California GOP: Shutout in 2010, apocalypse in 2012?

California’s struggling economy, downward-spiraling fiscal position and ongoing legislative gridlock would have seemed to be fertile ground for the voter revolt that swept across the country in November.

Yet, with the greatest enthusiasm gap in recent memory favoring the GOP heading into Election Day 2010, California Republicans were shut out of every statewide office, failed to gain any new Congressional seats, and actually lost ground in the state legislature at a time when the GOP experienced historic state legislative gains nationwide.

There are a host of theories concerning the GOP’s miserable showing in California this cycle.  Some blame outgoing Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Others pin the blame on Meg Whitman’s housekeeper issue and a backlash among Hispanic voters that cascaded down the ticket.  Others point to the power that public employee unions wield in the state.  Regardless of where the fingers point, the deeper issue is that the California GOP, like President Obama, just doesn’t know what to communicate, let alone to whom it should be communicating.

This communication gap threatens to become an even bigger hurdle for the Republicans in 2012 with the shift to a “jungle primary” for California state and federal elections (except U.S. President).  Under this system, all candidates for a particular office, regardless of party affiliation, compete on a single ballot to be the top two finishers facing off in the November general election.  Triggered by the passage of Proposition 14 in June 2010, this new primary system effectively removes the GOP’s guaranteed lines on California’s November ballots.

Championed by outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger and Lieutenant Governor Maldonado, both Republicans, the idea behind California’s primary switch was to reduce partisan polarization in an effort to generate more moderate candidates.  But political observer Alan Abramowitz warns that Californians can keep “dreaming” because a Kumbaya moment won’t happen — partisan polarization will likely continue to be just as divisive in the Golden State as it was under the traditional primary system.  More likely is a proliferation of third party and self-funded candidates focusing on narrow slices of the electorate — increasing the challenge to GOP candidates who will need to put together a coalition of voters in the primary rather than just relying on turning out the voters of their committed bases.

If the California GOP doesn’t improve its tactics, it may well find itself driven into minor party status in a large portion of the state.  It’s hard to believe that the state that once produced President Reagan is now a political desert for the Republican Party.

If this were Delaware or Rhode Island, we might be tempted to shrug our shoulders and focus elsewhere.  Unfortunately, California’s economic and fiscal woes are so large they will eventually ripple across the rest of the country, so a prolonged Republican collapse in the Golden State could undercut the conservative effort to put the fiscal house in order in Washington.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of ProjectVirginia and CivicForumPAC.

  • BillEastland

    Ford, Steve, you don’t have to go any further than gazinya’s reply for the explanation of why CA bucked the electoral trend, and why the Republicans will remain the minor party you describe: gazinya, clearly a conservative, LEFT THE STATE! This is the first census ever that CA did NOT gain seats in Congress. It’s population has peaked, the looney Left is in control, conservative flight will accelerate and it will go bankrupt within a few years.
    If, and this is a big if, the Republicans have unified control of the national government after the 2012 election, with a reformist Congress and a politically competent President, the Left will be defunded and then even the welfare class will start to leave CA and go back to Mexico from whence they came.
    It really doesn’t matter if CA becomes a one-party state, it is rapidily becoming the new Michigan and will lose Congressional seats in every census from here on out. Republican gains elsewhere will more than offset our losses there.

  • craigiri

    California is largely responsible for the fact that the USA is still “in the game”. What do they make on Wall Street….oh, yeah, they trade the STOCKS from the companies in California.

    Luckily for us, the vast majority of the wealth creators who live in Ca. still want to live and work there. They are already responsible for much of our prosperity, hopefully they will once again help bail out all the loser states with no education and nothing to offer except their coal and cheap labor.

  • sholling

    For those that want California to fall off the continent or leave the union… do we get to take our tax money with us? Because California is still one of the few states sending more money to Washington DC than it get’s back so laugh it up freeloaders.

    The problem in California is 3 fold. 1) The California Republican Party is made up of moderate (RINO) always ready to sell out the taxpayers political prostitutes. They are as slimy and sleazy as the California Democrats are insane – and the RINO party leadership doesn’t give a darn about repairing the party. 2) Schwarzenegger passed up few opportunities to go left and destroy jobs. 3) The number one problem is that the public employee unions dominate everything. They can throw 100 million into blocking any reform.

    What the “jungle primary” will do is give Libertarians a shot at throwing the the two hopelessly corrupt parties out. Most Californians lean (small L) libertarian.

  • junkmaninohio

    Of course we could all hope for that mega earthquake that would seperate California from the rest of the country’s land mass….but I digress. Once the state is totally bankrupt with no bail out from U.S. taxpayers forthcoming, the adults living there might finally wake up and say enough is enough…but I won’t hold my breath.

  • junkmaninohio

    California is bankrupt so when they come whining to Washington for a bailout the Repubs should tell them “drop Dead”. No sane Republican Prersidential candidate should waste their money campaigning in California…it’s a lost cause. As Arnold would say…”to hell wit dem”!

  • bigsigh

    Maybe it will break off and tip over. lol!

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  • rockhard

    California is a good example of what will happen in ever state if we don’t stop illegal immigration, the left wins because they promise open borders for illegal’s to keep coming, money, housing, welfare ,free health care Education, they allow illegal’s to use fraudulent ID to get everything they want, so of course these people who are a large part of the voters in California support the crazy leftist Dems…

    If we don’t stop our politicians from pandering to Hispanics both legals and illegals when it comes to enoforcing the law against illegals the same thing will happen in every state, states will be bankrupt making life harder for those Americans who need help. illegals are sucking up mnoney that other wise wouldf be used on Americans, but liberals are more then happy to hurt Americas poor to help the illegals.

  • gazinya

    I grew up in Southern California. I retired from a 31 year career in California then I left for greener pastures. I just couldn’t let Calif get it’s enormous hands on what I had earned. When these last 8 years of ‘extreme progressive’ rule, and Arnold is no Conservative, left this state desolate I just knew that this will be the end of ‘demo’ control of the state. WRONG. I do feel sorry for California. If one looks at the political map of California it is clear that the glut of gluttonous is centered on two large spots of Calif. coast. Los Angeles and San Fransico, two cities that control and terrorize the entire state. 88% of the land mass is occupied by a minority of people who are forced to live by these Lucifarian rules, all of which they object to but are unable to have their voice heard. It is time to split that state up. Like a groutesque monopoly, aka North Korea, the whole of California is under bondage to these vile progressive socialists. So sad.