Commentary: Republicans and Democrats in California Take Turns Killing Themselves


It has been a fascinating week in California politics.  We have a field poll release giving us interesting information about the state’s political landscape, and news at the end of the week suggesting Republicans are in denial while the Democrats are likely to eat themselves… again.

The Republicans scored political victory of sorts today when their referendum to overturn the newly re-drawn Senate districts qualified for the ballot on Friday.

The irony of course is that they backed the initiative that led to their creation in the first place.  With 504,760 signatures needing to qualify, the Secretary of State’s office announced that 511,457 of the 711,307 referendum signatures submitted were legitimate signatures of registered voters.

Republican leaders believe that the new districts will give the Democrats a chance to capture two-thirds of the Senate seats, but not two-thirds of the Assembly seats.

One Republican strategist scoffed at the notion that it could lead to worse districts for Republicans stating, “I don’t think they could be much worse.”

But perhaps Columnist Dan Walters disagrees.  He argues that Republicans “could demand special protection under laws protecting endangered species.

He cites the following: registration data that shows Republicans have lost three percentage points in the last four years to trail Democrats statewide by 13 points, the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office, despite Meg Whitman outspending Jerry Brown by tens of millions.

He writes, “The independent redistricting that many Republicans hoped would block a Democratic gerrymander of legislative and congressional seats did the party no favors, with Democrats now likely to gain congressional seats this year and achieve a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate.”

He notes that with the two-third legislative vote eliminated on state budgets, “Republicans now have almost zero power in the Capitol.”

If that were true, Republicans who have been obstructionists on state budgets trying to force leveraged deals that resulted in imbalanced budgets finally forced the voters to take away some of their power by allowing for a majority budget.

However, it is not quite true that Republicans have no power. As Democrats will attest, the power to prevent the raising of revenue is critical to the future political battles, and it is the one power that is still in Republican hands, at least for the moment.

Finally, Mr. Walters notes, “A sophisticated analysis of Californians’ ideological leanings, based on their votes on key ballot measures, by University of San Francisco professor David Latterman, finds that the state leans more liberal.”

To illustrate these points, we note this week’s Field Polls show strengthened positions by Democrats.

President Obama cannot win reelection without California, and his position is very strong now.

“The survey, completed among a random sample of 1,003 registered voters, finds an increasing proportion of Californians rating the President’s overall job performance positively,” the poll reported on Thursday. “A 53% majority now approves of the job he is doing, while 39% disapprove. This fourteen-point positive to negative ratio is up from smaller two and four point pluralities observed in the fall and winter of last year.”

More importantly, the President holds a commanding lead over his likely GOP opponents.

The poll reports, “This has been accompanied by an increase in Californians’ desire to reelect Obama to a second term. This is manifested best when he is matched against each of the leading candidates running for the GOP nomination in general election simulations.”

“The President currently leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by twenty points (55% to 35%), double his preference margin three months ago. He holds even larger leads of twenty-eight and twenty-three percentage points, respectively, over two other potential GOP rivals, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich,” the poll finds.

Polling also found strong support for both tax increases.

“In its latest statewide survey, The Field Poll measured voter preferences toward these proposed initiatives by reading a summary of their official ballot titles and descriptions. The results show the CFT’s [California Federation of Teachers] proposal receiving the most support, with 63% of voters inclined to vote yes, and 31% on the no side. It calls for increasing state income taxes on Californians earning more than $1 million and even higher taxes on incomes above $2 million, with funds benefiting the schools, social services, public safety and road maintenance,” the poll reported on Friday.

The Field Poll likewise found strong support for the the Governor’s tax proposal.  This would temporarily increase state income taxes on Californians earning more than $250,000 and raise the state sales tax by one-half cent to fund education and guarantee local public safety services, also receives majority support.

“Currently, 58% of voters back this initiative, while 36% are opposed,” the poll found.

But while the Democrats may look to be in strong position in the state, having competing tax measures is not the ideal way to go.  However, neither side appears to be backing down.

A few weeks ago, Governor Brown scored a coup for his tax measure when the California Teachers Association backed it over the millionaire’s tax.

“Educators know that California cannot continue to cut its way out of ongoing budget problems. We also know that not everyone in California is paying their fair share, and that’s why we are supporting the governor’s tax proposal, which taxes the wealthiest Californians in order to bring additional revenue to our schools, colleges and other essential public services,” Dean Vogel, president of the CTA and a Davis resident said in a statement on Sunday.

“The governor’s initiative is the only initiative that provides additional revenues for our classrooms and closes the state budget deficit, and guarantees local communities will receive funds to pay for the realignment of local health and public safety services that the Legislature approved last year,” he continued. “It’s time to put California back on track and this initiative is the best way to do that.  It’s the right choice for our students and their families, our communities and our state.”

However, the rival CFT organization continues to steadfastly back the millionaire’s tax.

On Friday evening, CFT strategist Steven Maviglio tweeted, “Doesn’t look like CFT backing off millionaires tax. Another $200K reported tonight.”

The Sacramento Bee argued a few weeks ago that there was “growing tension among Democrats about competing tax plans.”

As Steve Glazer, strategist for Jerry Brown, said on Friday, “If all three measures are on the ballot, it’s very unlikely that any will prevail, and there will be greater cuts throughout state government and especially on schools.”

