Op-Ed: A little unsolicited advice for the California GOP

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, listens as lawmakers debate a measure to change the rules governing recall elections at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on June 15, 2017.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Believe it or not, I want the California Republican Party to do well. I agree with nearly none of their platform, and their troglodytic elected officials are only good for internet memes and scary bedtime stories.

But we as a state need a competitive democracy to truly thrive. The Democrats have a near supermajority in both chambers (recently lost because of resignations in the wake of #MeToo) and can pass nearly anything they want; that makes Sacramento little better than Mexico under the PRI’s one-party rule.

For 2018, California Republicans are bracing for a Waterloo, gracias to an invigorated Democratic base ready to donkey-kick anything red. For chrissakes, even Orange County went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The O.C.’s GOP representatives have to campaign for the first time in their careers — and that’s supposed to be the place where “all the good Republicans go to die,” as Ronald Reagan once quipped.


Instead of focusing on what ails them, however, California Republicans are trying more of the same silliness that got them into this tight spot — like the recall effort against Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, who critics claim was the deciding vote in that dumb gas tax bill from last year.

I offer Republicans advice that comes from a good place: Drop it.

Newman, as a freshman politician, should’ve known better than to help make Californians pay more money at the pumps and thus make himself immediately vulnerable. He may well lose his seat in the June 5 recall election, which will further erode the Democrats’ supermajority and let the GOP wield insignificant power instead of no power at all.

If, however, the recall is successful, it’ll probably become the latest knot in a string of Pyrrhic victories. Far too often over the past few decades, Republican leaders have obsessed over removing “enemies” from office. At this point, they sure do know how to run a successful demonization campaign — hey, Antonio Villaraigosa, Helen Gahagan Douglas sends her regards. But their short-term wins have had unintended consequences and, more significantly, have done nothing to shore up the prospects of the party as a whole.

Instead of focusing on what ails them, California Republicans are trying more of the same silliness that got them into this tight spot.

To wit:

—Rose Bird: In the 1980s, conservatives led by Orange County’s Tony Rackauckas, then a prosecutor, tried to recall the California Chief Justice because they felt she was too soft on the death penalty. They never succeeded, but they did slime her, leading voters to boot her from office in 1986. Rackauckas parlayed his activism into his current position as district attorney. But he was the only winner. Bird’s removal did little to revive the death penalty, and Rackauckas’ involvement in Orange County’s recent jailhouse snitch scandal has made the area’s justice system a local joke.

—Willie Brown: In 1990, in part to force the longtime San Francisco politico from Sacramento, Republicans endorsed term limits. Brown’s gone, but term limits exacerbated the revolving door problem. Politicians bounce from seat to seat with the help of lobbyists — until they become lobbyists themselves.

—Doris Allen: The Orange County state senator struck a deal with Democrats in 1995 that named her speaker of the Assembly. Outraged, Allen’s fellow Republicans pushed for her recall, and Curt Pringle became speaker. He was the last Republican to hold the title, and the maneuver set a terrible precedent. Few in the GOP would now dare to reach across the aisle lest they suffer Allen’s fate.


—Gray Davis: What is it with the GOP’s itch to recall bland white politicians? Such racists! Davis was a neoliberal dream who gave prison-guard and police unions sweetheart deals. Yet the GOP dethroned him and backed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proved equally ineffectual. That fiasco tarnished the whole party and led, by hook and by crook, to the election of eternal GOP bogeyman Jerry Brown. His two terms of success mean the Democrats can run a redwood log against any Republican candidate and still win — and his name is Gavin Newsom.

The grand total for all these years of GOP recall rage? California is more progressive than ever, and fewer voters register as Republican. The Democrats run the state, and are ready to oust elephants from the congressional delegation to Washington.

Newman is not exactly a liberal lion, so to see the GOP cast him as a pinko just shows how bad their priorities are. Instead of trying to pick off random Democrats through recalls, Republicans should focus on how to revitalize their party so they can make the Capitol competitive again.

Here’s some more unsolicited advice on how to make that happen, conservatives: Sell your alleged anti-tax, pro-business message to voters as something that they deserve instead of something that Democrats are supposedly against. Remember that liberals and moderates are people, too, and that working with Democrats to better the state is OK.

And, please, now and forever: Ignore the O.C. GOP, which got you here and is becoming more obsolete than a CalTrans Call Box.


Twitter: @gustavoArellano

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