“California Doesn’t Matter”?

The Weekly Standard, America’s leading conservative newsweekly, recently carried a provocative cover story by Executive Editor Fred Barnes, entitled “California Doesn’t Matter.”

The article suggests that California’s political importance has greatly diminished in recent years, and the state no longer serves as a leading indicator of future national trends. To some extent, this theme represents putting a positive spin on the near-complete collapse of the California Republican Party, which it documents (an alternate title might almost have been “Republicans Don’t Matter in California”).

As Peter Schrag’s rejoinder in the Sacramento Bee points out, “sour grapes” is hardly an effective political strategy. On present course, many expect the Republicans to lose 3 or more Congressional seats in California this year, and perhaps another 5-7 in 2002 after a Democratic Party gerrymander, enough to give control of Congress to the Democrats. Furthermore, Silicon Valley and Hollywood are two of the wealthiest, most influential sectors of the American economy, and if the Republicans write them off completely, the Democratas will be very pleased.

Finally, the most significant long-term reason for the Republican decline in California is the huge growth in non-white immigrant voters, whom the Republicans had sharply attacked in race-baiting campaigns for Prop. 187 and Prop. 209; and these demographic trends are exactly the same throughout America, especially in the other largest states of New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. Thus, if the Republicans write-off California for ethnic demographic reasons, within a decade or two they will have to do the same in all those other places, and eventually will be pushed back to their white core of (say) Idaho and Wyoming. Although I doubt the current Bush message will resonate among ethnic immigrant voters, at least the Bush campaign (unlike Barnes) realizes that it must make some attempt in this regard.

On a personal note, the California Republicans were absolutely deaf to my endless warnings on Prop. 187 and 209, and hence may have lost a generation of immigrant voters. They were equally deaf to THREE separate Wall Street Journal editorials urging them to get behind my “fair redistricting” initiative, and hence may lose 8-10 Congressional seats by 2002, perhaps shifting control of the House. Watching helplessly as a political party commits suicide is extremely frustrating.

As for Fred Barnes, I remember his Hoover Institution speech in Fall 1996 fervantly urging Bob Dole to center his California campaign on support for Prop. 187 and Prop. 209. Dole took his advice, and now Barnes has a further opportunity to produce a lengthy article on the resulting annihilation of the California Republican Party.

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