The third tax measure, put forth by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger, was trailing 48-45, according to The Field Poll.  That measure, “would more broadly increase state income taxes on most individuals and earmark the revenues to the k-12 schools, pre-schools, and child care.”

According to Friday’s Bee, “CFT President Joshua Pechthalt said the poll numbers were encouraging and that his coalition is moving forward despite the governor’s attempts to clear the field.”

“It’s certainly not a sign to us that it is time to abandon our efforts,” he said.

Mr. Glazer, while acknowledging the CFT plan, countered, “It doesn’t take into account the fact that they’ll experience funded opposition to their plan, versus the governor’s, which has broad-based support from labor, business and elected officials.”

One thing is sure, Democrats despite their immense advantage will find a way to divide themselves and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The only thing they have going for them is that the Republicans in the state are equally inept, and their policies are more unpopular.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Rifkin

    Something which strikes me as interesting about the increasing success of Democrats and the decline of Republicans over the last 30 years in California is that the Democratic base voters have become more and more Latino, but the members elected to office from the Assembly on up still have very few Latinos.

    It appears there are just 13 Latinos (out of 80) in the Assembly, 6 in the Senate (40) and none elected statewide. The current Speaker of the Assembly, John Perez, is Latino. And we have previously had Latino Speakers. My guess is that in 20 years, most of the Dems in the state legislature will be of Hispanic origins and all of the Dems elected as Constitutional officers will be.

    *Democrats have had a majority or a plurality of the partisan registration in California ever since 1934. So it is not exactly new that this is a Democratic state. In fact, the D:R proportion today is not high compared to 20 years ago and more. The main difference is that now we have a lot more “decline to states.” In 2010, there were 7.5 million registered Democrats; 5.2 million Republicans; and 3.4 million “decline to states.” Compare that with 1980 when we had 5,8 million Dems; 3.7 million GOPers; and just 0.96 million unaffiliated with a party.

  2. Mr.Toad

    All of the latinos in the Senate and, I believe, all the Asians are Democrats. So while the one to one plotting between Democrats and minorities is not a perfect one to one the GOP looking ever more old and white keeps looking ever less like California’s diverse population. Until the GOP stops bashing immigrants it will remain marginalized. As long as it spends all its limited political capital on opposing taxes it will accomplish nothing more than putting its thumbs in the wall that holds back the tide of history.

  3. J.R.

    It’s ironic that people flee failing nations with socialist economic systems to come to the US, and then vote to establish the same failed policies here.

    And by the way – isn’t that headline the kind of inflammatory rhetoric we want to cut down on? If there’s a rash of suicides in Sacramento in the coming weeks, someone will need to do some self-examination.

  4. Frankly

    [i]”So while the one to one plotting between Democrats and minorities is not a perfect one to one the GOP looking ever more old and white keeps looking ever less like California’s diverse population. Until the GOP stops bashing immigrants it will remain marginalized. As long as it spends all its limited political capital on opposing taxes it will accomplish nothing more than putting its thumbs in the wall that holds back the tide of history.”[/i]

    Old and white like the guys that founded the country? Are Democrats biased against whites and old people?

    Who is bashing immigrants? Toad, you are making things up. Hope you don’t share your opinions with your students.

    Good thing for you the GOP opposes taxes since otherwise the PEU would have bankrupted the state much earlier and your pension might have been reduced.

  5. Mr.Toad

    “Who is bashing immigrants?”

    Wilson, Poisner, Tancredo, Brewer, Bilbray just off the top of my head.

    “Are Democrats biased against whites and old people? “

    No, we are diverse like California.

    “Who is bashing immigrants? Toad, you are making things up. Hope you don’t share your opinions with your students. “

    Most of my students are immigrants, their cousins or their children. They know when they are being bashed. They express it to me. I just listen and tell them to vote or become citizens and vote.

    “Good thing for you the GOP opposes taxes…”

    What else do you have left? What are you for.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Jeff Boone: The demise of this state correlates with the decline in the number of Republican politicians and voters.

    David M. Greenwald: Correlation does not prove causation.[/quote]

    Doesn’t prove it, but certainly could be a factor, no? When one group is not checked, it can run rough shod over everyone. Checks and balances is usually a better system…

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: one of the things you learn when you attempt to model cause and effect is that time components are critical. The question is really: is the decline in the number of Republican politicians and voters CAUSING the demise of the state or is the demise of the state causing more voters to become DECLINED TO STATE and turn away from voting for REPUBLICAN politicians. A strict correlation equation would not show the direction of that correlation, therefore correlation does not prove causation.

  8. Frankly

    Me:[i]”Who is bashing immigrants?”[/i]

    Toad: [i]”Wilson, Poisner, Tancredo, Brewer, Bilbray just off the top of my head.”[/i]

    I’ve never heard these men “bash immigrants”. Do you have evidence of this? Please share.

    Me:[i]”Good thing for you the GOP opposes taxes…”[/i]

    Toad:[i]”What else do you have left? What are you for.”[/i]

    Primarily intellectual honesty. The very thing that Democrats seem incapable of these days. They have spent like drunken sailors and racked up unsustainable debts, yet they still campaign for maintaining the same trajectory of irresponsible spending.

  9. Mr.Toad

    Well if you think they don’t bash immigrants you will never come out of the CA Republican death spiral. Oh and don’t forget 209, 187, opposition to the Dream Act and driver licenses for people trying to get to work.

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