The Golden State's stark message: America's changing demographics will give Democrats total control of Congress
Republicans are having a bad day. But it’s going to get a lot worse when they look beyond the White House and U.S. Senate and fully absorb what just happened in California. The future of American politics — a majority-minority coalition handing complete political power over all branches of government to Democrats — is written here for anyone to see, in big, bold, rainbow-colored letters.
California, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, may have delivered the most unexpected news in a night full of surprises:
California Democrats appear to have picked up a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature Tuesday night, a surprise outcome that gives the party the ability to unilaterally raise taxes and leaves Republicans essentially irrelevant in Sacramento.
If preliminary results hold, 2012 will mark the first time in 80 years that either political party in California has enjoyed supermajority control. Republicans everywhere should be paying close attention. Because the demographic trends that led to Obama’s reelection — the increasing diversity of the electorate, the relative liberalism of the youth vote, the declining influence of old white males — made their national debut in California in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The rest of the nation is just catching up.
Before 1992, California had not given its electoral votes to a Democrat running for president since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 electoral landslide. But in the early 1990s California became a majority-minority state, and since then the state has inexorably turned bluer and bluer (aided by ham-handed Republican legislation on immigration that profoundly alienated Hispanics). Only 30 percent of Californians are now registered Republicans, the lowest mark since record-keeping began. In 2012, every single statewide office belonged to Democrats, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein ran essentially unopposed. Arch-conservative Republican Dan Lungren was the state’s attorney general from 1991-1999. He lost his U.S. House of Representatives seat last night. (UPDATE: Lungren has yet to concede his seat, trailing by only 186 votes with ballots yet to be counted.)
As goes California, so goes the nation? House Republicans might want to think twice about continuing their efforts to gut the Endangered Species Act. It might not be long before they are cowering under its protection.
When you combine California’s election results with the fact that Barack Obama is the first president since Ronald Reagan to win 50 percent or more of the popular vote twice, the symbolism becomes even more important. Because the true significance of the new Democratic Californian supermajority is that, at least for a couple of years, it finally releases Californians from the shackles of Proposition 13, the state initiative passed in 1978 that so severely limits the legislature’s ability to raise taxes and govern effectively.
Proposition 13 was a watershed moment in American history, the first crumbling of the post New Deal consensus that supported an activist government intent on educating its citizens and providing them with an adequate safety net. California’s own native son, Ronald Reagan, rode the ideological wave of Proposition 13 right into the White House, and launched an era in which Republicans successfully devoted themselves to crippling government at all levels for decades. Proposition 13 broke California’s government.
The election of Democratic supermajorities suggests that Californians have had enough with broken government. Guess what? If you break something, the other side may get the chance to fix it.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that Democratic control will fix California’s dysfunctions. I think even California liberals might be a little nervous at the spectacle of Gov. Jerry Brown, unchained and at full liberty! Gov. Brown — who, ironically, was also governor of California when 13 passed — now has an extraordinary opportunity to reset the contours of state government, to steer the most populous state in the country back toward prosperity and fiscal sanity. But if he blows it, he could just as easily kick off an entirely new era of disillusionment with Big Government.
We’ll be watching with great interest to see how the next two years play out in the Golden State. As should everyone in Washington. Because demographics don’t lie. All the Republicans currently licking their wounds at the national level should take a deep breath and consider the likelihood that what happened on Election Day 2012 is just the beginning. That’s the message from California.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11