Los Gatos Weekly Times
State's Republican Party again whistling past the graveyard
If there's one skill California's vastly outnumbered and out-thought Republican Party has perfected, it's the art of whistling past the graveyard.
They're at it again now as the state heads into what promises to be the most interesting mid-term election here in quite awhile, with new district lines on every governmental level from Congress and the Legislature to county boards and city councils.
Here's what the party's chair, Jessica Millan Patterson, told its fall 2021 convention, staged two weeks after GOP hopes of recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom were dashed by a 2-1 margin last September.
“We are full steam ahead on the 2022 elections,” she said. That would ordinarily be the comment of the head of a party with some chance to make headway in those elections. But the state GOP is not such a party.
Anyone who needed proof of this could look at the recall election results from what used to be the most solidly red county in America, Orange County.
Yes, Orange County provided a substantial share of the 1.5 million-odd voter signatures that put the recall onto a statewide special election ballot. But at crunch time, the county went 52-48 percent to keep Newsom, a governor who has had mixed results: He's got California at one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the nation, but has done little about the many billions of dollars defrauded from the state's unemployment department during the early months of the pandemic.
He inspired laws requiring proof of vaccination for entry to many indoor spaces and events, but sometimes flouted the very anticontagion rules he promulgated with executive orders. And so on.
Given all this, it was remarkable that Orange County, once the GOP bastion to beat them all, still opted to keep Newsom.
There was a time, and not so long ago (about 30 years) when one of the seminal political realities of California politics was this: A Republican could win statewide office if he or she could carry the OC by 250,000 or more votes. Since then, the county has become essentially purple, with either party capable of winning congressional races and others there.
The several Orange County congressional seats that have swung back and forth between the parties lately are usually decided by margins of under 5,000 votes, some by less than that.
Part of Orange County's change has been demographic. Since the 1990s, a plethora of high tech firms established footholds there, bringing younger, college-educated workers who — national polls show — are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. At the same time, Democrat-leaning Latinos poured into areas around Santa Ana, the county seat.
But part of the Republican problem is also ideological. Replacement candidates on the ballot against Newsom were a motley crew representative of a party lacking fresh ideas, one that mostly says “no” to almost every new idea or social trend.
On the whole, the band of wanna-be re
placements opposed abortion in almost all cases, wanted less of a social net protecting citizens and legal residents who become destitute or homeless through no fault of their own and supported measures like the 2017 tax cut sponsored and signed by ex-president Donald Trump that predominantly favors corporations and the ultra-rich over the middle class.
Those folks were epitomized by their leading vote-getter, the longtime right-wing talk show host Larry Elder. Not only did he promise to eliminate masking and vaccination requirements against Covid the day he took office, but he plugged reversing many of the state's measures against climate change just when fires intensified by climate change blazed across the state.
Some of that might fly in Texas, but this is California, and once voters figured out what Elder wanted, the recall's fate was sealed.
Yet, the California Republican Party insists on trying to push the same old ideas that have lost it so much ground over the last 25 years. It's time party officials realized nothing much will change for them until and unless they find candidates willing and able to at least moderate these traditional stances.
There are no signs yet that this will happen, which is why Republicans just now are again whistling past their own graveyard.