District surprises

Pub date November 13, 2012
WriterTim Redmond
SectionEditors Notes


EDITOR’S NOTES The Wall Street Journal, which ought to focus on stellar reporting and skip the political analysis, stuck its haughty little nose into California last week, announcing that the Democratic supermajorities in the state Legislature spell doom for us all.

“Liberals,” the paper noted, “will pick up enough seats to secure a supermajority. Governor Jerry Brown then will be the only chaperone for the Liberals Gone Wild video that is Sacramento.”

I guess I go to the wrong parties, but I’ve never seen that movie. In fact, a lot of the Dems in Sacramento would have to cough and gasp a bit to call themselves “liberals,” and that’s on a good day. Frankly, the majority party in the Assembly and Senate tends to be relatively conservative, with many of its members afraid to so much as talk about, say, amending Prop. 13 or legalizing marijuana.

The bigger danger is that the Democrats from the more moderate districts will so fear that loss of their seats that they’ll want to be even more cautious about raising taxes than the Republicans.

See, I don’t think either party quite realizes what happened Nov. 6 in California, and what it means for the future.

This election wasn’t an anomaly. It wasn’t a miraculous twist of fate driven by high Obama turnout or by labor’s GOTV efforts to defeat Prop. 32. It was the inevitable result of two forces — the demographic changes in the electoral map of this state, and the utter, complete collapse of the California Republican Party. Neither one is about to change any time soon.

For decades, the GOP has focused on older, white, suburban voters, and there was a time when that strategy worked. But the future of the state is younger, non-white urban voters who are less frightened by crime, less xenophobic about immigration, less likely to have kids in private schools, and largely uninterested in the traditional Republican social issues.

Brian Leubitz, the insightful blogger at Calitics.com, notes that almost 30 percent of the people who went to the polls Nov. 6 were between 18 and 29 years old. “The California GOP, like the greater national party, has lost young voters,” he writes. “If it hopes to return to a semblance of a statewide party, it will need to moderate itself back into a party that accurately represents some portion of California’s electorate.”

How likely is that? Anyone want to bet that the GOP is going to reject the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the right-wing radio guys in Los Angeles and start promoting immigration reform and an overhaul of Prop. 13? You’ll have to give me pretty long odds.

No: The era of Democratic supermajorities in the California Legislature is here to stay for a while, and the Dems might as well use it. No need to be afraid of a backlash; there’s nothing out there to lash back with. The only real danger is that Democrats and independents will be so disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to act on the huge issues facing the state that they’ll stay home in two years.

Why not talk about a split-role property tax program? Why not an oil-severance tax? Why not let local government raise local taxes without a two-thirds majority? The Wall Street Journal can whine all it wants, but it can’t change reality — right now, the Democrats are the only game in town.