GOP Gains in California May Not Be as Implausible as Commonly Believed


Chairman Jim Brulte leads a meeting at the California Republican Party convention.

It almost qualifies as one of the more unexpected headlines in recent memory. “CAN THE CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY BOUNCE BACK IN 2018?” asked the Los Angeles Times in late February. Who would expect the GOP ever to re-emerge in California? Yet that such a question was even asked by a member of the state’s single-party media is meaningful. Maybe something is stirring within this seemingly permanent minority.

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A mere stir won’t be enough, though: the political equivalent of a Home Depot paint mixer will be required. The Golden State is the deepest blue of the 20 states that Hillary Clinton won: 62 percent of California voters cast their ballots for her, the highest percentage of any state. Using data from the IBD/TIPP poll, Investor’s Business Daily’s John Merline wrote in December that “if you take California out of the popular vote equation, then (Donald) Trump wins the rest of the country by 1.4 million votes. And if California voted like every other Democratic state — where Clinton averaged 53.5 percent wins — Clinton and Trump end up in a virtual popular vote tie.”

Not that this outcome was any great surprise. California has been a one-party state for what seems like a geologic era. The only chamber of the state Legislature that hasn’t been under Democratic Party control in the last four decades is the Senate. The GOP held it by a slim two seats in 1995–1996. The last time the Republicans held at least one chamber before that was in 1969–1970, when Ronald Reagan was governor and the GOP had two-seat majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. Since Reagan’s stint in Sacramento, there have been three Republican governors (and was Arnold Schwarzenegger truly a Republican?) and three Democratic governors (including Jerry Brown twice). Only six Republicans, one of them Schwarzenegger, have held statewide seats since 1998. Democrats have held 23.

It’s a similar story with California’s representation in Congress. The House of Representatives has been prime Democratic property since the late 1950s, with a 26-26 tie in the state’s congressional delegation in 1995–1996 being the only exception. Since then, the spread has increased steadily to reach 38 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and one vacant seat — that of Xavier Becerra, now the state’s attorney general — though some might say that the real attorney general is Eric Holder, the former Obama AG hired by the Legislature to lead the state’s Trump resistance. California has not sent a Republican to the Senate since Pete Wilson, having won the governorship, appointed John Seymour to serve the final two years (1991-1992) of his term in Washington.

Only 27.3 percent of California voters are registered as Republicans. That’s the smallest sliver for the GOP since 1980, the year of the Reagan revolution. Republicans have even lost San Bernardino County, a longtime GOP stronghold in California’s flyover country, with registered Democrats there now outnumbering Republicans.

Republicans deserve a healthy portion of the blame for their marginalization. In the early 2000s, they colluded with Democrats to redraw districts in a scheme that ensures that few seats are competitive and for the most part gives both parties perpetual possession of the seats they hold. This makes it nigh-on impossible for Republicans to unseat Democratic politicians.

And too often, Republicans are hard to distinguish from Democrats anyway. Stephen Frank, an editor for the California Political Review, complained a few years ago that the GOP establishment has “run candidates without serious ideology — except the desire to win election,” and recalled a 2013 legislative surrender in which Democrats got the votes they needed in Sacramento from the GOP to extend $2.3 billion a year in vehicle taxes. More recently, Frank said that if “you stand for nothing” as a party, “you’ll cease to exist.”

Democrats have the state sewn up not only through their safe districts but also through a constituent bloc that will vote them back into office again and again. Those on the lower end of the economic ladder tend to support Democrats and their redistributionist agenda. In 2014, Pew Research showed that 51 percent of Californians earning less than $30,000 a year are Democrats or lean toward the party (22 percent are Republicans/leans); 53 percent earning between $30,000 and $49,999 a year are Democrats/leans (30 percent are Republicans/leans). In return for their party loyalty, the poor Californians who vote Democratic are robbed of economic opportunities by Blue State public policy.

Those at the top also have a role in perpetuating Democratic power. Pew says that 49 percent of Californians earning more than $100,000 annually are Democrats or lean that way, while only 39 percent identify with the GOP. According to Political Data Inc., the gap closes somewhat for those earning more than $500,000 a year. But Democrats still hold a 38-33 edge there.

