In November, 2006 things looked bleak for California Republicans. Governor Schwarzenegger had won re-election, but he had long since abandoned his economic policies of 2003, and by soaking up all the available political money, he was no help to any other GOP candidate.
The only other statewide office in Republican hands was the Insurance Commissioner. But 2006 was a Democratic year nationally, which left a glimmer of hope. After last week‘s election, there is now no hope at all, and from this point, things are only going to deteriorate.
2010 was clearly expected to be a Republican year. The GOP ticket was well funded and headed by two highly-successful women. The other statewide candidates were an experienced and talented group, and included another woman and a black male. While the rest of America was revolting against unappealing Democratic leadership and policies, Californians delivered a stinging defeat to the Republican Party, awarding Democrats each of the statewide races by large margins (except for the Attorney General race, which pitted a well-respected District Attorney from Los Angeles against a far-left DA from San Francisco; that contest still has not been resolved.)
Why did Republicans perform so poorly? My friend, Arnie Steinberg, who is the smartest person in the California Republican party, analyzed the situation and concluded that Meg Whitman ran a poor campaign and wasted her money. The rest of us have regrettably come to a significantly different conclusion – the state is hopeless and most believe it’s now time to move.
To give you some perspective, the state hasn’t had a balanced budget for 10 years. The lawmakers have been doing a sleight-of-hand while the budget deficit grows to an estimated $25.4 billion and the state debt balloons. The central valley, which is the breadbasket of America (if not the world), has been crushed by left-wing environmental policies that have drained it of water. The official unemployment rate remains at 12.5%, although it is really much higher. In the aftermath of the City of Bell scandal, many municipalities have been found to be paying outrageous salaries and providing ridiculous benefits. The school systems in every major metropolitan area have horrendous track records accompanied by enormous costs. And still, Californians voted for the party that has run this state – with little Republican input except for a couple of governors – for almost 50 years.
During this time, state voters voted down realistic budget reforms, passed a $3 billion initiative to fund stem cell research, and enacted an initiative to create “green energy”. This environmental pipedream will cost the state untold fortunes, vastly increase the already high cost of energy (including gasoline), and eliminate any hope of business moving into the state in accordance with its current ranking of 50th for corporate relocation.
If all that sounds grim, it gets even worse. The only factor that has held the Republicans together and encouraged any fiscal sanity has been the fact that the state budget must be approved by two-thirds of both the Assembly and the State Senate. Because of persistent gerrymandering, Republicans have typically held slightly more than one third of the elected officials in the Senate, so they have been able to negotiate minor reductions in state expenditures and prevent further crippling tax increases. But last week, California voters approved an initiative to require only a majority of each house for approval of the budget. Republicans, who already had very little control over anything, might just as well stay in their districts because they now have zero, zip, and nada to say about anything in Sacramento. The residents of California have lifted the last restraint upon the far-left legislature, and have combined this with a governor, Jerry Brown, whose campaign war chest was principally funded by public employee unions. No reasonable person could conclude that this combination can balance a budget that is largely driven by a Brobdingnagian sized work force that receives mammoth salary, benefit, and pension packages. After all, Democratic officeholders don’t really work for all Californians; they work for the public employee unions that pay for their elections, and with whom they negotiate compensation agreements.
The Republicans are left with no bench after this election and little prospect that anyone will come in and spend their hard-earned money attempting another run. Even if you agree with Arnie Steinberg’s analysis of the election why would anyone invest millions of their own dollars after seeing what happened to Whitman and Fiorina in a definitive Republican year?
This is a historic time for the Republican Party. Except for control of the U.S. Senate and the Presidency, both of which are fully achievable in 2012, they have not had this much power in federal and state governments for 80 years. The strong anti-Obama tide materialized throughout the country – except for California. More and more Republicans will continue to relocate, leaving the state and its bloated government to whomever chooses to remain living in this overtaxed, public-employee-controlled environment. That could be a blessing to other states, who can expect more Republicans and entrepreneurs to move in and more Democrats to move out (to California). In fact, it might just be an excellent national strategy to just quadrant off all the left-wingers in the country into California and Massachusetts.
We saw what left-wing Democrat government does at the federal level, and that caused a major convulsive rejection on November 2nd. We can only hope for the sake of all involved that the same thing happens in California over the next four years.