Are Republicans Losing their Voice?

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

One-party government is generally associated with right wing dictatorships. California is in no danger of succumbing to authoritarian rule, but the trend toward single-party dominance is unmistakable.

Some numbers recently compiled by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California are revealing.

The registration numbers for the Golden State remain among the highest showing eight in ten eligible adults (83%) registered to vote as of July. That’s up 10% from July 2016. 

Some of this can be attributed to the extraordinary surge of interest in the upcoming election spurred on by a wave of voter mania over the tumultuous currents driving the November election.

If a majority of Democrats are of the same mind, Californians will predictably vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. Their share of the record 21 million registered voters statewide continues to increase.

Democrats comprise 46.3%–up from 45.1% in 2016. Meanwhile Republicans have declined from 27.1 to 24%.

One of the biggest beneficiaries are the so-called independents also labeled as “decline to state” or “no party preference.” They now equal the GOP number claiming 24% of the electorate.

Even more telling is the conclusion reached in the PPIC survey indicating that 47% of those considered most likely to vote are Democrats with only 26% Republicans and 22% independents.

Has the GOP given up?

The party of Lincoln has much to be discouraged about with Democrats holding down all eight statewide executive branch offices including the governorship.

In addition, it boasts supermajorities in both houses of the legislature and occupies both U.S. Senate seats. If Sen. Kamala Harris ascends to the Vice Presidency, Gov. Gavin Newsom will pick a successor to fill out her unexpired term who will be most assuredly be a Democrat.

Republican clout in the Capitol is brandished by the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (Bakersfield). 

But his role is practically meaningless in a body under the firm control of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) a Democrat third in line of succession to the presidency and arguably the most powerful woman politician in the nation’s history.

McCarthy, and for that matter the entire GOP House delegation, has been conspicuously silent even while some other influential GOP voices are beginning to draw distance from their leader.

The California GOP’s last golden era shined most brightly during the governorships of George Deukmejian (1983-1991), Pete Wilson (1991-1999) and during the unlikely turn by Arnold Schwarzenegger (2003-2011).

Schwarzenegger was able to feast on the precipitous decline and ultimate recall of his hapless Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis. 

He also with seemingly little effort conveyed a brand of non-partisan individualism well suited to the public temperament of the times. No Republicans have emerged since able to follow his act.

For the past decade Capitol Democrats have enjoyed practically unrivaled power first with the somewhat surprising return of Jerry Brown for an encore and now with Newsom.

To move back into contention, the GOP will have to do a better job of fielding candidates with charismatic appeal and a clear message that can resonate with more voters.

Californians have a propensity for fickleness mindless of party affiliation dating back at least to Ronald Reagan, a devout conservative, who held sway in the late 1960s before moving on to the highest office.

The Republican brand statewide is currently deeply tarnished under a president who has become a serious embarrassment and could bring down dozens of candidates either unwilling or unable to shake loose from his iron grip.

A healthy and vigorous two-party system (third party candidates have never fared very well) is vital to the functioning of the American system of government. 

Trump’s utter contempt for even the minimally acceptable moral precepts that have guided both parties and the majority of our citizenry from the nation’s founding is without parallel.

This can only help to perpetuate one-party rule in California and could doom sensible and highly respectable Republicans intent on running for higher office. 

Republicans concerned about the future welfare of their party would probably earn big points for speaking out now against the predations of a totally unhinged leader. 

By November 3, it will be too late.

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