Three Million New Voters And A $58 Billiion Tax Increase; Donald Trump’s Impact On California

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has the potential to totally remake California politics by costing a third to a half of all Republican incumbents their seats this fall, thus bringing to an end the two party system in California.

Polling data and political trends support this conclusion.  Californians no longer split their tickets to the extent they once did. In 2012, the GOP Senate candidate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Emken, ran even with Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, both received 37 percent statewide.

The California Target Book provides a handy comparison of the Romney and Emken numbers in each district along with the Republican candidates for Congress and the legislature. These figures show that most down ballot Republicans ran slightly better than Romney and Emken.  Of the 25 successful Assembly Republicans and five successful Senators in 2012, most outpolled Romney and Emken by around five to eight points – some did better; a few did worse.  The same is true for the 14 successful GOP members of congress.

So Romney’s 37 percent statewide did not lead to defeat of Republicans in GOP areas even though he actually lost a number of incumbent GOP districts.  The early 2016 polling suggests a similar statewide breakdown this year, either Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. John Kasich can probably make it to 37 percent, or close enough that they will not be a major drag on Republicans running for re-election.

This is not true of Donald Trump. Survey USA, a poll with a good California record, shows him losing to Hillary Clinton by a margin of 60 percent to 26 percent.  In this survey, Trump runs 11 points behind the 2012 Romney percent.  This will put Trump in the 35 to at best 50 percent range in the GOP legislative and congressional districts; and his low percentage will drag down to defeat a large number of incumbent Republicans.

Consider just one district that of Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley).  Romney got 53 percent in this district in 2012, and the then GOP Assemblyman Brian Nestande received 55 percent. Mayes himself received 57 percent in 2014, while the GOP candidate for governor received 53 percent.  Now drop the presidential total by 11 points and Trump will only receive 42 percent in this suburban Republican district; Mayes will have an eight percent presidential deficit to make up.  Based on past elections, it will be difficult for him to survive.

It is equally bleak for Mayes’ fellow Assembly Republicans.  In 10 of the current 28 Republican Assembly districts, Romney received 50 to 55 percent, and in eight districts he received less than 50 percent. The Trump drag puts all 18 of these districts at serious risk.

It is the same for the Senate Republicans, where Romney received 54 percent or less in four of the five districts that are up.  And in the House, Romney received 55 percent or less in seven of the 14 incumbent districts, so half the GOP House delegation is at risk of defeat.

There are two additional reasons unique to the Trump candidacy why these results could be even worse for Republicans.  Current polling probably underestimates Latino turnout this fall.  People vote their fears; nothing like the Trump deportation policy that will send grandma back to Mexico to bring out Latino voters.

Latino voters have not been turning out in recent elections; the 2014 Latino turnout was historically low.  Working class Americans are alienated from the establishment of both parties and Latinos have a good reason to be alienated in California. They hold many of the blue collar jobs, but the ruling Democratic elite from Gov. Brown on down have no interest in expanding manufacturing job opportunities, fixated as they are on saving the world from climate change.  But current polling shows Trump so unpopular in Latino communities that he will probably resolve the Democrats’ Latino turnout problem.

The Latino electorate in California is way below its potential in registration and turnout.  The Secretary of State reports that there are some 6.6 million eligible adults who are not registered, and California’s aggressive new Secretary of State Alex Padilla is bent on increasing registration with new tools like automatic voter registration at DMA offices.

It is clear that the unregistered are overwhelmingly young and non-white.  In 2012, the electorate was 60 percent white, 23 percent Latino.  But the 2010 census shows that only 44 percent of California adults were white, some 33 percent were Latino, and this gap has probably closed in the past six years.  In 2015, Latinos for the first time outnumbered whites in California.

The Trump candidacy, if used effectively by the Democrats who after all do know how to turn out voters, could add at least another three million young people and minorities to the voter rolls and surely increase turnout in November by roughly that number.   This will further endanger down ballot Republicans currently thought to be in safe districts.

The second issue unique to Trump is his call for a trade war, especially with our Asian trading partners, China and Japan.  Such a trade war would devastate California’s economy and its middle class.

One of the surprises of the campaign so far is the failure of Trump’s Republican opponents to take on his trade war rhetoric, perhaps because foreign trade has harmed many of the old industrial towns of the east and Midwest.

But in California trade is an entirely different matter.  Virtually every gadget and gismo a Californian buys has some foreign content; there is not an automobile sold in California that does not contain some foreign parts.  We are by far the nation’s largest international trading state.

In 2014, according to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, California exports accounted for 7.9 percent of California’s Gross Domestic Product.  International trade supported 4.4 million California jobs, and foreign-owned companies employed over 600,000 workers in California.  California is the nation’s largest exporter of agricultural products. In 2011, the state’s 81,500 farms and ranches generated $43.5 billion in farm exports.

Trump’s trade war would destroy all of this, but the worst of his proposals for Californians is his 45 percent tariff on imported Chinese goods, which Trump himself admits is a tax increase.  “I would do a tax… and the tax, let me tell you what the tax should be … the tax should be 45 percent,” Trump himself told theNew York Times.

California’s imports from China amount to $128.8 billion, or 34 percent of all imports into this state.  Trump proposes a 45 percent tax on this $128.8 billion of mostly consumer goods, so it would be paid for by ordinary Californians.  That would in effect raise California’s sales tax from nine percent to 54 percent on the billions in goods we buy from China.  This would be the largest tax increase in California history, amounting to a $58 billion dollar annual tax increase on California consumers.

California Republicans have a long history of being anti-tax, and for good reason.  The sales tax is a regressive tax, hitting the middle classes hardest. Imagine what it will be like for California Republican candidates this fall having to defend a proposal from their own presidential candidate to raise their taxes by $58 billion.

“Import tariffs are a stupid, no good, lousy idea and one of 45 percent on all Chinese imports into America is a particularly bad example of that bad idea,” economist Tim Worstall writes in Forbes.  “If implemented, such a tariff would simply make all Americans poorer.”

So imagine what fun the Democrats will have with this issue, one that cuts at the heart of Republican philosophy.  With Trump at the top of the ticket, Californians may see a political realignment in the state they likes of which they have not seen for more than half a century.

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DISCLOSURE: I have offered to assist the anti-Trump PAC in California.  While we currently have a weak two party system, I would hate to see it disappear altogether.

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