CA GOP Anti-Establishment Revolt

CA GOP Anti-Establishment Revolt

MARCH 17, 2011


Gov. Jerry Brown and his allies in the media and the Democratic Party are turning the budget battle into a question of patriotism. As reported by columnist George Skelton, Brown has reverted to Cold War rhetoric, branding Republican legislators who refuse to put his $12 billion tax increase proposal before voters in June “subversives” who are “subverting American democracy.”

Supposedly, under the hypnotic sway of such Bolsheviks as Flashreport’s John Fleischman and KFI 640’s John and Ken, Republican legislators are being mesmerized into opposing putting the tax increases on the ballot and so are betraying democracy.

We don’t know yet how the budget wrangling will turn out. Perhaps Brown’s Reds under the Beds rhetoric, or some other factor, will get the four Republicans he needs to vote for putting the tax increases on the ballot.

But something else really is going on here. If you’ve watched Republican politics at the national and local levels for even a few years, you’ve notice that GOP elected officials have a much greater tendency than do Democrats to sell out their principles and platforms.

I remember back in 1991, then-Gov. Pete Wilson, even today the leader of the GOP Establishment, promised he would “twist arms” to get GOP votes for his then-record $7 billion tax increase. He pronounced fiscal conservatives, such as then-Assemblyman Tom McClintock, to be “[expletive deleted] irrelevant.”

And just two years ago, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Establishment Republican, cadged enough Republican votes for his record $13 billion in tax increases. Later, for selling out on the tax vote, state Sen. Abel Maldonado was promoted to lieutenant governor. And others who sided with Arnold against the taxpayers, such as assemblymen Anthony Adams and Mike Villines, got lucrative jobs on state panels.

Tea Party Revolt

But what’s happening now is at least the beginning of something different. Republicans across the country, spurred by Tea Party activists, are doing what Democrats did 40 years ago in attacking, possibly purging, party members who deviated from the party line.

So Democrats are hypocritical to complain about what’s going on in the Republican Party. They showed the way four decades ago. And Jerry Brown, during his first election for governor in 1974, was a beneficiary of the transformation of the Democratic Party, and had a front-row seat to watch it.

Back in the 1960s, the Democratic Party still was a diverse collection of interest groups: old-time big-city mayors, epitomized by Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago (father of current Mayor Richard M. Daley); southern segregationists such as Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi; and prairie populists such as senators George McGovern of South Dakota and Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, both of whom opposed the Vietnam War.

This uneasy alliance formed the basis of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and lasted through President Lyndon Johnson’s landslide re-election victory in 1964. Then it began falling apart under the pressure of the Vietnam War.

The tensions exploded at the 1968 Democratic Convention, held in Mayor Daley’s Chicago. Outside the convention, anti-war demonstrators were beaten by Chicago police. Inside, the establishment enjoyed its last hurrah, nominating Vice President Hubert Humphrey over McCarthy.

Like the Republican Tea Parties today, the Democratic activists began organizing. The 1972 Democratic Party convention in Miami began as had the 1968 convention in Chicago, with the party Establishment in power.

Then the Revolutionaries took over. Wikipedia recounts the events:

Their [Democratic Establishment] supporters challenged the seating of relative political novices, but for the most part were turned back by the supporters of McGovern, who during the presidential primaries had amassed the most delegates to the convention by using a grassroots campaign that was powered by opposition to the Vietnam War. Many traditional Democratic leaders and politicians felt that McGovern’s delegate count did not reflect the wishes of most Democratic voters.

The traditional Democratic leaders lost at the convention. In November 1972, the Democratic nominee for president, McGovern, lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon. But several things resulted from the 1972 purge of Establishment Democrats.

First, the liberals took over and made it virtually impossible for old conservative-type Democrats to even get nominated.

Second, although Democrats lost four of the next five presidential elections, they maintained control of the U.S. Senate until 1980 and of the U.S. House until 1994.

Third, they were prepared to take advantage of a great opportunity, which turned out to be the 1974 Watergate Election. After President Nixon resigned in August 1974 from the Watergate scandal, the 1974 elections saw a huge landslide for Democrats in the mid-term elections to Congress. This Watergate Congress, as it’s called, enacted numerous liberal reforms. As with today, the reformers’ election was boosted by an economic recession with high unemployment and inflation.

Across the country, the landslide also swept into power such reform-type Democrats as young Gov. Jerry Brown in California.

Despite his pedigree as the scion of former Gov. Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s whole demeanor then was of a reform-minded, Zen-focused, abstemious, youthful replacement to departing Gov. Ronald Reagan. Some of that reputation still sticks to Brown today, even as he plumps for the oldest Establishment vehicle around, tax increases, and was elected in 2010 with great support from the Establishment government-worker unions.

California Revolutionary Struggle

What I think is going on is a revolutionary struggle in the GOP between the Tea Partiers and the GOP Establishment. Revolutions, whether violent ones such as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia of 1917 or the peaceful one in the Democratic Party in the early 1970s, begin with the revolutionaries getting whatever power they can. They compromise. Then they purge.

Republicans in California especially are frustrated. The GOP Establishment last fall fielded weak candidates that led to a complete wipeout for the party at the state level. All seven statewide posts went to Democrats. The Tea Party Revolution that swept the nation bypassed the Golden State.

Now, as the economic malaise continues, the focus is on California. Despite the battles with the government-worker unions in Wisconsin, California  is the epicenter of the earthquake of pension under-funding shaking governments all across America. As Wayne Lusvardi explains today on, within a few years, cities across the state could end up spending more than 100 percent of their entire budgets on pension payments.

The pension scandal, potentially $500 billion just for California’s unfunded pensions, makes Watergate look like stealing a pencil from a government office.

I suspect that Gov. Brown will get the four Republicans he needs to put his tax increase on the ballot. The GOP sellouts will say that they “back democracy” and “oppose the tax increase,” but “want to let the people decide.”

But that will be just the beginning. The Tea Partiers, in California mostly quiescent during last year’s election, will come into their own. Their brothers and sisters from across America will join them for the Revolution of 2011. There’s no election of anything approaching this significance elsewhere in the country this summer.

Every anti-tax group in the country will fly out here to prove its bona fides. So will every 2012 GOP presidential hopeful. Even such longtime GOP Establishment types as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will portray themselves as anti-Establishment.

On the other side, Establishment government unions will rally across the country to send money and activists out here to pass the tax increases. Especially after losing the vote over union collective bargaining in the Wisconsin legislature, unions will be eager for a fight to preserve the status-quo in California.

June is muggy in may parts of America, but really nice in most of California. As Scott McKenzie sang in his 1960s anthem:

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

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