Convention time: How badly off is the CA GOP?

July 25, 2012

By John Seiler

Just ahead of its “fall” convention in beautiful downtown Burbank on Aug. 10-12, the CA GOP is in a tiff with the New York Times over the status of the party in the Pyrite State. I have little faith in anything the Times writes. But the author of the article, Adam Nagourney, actually is a decent reporter. He wrote:

“LOS ANGELES — This would seem a moment of great opportunity for California Republicans. The state has become a national symbol of fiscal turmoil and dysfunction, the Legislature is nearly as unpopular as Congress and Democrats control every branch of government.

“But instead, the state party — once a symbol of Republican hope and geographical reach and which gave the nation Ronald Reagan (and Richard M. Nixon) — is caught in a cycle of relentless decline, and appears in danger of shrinking to the rank of a minor party.”

That’s pretty accurate. But he also wrote:

“The slide began in 1994, when Republicans rallied around a voter initiative, Proposition 187, that would have made it illegal for the government to provide services for undocumented aliens. That campaign created a political rupture with Hispanics at the very moment when their numbers were exploding.”

That’s not accurate. In fact, Hispanics have voted 70 percent Democratic for decades. They did so before Prop. 187, and have done so since then. They do so in other states that never heard of 187. That’s just a fact of life that won’t change. Moreover, on the “social issues” — such as abortion and same-sex “marriage,” on which the GOP is more in tune with Hispanics — the party’s moderate bosses refuse to engage. So, the party is toast with salsa among Hispanics.

CA GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro responded to the Times article:

“The New York Times piece is grossly inaccurate. It reads like someone who wrote it by doing minimal surface research and calling the usual suspects/detractors. At the start of this year, we were told that Republicans would lose seats in the Congress, Senate and Assembly – that Armageddon was around the corner. However, independent analysts without an ax to grind now see the Republicans holding serve in Congress, possibly picking up seats in Congress and holding on to their Senate seats. This November, Prop. 32 could well pass bring reforms to our system including barring direct contributions from corporations and unions and paycheck protection. When that passes, California will have a more level playing field, Republicans will have a new day and be rather competitive statewide.”

Prop. 32, which I wrote about yesterday, is a good idea. But it probably won’t pass. The unions rigged the election by getting the Legislature to push the initiative from the June election to November, when more far-left Democrats will be voting. Even if it does pass, the CA GOP still won’t be helped much, if at all. Moderate Democrats would be helped most by being less in thrall to the powerful unions.

Bad candidates

Aside from demographics, the CA GOP’s real problem is that, at the federal and state levels, it has coughed up horrible candidates. Since 1988, the national party has won the presidential popular vote once, in 2004, when George W. Bush still could stoke fears just three years after 9/11. Bush became president in 2000, of course, because of the electoral college and that chad problem in Florida; but he still lost the popular vote.

Look at the party’s nominees. In 1992, George H.W. Bush lost because he broke his “Read my lips!!! No new taxes!!!” pledge of 1988. In Parade Magazine just this month, the old lying tax increaser still was defending his actions by attacking Grover Norquist, the one who holds mendacious pols to their word when they pledge not to increase taxes. Bush said:

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s—who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

Reagan showed Bush I how to win, but he never learned, any more than did the others I’ll bring up.

Dole and Bush II

In 1996, it was Bob “Tax Collector for the Welfare State” Dole, who in the U.S. Senate pushed through $900 billion in tax increases.

Then we got George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, who has become such an embarrassment to the party that he’s ashamed to appear at their convention in Tampa next month. He also didn’t appear at the 2008 convention, although he did beam himself in with a telecast. Compare that to how Ronald Reagan was greeted at the 1988 and 1992 GOP conventions — as a conquering hero. Reagan didn’t appear at the 1996 and 2000 conventions only because he was suffering from alzheimer’s.

In 2008, the party nominated nutty Sen. John McCain, who panicked during the September financial crisis that year and suspended his campaign for a week.

Now it’s Mitt Romney, a liberal son of a liberal governor, by name George Romney of Michigan. According to the Intrade betting service, which has a high prediction record, just 40.4 percent of bets are on Romney to win. That’s despite an economy nosediving back into recession. The GOP sure can pick ’em.

Dismal California candidates

Then there are the California gubernatorial candidates. In 1990, Pete Wilson ran as a small-government candidate. But once in office, he raised taxes $7 billion in 1991 to deal with a budget shortfall. I’ve talked to staff members since then, and they say he regrets it.

In 1994, he won partly because of Prop. 187, which I discussed earlier. But another big factor was that his Democratic opponent, Kathleen Brown, instead of pouncing on the tax-increase mistake, called for even higher taxes. That also was the year of the Republican congressional victory nationwide and the revolt against Clinton’s tax increases. (Clinton learned his lesson, and promptly cut capital gains taxes, sparking the boom of the late 1990s and his own 1996 re-election.)

In 1998, the GOP nominated Dan Lungren, who ran one of the worst campaigns I’ve ever seen. He tried to campaign as a “law and order” candidate, not realizing that Gray Davis, when he had been the Democrats’ state honcho earlier in the decade, had lured the cop unions to the Democrats with pledges of pension spiking. Davis won easily, then spiked the cops’ pensions, a major factor in the state’s current fiscal demise.

In 1992, Bill Simon actually was a decent candidate for governor. But the Davis machine chewed him up. In 1993, of course, Davis was recalled.

In the replacement election, the CA GOP bigshots backed Arnold Schwarzenegger instead of then-state Sen. Tom McClintock, who was the real conservative deal. “Arnold can win,” Republicans told me. I responded, “But he sponsored a spending initiative last year. And even he quips that he sleeps with a Kennedy,” meaning his wife, Democratic liberal Maria Shriver-Kennedy. That was before we knew that he also was sleeping with the family maid.


This was part of the state party bosses’ continued shunning of McClintock, now a congressman in Washington, D.C., over three decades. Had the party bigshots given him even nominal support in his campaigns for state controller and lieutenant governor — and had they supported him, not Arnold, in 2003 — he would have been elected governor in the 2002-03 period, have solved the state’s budget problem by bringing back the Gann Limit, and so have burnished the CA GOP’s bona fides. They didn’t.

Arnold was so-so for his first two years in office, seemingly improving the tarnished GOP “brand” in the state. Then he lost his 2005 reform plank and turned hard Left, especially with AB 32, the jobs-slaughtering Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Yet the CA GOP that year still backed him heartily.

He then increased taxes a record $13 billion in 2009. The economy tanked, with California unemployment three points higher than the national rate. He left office in complete disgrace, taking the GOP down with him.

In 2008, the CA GOP nominated ex-Ebay CEO Meg Whitman and her billions. She wasted $180 million of her fortune on a ridiculous campaign, losing big time to a reanimated septuagenarian, Jerry Brown. Whitman now heads Hewlett-Packard, where she has caved in to leftist pressure and ended funding to the great nonpartisan research group, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

After so many bad candidates have been put before the voters at the national and state levels the pas 30 years, the wonder is that the GOP has survived at all. The secret to its success is that the Democrats have been almost as bad, descending from a party of working-class types into a party dominated by government union hacks and lifestyle leftists.

Democrats and Republicans are like two drunks getting into a bar fight during an electricity blackout. They draw the rest of us into it, blindly cracking pool cues over our heads.

And there’s no exit.


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