. California is perpetually listed as the worst state in the nation to do business. We have laws that allow children as young as 13 to get immune system changing (I work in immunology) shots for sexual activity without their parents ever knowing, it's in fact encouraged, promoted in the schools. We have cities where disgusting men can walk around nude fondling themselves in front of children (yes this is real). We actually have to pass what are called "skid mark" laws so naked people will not leave their filthy remains behind at restaurants and other public places. 

This is so wonderful?! This is what minorities are so enamored with?!

I can go on and on and on, but it doesn't matter because the people of this state, and this nation, no longer care about reality. As long as our politicians say the right things and our pop culture pretends everyone is cool for ignoring fiscal and economic realities in the name of political correctness a real discussion of what is happening is impossible, laughed at. We'll keep voting for the same despicable polticians until they have an unbreakable grasp around our throats. Then we'll look at each other and wonder how we fell so far. 

SokrMom
SokrMom

Having a supermajority would seem to suggest that Democrats can legislate anything in California--if Democrats, like Republicans, acted in lock-step. For better or worse, however, Democrats seem a lot less likely to have a herd mentality...

GaryUtters
GaryUtters

The problem with this so called immigration reform is this: it was already tried in the 1980's under Reagan and did not work.  All it did was encourage more illegal immigration.  You have to deal with the root cause of illegalimmigration in order to solve it. That is economic disparity in the countries they come from.  These countries, like Mexico, fail to implement reforms that eliminate corruption and favortism as well as strengthen governmentinstitutions to serve the people better.  Until that is dealt with, no immigration reform is going to help.  Plus, giving amnesty to illegal immigrants here only encourages more illegal immigration.  Why follow the process if others have circumvented the system?  It gives no incentive to follow the right process.  It’s a matter of fairness!

KatePerspicacious
KatePerspicacious

Great article. Too true. If the republicans stop preaching doom and gloom they may be able to come back. I miss voting republican. I will not vote for them again until they have swung more moderate. Shame what the party has turned into. 

jjeefff
jjeefff

I am sure the Democrats will bankrupt and destroy the state.  Just look at state of Mexico, its basically one big sewer with corruption and third world living conditions, and the reason is because of the Mexican people allowed that to happen.  That is what they will do to California, why would you expect anything different.  A country is a product of its people, not it location on the map.

Aerin
Aerin

"decline"??? California is leading the nation as usual. Catch up.

CarlWstCoast
CarlWstCoast

If democrats could learn to stay out of people's wallets and republicans could learn to stay out of people's bedrooms, maybe politicians would actually be able to solve problems. And while the Latino vote is important, I still think that the biggest factor in the latest election came down to women; if members of the GOP continue to make stupid comments regarding rape and pregnancy, the party deserves to be sidelined. I live in California, and I could not vote for either Romney or Obama; I voted Gary Johnson, and wish more people had done the same, as it would serve to send a clear message that both of the major parties need to shape up...

brucelanc
brucelanc

Guess what will happen when California's economy collapses on the Democrats watch?  Jens Erik Gould will be writing an article about how Democrats will no longer be relevant in government again until they embrace fiscal conservatism including cost reduction in regards to illegal immigration.  A Democrat super majority in CA is the best thing that ever happened to the GOP.  When California fails, the mantra will be a simple, "I told you so."

IhnSong
IhnSong

What are you talking about?

elreyjones
elreyjones

@JamesWallace77 Hispanics are white.  How do I know.  I married to one and my children are also white.  The democratic bolsheviks are thieves who steal from producers and take from our nation what is not theirs.  Screw the race talk as that is all I hear from racist Democrats and their muslims/nation_of_islam/bolshevik brothers and sisters.

pk2time
pk2time

@Martian_14 

Martian:

Your ignorance is pardonable. After are you are from Mars. Latinos are Christians too. If you live in California they are the working class-who pick your crops, fruits, toil in the farms, are garbage haulers, gardeners, and restaurant help. So what is your angst.

RenoNoone
RenoNoone

Is the you, Rush?    You sounded exactly like him...

bammbamm1961
bammbamm1961

BTW - My annual income is 176,000 a year - our average employee makes about 74,000 - what gets me is that we are paying taxes to support High School educated Police and Fire in Anaheim that only know how to beat and kill the citizens

brucelanc
brucelanc

@Smeagel4T You should be worried now.  Your gov has veto power, but super majorities don't mind if they have to run something through twice.  California's constitution is just like the US Constitution in regards to overriding a veto.  All they have to do is run the bill through again and if a super majority had the support to pass something once, then there's a good chance they'll have the support to pass it twice.

