Make California Great Again in 2018?

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

In politics, as in just about everything, success breeds success. Ronald Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts quickly became the top mantra of Republican candidates. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation,” of shifting to the center, won for Democrats, including President Obama – until Hillary ignored her husband’s advice this year and abandoned the white working-class vote, which won it for Donald Trump.

For the 2018 gubernatorial election and the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, you can be assured of one thing: at least one GOP candidate in each race will imitate Trump’s policies and style, calling – in these words – to Make California Great Again. We don’t know who, but someone already is designing MCGA hats and taking out a Twitter account.

The obvious issue will be Trump-style immigration restriction. But, didn’t the party at its September convention in Anaheim announce it’s now pro-immigrant, disavowing support for Proposition 187 from 1994? Yes, but before the June California primary, Trump drew thousands to his rallies in California, always emphasizing his call to build a wall on the border and deport illegal immigrants.

In August, the Brookings Institute ran an article by Vanessa Williamson, “Anti-immigrant ads like Trump’s sank the California GOP in the 90s.” But in November, Trump won anyway. Of course, he lost California big time (33%). But, as I predicted months ago, he won the nation. And after the primaries, Trump never campaigned here.

And how did being pro-immigrant help Meg Whitman in 2010 (41%) or Neel Kashkari in 2014 (40%)? They did better than Trump. But still pathetic.

As to the U.S. Senate race, who even can remember anything said by Feinstein’s 2012 GOP challenger, Elizabeth Emken (38%)?

I don’t know if he’ll run this time, but imagine how such a Trumpian campaign in 2014 might have helped Tim Donnelly, who in 2014 favored immigration restriction, but lost a close primary, finishing No. 3 to Kashkari’s No. 2. In 2018, at least one candidate will use the Trump Tactics:

  • Multiple daily tweets sniping at the other candidates. Because of Top Two, this will be a target-rich environment, with aim taken at both Republican and Democratic rivals.
  • Rallies held in stadiums. Will they get as much attendance as Trump’s? No, but they will help build support and publicity.
  • Protests against the Trump-type candidates and for the pro-immigration candidates will generate massive publicity.
  • Debates will be shouting matches with nasty comments. Maybe somebody will watch for a change.

More, the economic Trump Boom I predicted on Fox & Hounds last month now is happening, and will continue. (Some Democrats are claiming it’s a continuation of an “Obama boom.” Tell that to my unemployed and under-employed friends. In fact, according to a study by Express Employment Professionals, a job placement service, “U.S. unemployed have quit looking for jobs at a ‘frightening’ level.”)

Republican candidates will take credit for that boom, fastening themselves to Trump. He’ll come out to campaign for the winners on the November ballot (assuming we don’t, as in 2016, get two Dems running against one another), if only to taunt California Democrats – especially on his immigration policies, which by then will be almost two years old.

Will any GOP candidate have a chance with such tactics, winning one of the two primary slots, then contending in November? Nahhhh. The state’s still too Democratic. But it will be closer than in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

And a lot more fun.

Longtime California columnist John Seiler now writes freelance. His email: [email protected]

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