Some addiction recovery experts believe that it’s easiest to kick a habit once you’ve hit “rock bottom,” which is the nebulous region just before the “point of no return.”
After watching the California Republican Party’s long self-destructive downward spiral, I’m starting to understand what they mean. The state GOP might not have bottomed out yet, but the party seems intent on clinging to its bad habit of alienating Californians to the bitter end.
That end may not be far off. Republican registration has been declining for years but hit a new low last year and lost its second-place status to “no party preference.” That was followed naturally by a drubbing in the November election, in which the GOP lost half of its congressional seats and left the Democrats with not just a supermajority (two-thirds) in the state Legislature, but a super-duper majority (three-fourths). When the California Legislature convened in December, Republicans occupied only 31 of the 120 total seats.
On Thursday, that number dropped even lower when Brian Maienschein, a moderate Republican from San Diego, announced he was switching teams, blaming the GOP’s rightward tilt. This makes two high-profile defections in as many months. In December, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye shared with reporters that she re-registered with no party preference after witnessing the hyperpartisanship of the Brett M. Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Newly elected Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) had a less-than gracious response to the departure, calling Maienschein a “turncoat” and suggesting that joining the Democratic Party was act of naked self-preservation after a close reelection race in November. That may be part of the equation; but if so, then at least Maienschein is smart enough to recognize that his constituents aren’t as interested in the GOP brand as they used to be, and he is responding accordingly.
When people are abandoning a ship in large numbers, it makes more sense to look around for the looming iceberg rather than curse those swimming to safety.
Will the California GOP change course before it crashes and burns? We may get a clue next month when the party picks a replacement for outgoing state chairman Jim Brulte.
Incredibly, one of the top contenders for the job is Travis Allen, the former state Assemblyman from Huntington Beach who ran such a Trumpian gubernatorial campaign that the Los Angeles Times editorial board told him to cut it out already. He didn’t, and the extreme rhetoric seemed to turn off even the state’s Republicans. They overwhelmingly backed a candidate, businessman John Cox, who didn’t vote for President Trump.
Allen apparently learned nothing from last year’s election results, as he continues to insist that if the California Republican Party wants to win again it must get fully behind President Trump.
If this is the future leader of the state’s GOP, then rock bottom won’t be far behind.