California Republican Collapse: A Generation in the Making

Tuesday November 6, 2018 was a Red Letter day for Republicans in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, North Dakota and a few other states. In California “R” was the Scarlet Letter. California Republicans had their worst showing since the FDR landslide year of 1936.

In physics, Orange is created by mixing red light with yellow light. In California Congressional races, all the red drained out of Orange County. Not a single Republican was elected to Congress in Orange County, a long-time conservative stronghold.

Rep. Ken Calvert (Perris), elected in 1992, is now the senior Republican Congressman from California. Republicans lost Orange County, but they will always have Perris.

The election of 2018 was almost universally seen as a repudiation of President Trump. But the collapse of the California Republican Party was a generation in the making. In 1994 Republicans backed Proposition 187, directed against “illegal aliens” and saw short term political gains, including the re-election of Governor Pete Wilson, vulnerable after his support for hikes in the state sales tax. But the campaign for Proposition 187 demonized Mexicans, and the millions of Californians of Mexican descent, many of them Republicans, saw the Republican campaign as an attack on their communities. Republican support among Hispanic voters has never recovered.

The decline accelerated with the election of George W Bush as President in 2000. California rejected Bush, as did a majority of voters nationally. Taking office as a minority President, George W Bush pushed America into an aggressive war on Iraq.

The Iraq War resulted in the deaths of more than 5000 American soldiers and contractors. More than 40,000 Americans received life changing wounds. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilian, were murdered by American weapons of mass destruction, and many more were wounded, made homeless and impoverished by American WMD.

The initiation of force by order of President Bush put a stop to the work of weapons inspectors who were searching for WMD; inspectors left the country to avoid becoming casualties of U.S. bombs. After a complete occupation of Iraq, more than 2 years of inspections by U.S. government inspectors found no evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died because of Bush’s war based on lies. California voters rejected George W Bush when he sought re-election in 2004. California Republican leaders continued to loyally support President Bush, heedless of the wishes of most voters in California.

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 215 to legalize Marijuana for therapeutic use. A few Republicans supported compassionate use, but most Republican officeholders and party organizations opposed Prop. 215. In 2016 California voters passed Proposition 64, to legalize marijuana for personal use and to establish a framework for the legal production and sale of Marijuana. A few Republicans backed legalization, but most Republican officeholders opposed Proposition 64, again alienating most voters in California.

California voters support a pro-choice position on abortion. Many California Republican candidates have stressed a pro-choice position – Ed Zschau, Tom Campbell and most recently Meg Whitman in her 2010 campaign for Governor. But the anti-choice policies promoted by national Republican leaders alienate California voters.

Democrats won a big victory helped by a stress on issues – immigration, abortion, marijuana and foreign policy – where Republicans have supported active government. Democrats appear to back less government in dealing with these issues, although they often advocate new government actions to implement their views on these issues.

The parties in the various states have a responsibility to represent the voters of those states. The California Republican Party has instead tried to represent the national Republican policies and national Republican candidates to the people of California. California voters know that Republicans do not represent them, and in 2018 California voters asked Republicans to stop representing them in Congress.

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