IT'S THE DEMOCRATS WHO REALLY RULE CALIFORNIA
by Jill Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
SACRAMENTO -- Think of 1958, so distant in the past that the Los Angeles Times ran front-page stories about Alaska finally being voted the forty-ninth state and Russia launching a rocket that nearly reached the Moon - "farther than any object man has sent from the Earth."
Something that didn't make headlines - because the reality of it wouldn't become clear for years - was the fact that 1958 was the last time Republicans controlled the Sacramento legislature, aside from an occasional oddball year or two.
It was the year California went Democrat, and never went back.
I mention 1958 because of the hectoring underway by California GOP hardliners, who pundits call the "circular firing squad" because of their corrosive effect on their own party. We'll remain a one-party state as long as the GOP fails to quell its far-right, which insures the party's failure in California.
As a fiscally conservative Democrat, I want California to return to a two-party system, and thus engage in a true debate over the big ideas. Yet as Republicans gear up for the 2006 statewide elections, they are once again taking actions that guarantee they get nowhere in their uphill battle to regain California.20
Exhibit A: Steve Frank, who emails his California Political Views and News to journalists and party activists, recently declared that Republican state Sen. "Abel Maldonaro (sic) was a Hillary Clinton wannabe," for running for state controller soon after becoming a senator. Another missive reported that Keith Richman, a moderate San Fernando Valley Republican Assemblyman running for state treasurer, deserved the "Republican In Name Only" (RINO) award given him by the Club for Growth because Richman supported taxes in opposition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.
GOP leadership in California is so lily-white it might as well be 1958. Instead of whining about Maldonado's ambition, the GOP should fast-track this rising Latino star from Santa Maria. Yet they prefer the high-tech approach of crossing their fingers to bring new faces into the ossified party hierarchy.
As to Richman's RINO award, Schwarzenegger probably works more closely with the thoughtful and rational Richman than all but two or three Republican leaders. But it wouldn't be a circular firing squad if the Club for Growth actually cared who the governor respects.
Exhibit B: At a recent annual gathering of Republicans in Los Olivos, Gary Mendoza, a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles running for state insurance commissioner, announced that if liberal Silicon Valley Republican Steve Poizner gets the GOP nomination instead of him, Mendoza won't support Poizner against the Democrat who runs. Mendoza got applause from moderates and conservatives alike by calling Poizner's supporters the "Gore-Lieberman wing" of the GOP.20
Mendoza, a moderate and a decent guy, tells me, "Less than one one-hundredth of Republican primary voters supported the 2000 Gore-Lieberman recount, as did Steve Poizner, who is really a Democrat." His sharp critique is mild compared to vilification of Poizner from the right. (You can imagine what hardliners say about Abel Maldo-whatever and that socialist Keith Richman.)20
Poizner's crime is his mixed ideology. Yet his issue-by-issue approach is not unusual among Silicon Valley's unorthodox Republicans. Moreover, the majority of California Republicans and independents who might lean Republican are mixed-issue voters. A long as the far-right is the tail wagging the party's dog, the GOP will drive these voters away.
Some hardliners are whispering that Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, might be a terrific replacement for U.S. Congressman Christopher Cox of Orange County, who was tapped by President George W. Bush to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I'm not going to smear the Minuteman Project, like hysterical Democrats who thought crazed gunmen were on the loose. It's clear that somebody with a voice, besides just talk radio, needed to call attention to the porous border. However, promoting a lightning rod like Gilchrist is typical GOP hardliner mentality: cluelessly put forth an easily demonized Newt Gingrich type, then act mystified when voters and the California media recoil against the entire party.20
We're left with a virtually permanent Democratic legislature, a study in myopia and dysfunction typified by recent blustering over California's staggeringly high gas-pump prices. Was anybody besides me amused when the legislature held their inept public hearings to "learn the cause" of super-high gas prices in California? News flash: the legislature wrote the environmental laws that severely slashed gas production in California, leading to the worst gas-pump prices in the nation.
If Republicans had controlled the legislature for nearly five decades, things would be no better. Instead of the most crippling gas prices in America, we'd have oil drilling all along the coast. The lesson is, one-party rule does not work.
The California Republican Party should grasp this better than anyone. Yet instead of drafting non-ideologues capable of winning statewide races and rebuilding the party, GOP activists are doing what they do best - taking position, and letting it rip, in the circular firing squad.