It’s a somber day for Republicans, and a foreboding one for California taxpayers. Today is the official swearing-in day for the California legislature. When the final counts were all done, Democrats now have a whopping 29 members of the California State Senate — while only ten Republicans will occupy the upper chamber, with reinforcements on the way when one more Republican wins a runoff in a special election. Let’s call this a super-duper majority for Democrats. In the Assembly, Democrats will control more than two-thirds of the chamber with 55 members, leaving the GOP with only 25 members. With the backdrop of a pretty lousy day nationally for Republicans including the loss of the White House, and a pretty dismal showing in U.S. Senate races, it’s not good. (Republicans did keep the House, though half of the GOP’s losses nationally were California seats). I won’t even get into the results of ballot propositions.
We’ve all heard that expression, “Through adversity comes opportunity.”
Well, the 36 Republican legislators in the State Capitol are going to have to figure out the opportunity that has been presented by all of this bad news. It won’t be easy. There is no doubt that with their new found “superpowers” — the liberals that control the State legislature will have a field day. Look for them to come up with every creative way under the sun to increase the size and scope of California’s welfare state. No doubt they will focus much of their attention on how to redistribute wealth from higher income earning Californians into the hands of public employee union workers. They will also now work to appease the environment extremists in their caucuses. Of course look for an over-implementation of Obamacare here in California, with a push down the road to a single-payer healthcare system. Look for direct increases of taxes by the super-majority party — if I were oil companies, alcohol companies, cigarette companies, and the owners of large amounts of commercial real estate, now is the time to be worried.
All of this having been said, look for some political posturing to take place as well, in order to try and fool the public into thinking their extremism isn’t that…extreme. Look for purposeful overreaching that allows the Democrats to fleece the business community for contributions. Look for some freakishly outlandish proposals to be publicly leaked so that they can be “killed” in favor of only slightly less freakishly outlandish proposals. Also look for some fig-leaf reforms — perhaps in the areas of pensions, and CEQA reform. Note that these reforms can be easily undone. Also watch to see these faux or modest reforms be run simultaneously to new taxes and regulations.
So what are 36 Republicans to do? To read left of center columnists like the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton, for the GOP to be relevant, it’s time to build up personal relationships with the majority party, and find ways to work together. That sounds all fine and dandy until you realize that for the bulk of what the Democrats will do, there’s no “working together” because it will be a public policy agenda being pushed by the hard left of the Democrats. In fact, if there are some areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together this session, it will be over relatively minor issues, and then that limited bipartisan cooperation will be used to try to cloak from the public the more radical elements of the Democratic agenda.
Republicans have two important tasks ahead of them. The first is to start preparing now for the 2014 campaigns. At this point it seems that Senator Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Connie Conway will continue to lead their respective caucuses. Both will have a big responsibility ahead of them, leading efforts to recruit candidates in many seats, and then raise the dollars it will take to win them in what will be the most challenging fundraising environment the GOP will have ever experienced. There will be a premium on dollars raised from nontraditional sources. There will be opportunities to regain lost seats without Obama at the top of the ticket.
Task number two, simply put, is to step up big time into the role of being the “shadow government” for the State of California. In virtually every policy area, the Democrats will push their hard-left agenda. Every Republican legislator needs to stand tall, and loud, in proclaiming not only how the policies of the Democrats will hurt, not aid, California’s economic growth, and further trample on the liberty of her people. Republicans must be strong in committees, making their voices heard not only in terms of how the Democrats and their policies have and continue to fail California, but making it clear what Republicans would be doing on each and every issue. Republicans must use every means at their disposal from the diminished bully pulpit to the media, and new media to get out the word.
You can be sure that Democrats will over-reach. They will raise taxes. They will put measures to make it easier to raise taxes onto the ballot. They will increase regulations, and reduce the freedom and erode the liberties of Californians even further. If Republicans fight that agenda with united caucuses, and pour their hearts, souls and limited resources into picking up seats in 2014, that represents the best path back to political relevance in the State Capitol.
And with all due respect to Mr. Skelton, every lunch or dinner that a GOP Senator or Assemblymember spends with one of their Democrat colleagues is a missed opportunity to be making fundraising calls or working on earned media opportunities — all in the effort to win seats.