The End of the California Republican Party
The close of this week's legislative session drew an unequivocal distinction between Democrats and Republicans in this state. It was not in any way a victory for bipartisanship. If it were, you would be able to find ONE Republican in the State Senate or the State Assembly who actually voted for the "cap-and-trade" greenhouse gas emissions bill. You'd be able to find more than Abel Maldonado, the only Republican in either chamber to vote to increase the minimum wage. You'd have a SINGLE Republican member of the State Assembly, and more than TWO Republican State Senators (Denham, Harman) who voted for the bill providing universal health care in California. The only "bipartisanship" on display was between a Democratic legislature who moved California forward on the big issues, and a Governor trying to save his job in an election year. In this way California is a mirror image of the country at large. In election years of the recent past, Republicans have typically thrown red meat at their base, hoping to increase turnout among conservatives to carry them to victory. California's governor has completely abandoned that strategy, and in so doing neutured his party for decades to come.
By accepting such major legislation on global warming, on prescription drugs, on the minimum wage (although trying to steer a middle course on all, and rejecting universal health care), the governor has essentially validated that the progressive message is the right message for the state. He's enabled Democrats to make the argument that they have the only positive message on legislative issues, that they are the only ones with any ideas to move the state ahead.
The matter at hand is the 2006 California governor's race. But I think it's notable that Governor Schwarzenegger, in his desire to appeal to everyone and sell out his own party's core principles time and again, has destroyed the CA GOP's chances to win in 2010, 2014, 2018, and maybe beyond. There is no electable Republican in the state for the next decade and a half. Schwarzenegger is proving by his campaign that the only electable Republican is not a Republican at all, but a Republican that becomes a Democrat for three months leading up to the election. Republicans are out of touch on global warming, on health care, on wages for working families, on pretty much every major issue facing the state.
This really was not always the case here. In 1992, Bill Clinton broke a 28-year record of California voting for Republicans in the Presidential election. We've had a string of Republican governors and colorless technocrat Dems like Gray Davis. The changing demographics of the state and the disaster of Prop. 187 have shifted the balance. And this year's legislative session provided confirmation that the only ideas that work in the Golden State are progressive ones.
This is where Phil Angelides comes in. He can deliver the knockout blow to the state Republican Party. If a guy who basically adopts dozens of Democratic frames can't win, no Republican will be able to for a long time. Angelides' Harry Truman analogy is apt: When given the choice between Democrat-lite and a true Democrat, what would you do? Take the guy who governs from the left for three months to get elected, or the guy who's been calling for a progressive vision his entire career?
This is how the choice must be framed. This is what voters need to hear. And given those options, this can be a winning strategy that would send the California Republican Party home, licking their wounds, in a cataclysmic event that would reverberate for a long while.