LegalBagel
LegalBagel

But AZ doesn't pass crazy laws that bankrupt the state  many times over.  AZ is good for a few laughs now and then.  CA is simply governing a disaster of generational proportions. 

US1776
US1776

@pjthompsoncpa,  AZ is crazy.  Maybe all the Repubs can relocate there and then secede.

.

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

@Tec9 As a California, I'll generally second your comment.  Californians are actually amazingly in favor of fairness rather than ideology, and in this last election the results of the propositions showed that Californians are also actually pretty well educated about their votes.

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

@SokrMom True.  That's another big reason why I'm an independent who generally votes Democratic these days.  The first reason is because the Republicans have slammed themselves up against the right wing wall.  A second reason is because the Republican Party enforces strict discipline that prevents Republican elected officials from operating with an independent mind.  The Democratic Party may wish its members to follow one particular direction, but it doesn't ruthlessly enforce that requirement like the Republican Party does.  That's why you generally see elected independents caucusing with the Democrats rather than the Republicans.

LegalBagel
LegalBagel

Laws of economics trump stupid (un-enforced) immigration policies.  If the US government had been serious about true immigration reform in 1986 or any time thereafter, the government would have instituted a robust worker identification system.  The fact that US Social Security Cards could be reproduced by a 7 year old (and the fact the SS Administration doesn't share know SS# fraud with ICE) tells us all how serious the US government is about keeping unauthorized workers out of the US -- not at all.  As for the matter of fairness (which is always the mantra from the Left), nothing is more unfair than giving priority to people who cut in line. 

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

@KatePerspicacious You are expressing many of my own views.  I used to vote a mixture of Republican and Democratic.  I think it would be far healthier for our country if the Republican Party would allow people like me to go back to doing that.

SteveRodgers
SteveRodgers

@jjeefff You are sure? Considering Democratic ran states were least affected by the Republican President induced recession what is it that you are sure of?. One thing I am sure of is the fact that you apparently still live in the ignorance is bless Republican bubble that has ruined the party.

KatePerspicacious
KatePerspicacious

@jjeefff Don't bet on it. California's economy is starting to kick in....All the indicators are there. 

alaskanknight
alaskanknight

@Aerin The entire Nation is in decline......you need to WAKE UP!....then catch up.

LegalBagel
LegalBagel

Liberty:  Freedom.  You are correct.  Democrats seem hell-bent on destroying the freedom to earn a living or evern keep property one has earned; and Republicans are too often concerned about vices.  Maybe we can finally give birth to a true party of liberty -- smaller government, less taxes, less criminalization of moral failings, etc.... 

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

@brucelanc Yes, but that would only really be a worry if the governor was Republican.  Then it would be a inter-party fight, and the legislature would be far more likely to override the veto for poliltical reasons.  However Jerry Brown is an amazing Democrat.  Brown as governor when Proposition 13 was passed.  Brown campaigned against proportion 13, but when the people passed it Brown got right to work implementing it rather than fighting over it.  The person who created Proposition 13 even ended up endorsing Brown at the time as a result.

So while the likelihood of an override would be increased if a Republican was governor due to inter-party fighting, the likelihood of an override is decreased with a Democratic governor.  Brown, being ancient, also has signficant pull within the state Democratic Party to politically block enough votes to prevent a veto.

GaryUtters
GaryUtters

Kicking in? You must be delusional.  Democratic policies have earned California the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the nation, the highest gas prices, overcrowded cities and high rent and housing costs.  What part of CA do you live? I'm in San Diego and I don't see the economy in California kicking in.  More like Kicking out!

alaskanknight
alaskanknight

@KatePerspicacious @jjeefff .....I hope for your sake you're correct, but you see, this decline has been going on for decades.   I was born and raised just North of SF and escaped a long time ago, I wouldn't go back.....to save my life.   I wish you well......

SteveRodgers
SteveRodgers

@alaskanknight Boston is doing just fine as well are other States.. Please don't speak for an entire country from your Republican anti-reality bubble.

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

@GaryUtters You do realize that many of your comments are contradictory, don't you?  You're saying that California is a terrible place to live because too many people want to live there which is causing housing prices to be too high.

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