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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Extremely Blue California

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

As a sort of companion piece to my post on Purple Texas, it’s worth considering the 2018 results in Extremely Blue California. Despite the endless articles conservative Republicans churn out on how California is a hellhole and only getting worse, the actual voters in that state don’t seem to see the GOP as in any way preferable to the Democrats who are allegedly ruining their state.

In 2018, Republicans got absolutely crushed in California Congressional races. Once they call CA-21 for Democrat TJ Cox, the GOP will have lost half of its already meager allotment of California House seats, diving from 14 to a mere 7 out of 53 seats. That’s bad–almost unbelievably bad for a party that was competitive in statewide elections and at least a healthy minority of House seats not so long ago.

What’s happening? Trump’s happening. And it’s causing an implosion in an already-weakened party in the nation’s biggest state. Ron Brownstein explains in a excellent, detailed article (lots of good data and California political history!) on the Atlantic site:

“The final ingredient in the GOP collapse was Trump. From the start, his open appeals to white racial resentments and the fear of social change faced enormous resistance in diverse, culturally cosmopolitan California: He won less than 32 percent of the state’s vote in 2016. That essentially tied Alf Landon in 1936 as the weakest performance for a Republican presidential nominee in California since 1860. (William Howard Taft won even less of the vote in 1912, but only because Theodore Roosevelt, the former Republican president running as an independent, narrowly carried the state.)

But despite the unmistakable indication of Trump’s local unpopularity, the California GOP delegation locked arms around his turbulent presidency. …California Republicans serving in Clinton-won districts voted more as if they were representing Alabama than swing seats in a state steadily becoming more Democratic. ([Mimi] Walters even told one interviewer that she thought Trump would win her affluent, diverse coastal district today and that she’d welcome a campaign appearance.)

Those choices emphatically caught up with them during this month’s sweep,….Now most California Republicans see little prospect of regaining many, or perhaps any of these seats, so long as Trump’s stamp on the party repels both minority voters and college-educated white suburbanites, key growing constituencies throughout the state. They have been reduced to a literal handful of inland districts, almost entirely isolated from the state’s racially diverse and economically dynamic metropolitan areas.

“The national party has become a cultural brand that’s anathema to the demographics that have grown here,” says GOP consultant Rob Stutzman, the former communications director for Schwarzenegger.

With Republicans so marginalized in the state—Democrats this month restored supermajorities in both of the state’s legislative chambers and routed the GOP in all statewide races—just raising enough money to make their case may grow increasingly daunting for Republicans, Stutzman says.

California may be an extreme case of the political risks the GOP faces in a changing nation as Trump focuses the party’s message and agenda ever more narrowly on the priorities and cultural preferences of older, blue-collar, rural, and evangelical whites.

But Cain, the Stanford political scientist, notes that California is not unique, particularly in the west. Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and even Utah and Texas are being reshaped by forces similar to those that have dyed California so deeply blue….

The most ominous prospect for national Republicans is the possibility that the California GOP’s slide into the ocean is only a preview of the growing strain they may face under Trump in the other southwestern states advancing along a similar trajectory of economic and demographic change.

“They have got themselves into this little echo chamber, and now Trump has added to that,” Cain says. “But obviously this blew up on the Republicans in California. And it’s blowing up on them in these suburban areas in the West and other parts of the country.”

Yup, there does seem to be a trend here. Why in California even white noncollege voters are going Democratic!–they supported Democrat Gavin Newsom for governor by a solid 10 point margin. Shockingly, white noncollege men also joined the party, giving Newsom a 5 point edge.

Interesting. And if I was a Republican, just a little bit frightening.

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