Given these facts, it’s baffling why anyone, even the most optimistic Republican operative, could imagine that the party might “bounce back” in California. The reason for many is simple: Donald Trump. These Republicans believe that they can emulate on the state level what Trump achieved nationally. One key to the GOP’s resurgence lies in between the economic extremes that support the Democrats and is primarily inland from the posh coastal districts. It’s a shrinking middle class at odds with the ruling party over water, climate, energy production, immigration, infrastructure priorities, housing, economic policies and the environment. Enough polarization exists to lead some to believe that the state needs to be split — not in two parts but in six.

Frank believes that the state’s minorities can also play a role if the Republican Party has the courage to show them how Democrats have “destroyed their hopes” and condemned them to “poverty and dependence.”

Some Democrats are considering the possibility that the Trump phenomena could carry over to California. “If we didn’t get a wake-up call from what happened in the rest of the country, then shame on us,” David Townsend, a Democratic strategist, told Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton after the election. Skelton, no Republican apologist, acknowledged that Democrats have been “paying little attention to the middle class.”

So maybe there is an opening. As GOP consultant Ray McNally told Skelton, “power really does corrupt,” which could mean that the Democrats, with all their raw political muscle in California, are vulnerable to making the fatal mistakes that can happen when politicians believe they’ve become too powerful to pay for the consequences of their actions.


  1. You forgot to mention one important block that supports the perpetual DemonRats control of the state: public employee unions.

  2. The head of the party here is the problem. How many times have you seen him calling a news conference to blast the stupidity of Tax deLeon, Rendon and Moonbeam? The dumb democrats have had nothing to think about for years, just vote the way I’m told.

  3. Emanuelle Goldstein says

    GOP comeback? Don’t count on it. The CAGOP will continue to tack toward the left in order to keep getting elected.
    Conservative Darrell Issa turns to the left

  4. Rob Bernosky says

    Local Republican office holders are going to have to step up their game and providing solutions to what is ailing constituents in their districts. That will get them credibility and better chances at higher offices. In the meantime, the Republican Party has to start a messaging program that reaches the People on what Republicans are about, to counter the bias in the media.

  5. The one common denominator here that no one has mentioned and that will have an affect on this state is none other than our current President and the rule of law and the Federal taxpayer money. We may even see a confrontation and second coming of the Wild Wild West in CA. That could shake things up in the positive direction with some forethought and planning. GOP are you getting ready?

  6. Many of CA GOP problems revolve around a core of party folks who just can’t stop worrying about other people’s lady parts… Until the CA GOP moves beyond this issue to jobs, common sense fiscal and regulatory policies, and most anything but other people’s lady parts, the CA GOP is likely to go no where fast…

    It’s like the front of an Edsel — you can’t just repaint the car and expect it to sell.

  7. Unfortunately, many of the GOP’s most stalwart members in that abused Middle-class have, or are preparing to, vote with their feet by moving to “less Blue” states in the West, or even further afield.
    That Coastal Strip of affluence is more and more becoming a Middle-class wasteland where the toofs exist in their walled or gated manors, and the hoi-poloi who services them scratch-out an existence outside the walls.
    It will not change until the Socialists (as usual) run out of Other-People’s-Money to keep the peasants at bay.

  8. True Teacher says

    In my lifetime and what college political science professors taught us decades ago was that the only way Republicans could win elections was with the help of “switch voters.” Since those days, the numbers just have not added up for the GOP: out registered by Democrats since, when?–the New Deal? the Great Society? But, the switch voters have done their job and mostly kept things in balance before the turn of the century. Now, people are fleeing the state. So, whose numbers are dropping here? R, or D?

