Monday, February 04, 2019

One-party California is here to stay

Back when the state of California was suffering through the racist initiative wars of the 1990s (187, 209, 227) Eva Patterson, then leading the northern California Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, used to sometimes console those of us working to stem the tide with the adage: "God doesn't like Ugly."

At the biennial UC Berkeley political consultant confab discussing the 2018 election results, luminaries from both parties and political academia agreed, the Ugly emanating from Donald Trump most likely has killed off the already weakened Republican Party in the state.

The once-powerful Republican brand — which helped elect all but three governors in the 20th century — has steadily weakened over the past 25 years, with Wilson —fairly or not — blamed for embracing the 1994 ballot measure aimed at curbing the costs of illegal immigration. The schism between Republicans and the state’s rapidly diversifying population widened with the passage of a 1996 statewide ballot measure attacking affirmative action and another in 1998 to limit bilingual education. A generation of Californians never forgot.

“The political forces that form your opinion when you’re young carry on,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the UC Berkeley poll.

California voters raised on the memories of 2018 could carry today’s political views for decades. And they’re already engaged: People 34 and younger cast ballots at a much higher rate in 2018 than in previous midterms, according to a new analysis by the for-profit research firm Political Data.

Perhaps just as consequential are those turned off by the Trump era. Political Data’s report found a number of young Republicans — generally more reliable voters than their Democratic-leaning peers — failed to show up in 2018. And broadly speaking, GOP voters in several key congressional races either didn’t vote or, as political strategist Mike Madrid pointed out, made the once-unthinkable decision to vote for a Democrat.

“I don’t think that will be healed for many election cycles to come,” Madrid, a former political director of the California Republican Party, told the Berkeley audience.

For veterans of the painfilled political seasons of the 1990s, this is sweet music indeed.

But celebrating state Democrats need to understand that just because the GOP is down and nearly out, politics doesn't end. Conflict merely moves within the dominant party. Californians have views and vital interests that clash and must be worked out within the political system. That's what a functioning democracy means. Let's try for as much integrity, honesty, and even unity in those conflicts within the Big Tent as possible.

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