    I don’t see poor constituencies being swayed by the Republican philosophy; it just means if they get some help now, they’ll probably get no relief later under a Republican government. In fact, the Democrats are trying to create a real life “Trading Places” scenario, like in the movie. What did we just read recently about fewer higher education grant dollars for the middle class students and more dollars for the poor. Middle class white kids won’t get the access; poor kids will. Given enough time, Democrats can transform the state’s economics and the meek will inherit the earth, the last shall be first. It isn’t part of the Democrats’ plan to bring up all groups, but to bring DOWN traditional winners. Racism has taken on a new face, and it looks like a donkey. Under free market, limited government governance, great progress has been made in this country for decades in bringing more “minorities” into the socio-economic mainstream, and it is a long slow process (Wall Street crooks and corporate greed noted as an exception to Main Street type progress). But Obama was interested in reversing the traditional roles, especially if it was at the expense of whites. Governor Brown has gone full-blown Jesuitical and has, like the order, abandoned all but the poor and downtrodden. The push is on while Soros is cutting the checks to seize the state, country and world–fast.

    The wake up call will come when things get much, much worse. When violence is prevalent and the social order is at a Holder-esque level of insurrection, and when the government can’t pay its debts–its credit ruined.

    Your Republican candidates are not passing themselves off as a Lincoln. Translated: no leadership, no following.

  9. Here is what you’re up against in California and perhaps in Congress.
    You provide a Democrat with irrefutable proof they were born and they will deny it and be positive they are right.

  10. Gary Von Neida says

    Without the ILLEGAL ALIEN vote the Republican Party could win seats such as Senator and governor

  11. Because of the awful performance of state officials, CA may eventually bounce back, but probably not in 2018.

  12. Ronald Reagan’s action offering across-the board amnesty and citizenship to countless millions tipped California into endless Democrat control. It has only gotten worse with approximately 2,000 middle class families leaving the state daily.

  13. Michael McDermott says

    Indeed – the power massed by the radical left in the People’s Republic of CA is only overshadowed by their control of the bought and paid for ‘free press’.
    What would be career death for any republican candidate is carefully covered up by the forces of ‘tolerance’ and stage managed in to political farce, because like tenants on a mushroom farm the voters need be kept in the dark and fed (excrement deleted) as the only truthiness.

    While in office Schwarzenegger was Blackmailed over his allegedly ‘secret’ Extra Son (Vote Wrong – the story gets publicized) and not only fought against the Voters who passed Proposition 8, but actually appoints Demi-Krat Suzi Kennedy (Gay Davis’ Chief of Staff) – as his own. Giving the keys to the republican party to one of its chief enemies.

    But then when Mayor of Sodom by the Sea ole Gravid Nuisance was conducting an affair with a Subordinate Female Employee – that broke up the marriage of his Campaign Manager
    The huge steaming piles off demi-krat wrongdoing that fill our legislature are heavily censored – lest anyone be reminded how Orwellian the Thought Police Pogrom runs our one big party state.

    Lets See – ‘Der Arnold’ (an alleged populist when elected in a recall of Gay Davis) Refuses to Defend Marriage passed by the same voters, and prohibits the AG from even a brief spew on behalf the voters in the court of Judge Von Wanker.

    But then Judge Von Wanker (Who some say was manipulated in the schedule so as to get this particular case) – who also picked the defendants and witness / witless pool, dismissed the most effective advocates for Marriage – so as to handicap as much of the case as possible) – after all, Von Wanker wanted to marry his boyfriend and this seemed a very easy way to do it.

    Then again – Frisco passed an Entire Week honoring the vile Racist Toddler Rapist / Homosex Icon – Larry Brinkin (hyro of the in-human rights commission) and Ed ‘not me’ Lee apparently got himself a clone in Enrique Pearce to as to keep Pederasty (er, um, uh ‘boy love’) alive and thriving in Sodom by the Sea.

    But then like media treatment of former Frisco mayor / gov. Lt Gravid Nuisance – the pogrom of ‘Pander or Perish’ pervades the political landscape like a great CA Political Swamp like lobbyists during flea and tick season.

    ‘Pander or Perish’ shows Corrupt ‘Der Arnold’ and gang truly were – but it was Carole Migden / $5 Smidgen – (then senate chair of appropriations) who put the cherry on top the poop when after a freeway rampage in a state car that injured others (but no arrest for Migden) – and placed it all in perspective, when she said:

    “Anybody who wants $5 is going to have to come to this Dyke and Beg for it” (per her Capitol steps interview) – and Shye Really Really Meant it. Ahem

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