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Can California Restore Two-Party Competition?

Can California Restore Two-Party Competition?

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold a rally on Veteran's Day in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 11, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

9/12/2023

Updated: 9/14/2023

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Commentary
California desperately needs a two-party system. A one-party system, like North Korea’s under Kim Jong Un, or China’s under Xi Jinping, just isn’t our way. It’s not us. Currently, Republicans hold fewer than one-third of the seats in the California Assembly and Senate, and are lucky if they can scratch up more than 40 percent of the vote in statewide races.
Just by the numbers, the GOP has to attract many more non-whites, who are a minority now in the state; and a large portion of whites are hard-core leftist Democrats like Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter. The latter two, along with Rep. Barbara Lee, who is black, are vying to replace retiring nonagenarian Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
I was born in Detroit in 1955 and grew up in the nearby suburb of Wayne. A large number of immigrants came there, largely from Europe, to work in the factories and enjoy the prosperity of the auto industry. The general pattern was they would vote Democrat because the party was allied with labor unions, and advanced such reforms as Social Security, Medicare, and the National Labor Relations Act. Later, when the immigrants became prosperous, and often started new businesses, they revolted against the high taxes and regulations and switch to Republican.
That seems to be happening now with the latest immigrants. Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur from Cleveland, made a big splash at the first GOP debate two weeks ago. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, also of Indian background, did fairly well from a different perspective. Sen. Tim Scott of the Palmetto State, who is black, made some good points on taxes, but fell flat. Perhaps next time.
In California, Republican state Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson is Hispanic. Harmeet Kaur Dhillon was born in India. A brilliant lawyer, she is the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party (yes, there are Republicans there) and vice-chair of the state GOP. In January, she came up short in seeking to replace Ronna McDaniel as chair of the national GOP.
In the U.S. House, Republican Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, both Korean-Americans, have made impressive careers in a short time, also fending off Democrat challenges. Likewise with Rep. Mike Garcia, who was targeted heavily by Democrats in 2022. Rep. David Valadao voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 mostly peaceful protest. But for some reason, Trump laid off opposing him the way he did Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Mr. Valadao won reelection last November, 52 percent to 48 percent over the Democrat challenger, Democrat State Assemblyman Rudy Salas.

Why Aren’t Republicans Gaining?

So, Republicans are putting up good people. What’s the problem? Why aren’t they gaining? Primarily, there are three reasons.
First, there’s the legacy of Proposition 187 from 1994, which would have cut off state benefits to illegal aliens. It passed, but then was thrown out of court. I wrote the Orange County Register’s articles opposing it, not because it cut benefits, but because it turned nurses and teachers into snoops. It was a lesson on the importance of writing initiatives carefully.
Some still are obsessed with it. Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano headlined, “Prop. 187 forced a generation to put fear aside and fight. It transformed California, and me.” But the vote was 29 years ago. And the immigration debate now is national and concerns President Joe Biden opening the borders to anybody to come in.
Even liberal Democrats are becoming upset. Just on Sept. 6, New York City Mayor Eric Adams warned at a Manhattan town hall, “Let me tell you something, New Yorkers. Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to—I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City.”
Then there’s Communist China “very likely” slipping “military personnel” into America through the porous Southern border, according to Mark Green, Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.
And fentanyl. Vanda Felbab-Brown is the director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors at the liberal Brookings Institution. She submitted testimony to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions on March 23, 2023, for the “Follow the Money: The CCP’s Business Model Fueling the Fentanyl Crisis” hearing.
She said, “Three U.S. presidential administrations—those of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden—have devoted diplomatic focus to induce and impel China to tighten its regulations vis-à-vis fentanyl-class drugs and their precursor chemicals and to more diligently enforce these regulations. China, however, sees its counternarcotics enforcement, and more broadly its international law enforcement cooperation, as strategic tools that it can instrumentalize to achieve other objectives. ...
“Since 2020, China’s cooperation with U.S. counternarcotics efforts, never high, declined substantially. In August 2022, China officially announced that it suspended all counternarcotics and law enforcement cooperation with the United States.”
The issue now is tipping toward Republicans—if they can take advantage of it. People are OK with immigration—if it’s controlled, legal, and the immigrants aren’t being used as “mules” to sneak in fentanyl.
Former CNN reporter Steve Cortes describes himself on X as, “Patriotic Populist. Bad Hombre. Born for a Storm. Ron DeSantis PAC National Spokesman.” On Sept. 7 he put up a new article on American Greatness, “Biden’s Border Chaos Damages America’s Schools.” He wrote how “schools across the country—not just in border areas—grapple to deal with an illegal influx that prioritizes foreign migrants above our own American children.”
Mr. Cortes tweeted the same day, “We cannot save America without regaining control over our border and migration. Suspend massively-abused asylum programs, deport illegals, build the wall, and then reduce even legal immigration. Do we have the will to defeat the globalists and reclaim our sovereignty?”
That’s the issue today, not musty nostalgia for fighting Prop. 187.

Schwarzenegger and Trump

Second, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s disastrous governorship went far toward “terminating” the state GOP. As I detailed in The Epoch Times on Aug. 10 in, “The Media Is Helping Schwarzenegger Rewrite His Governorship.”
Third, although President Trump is popular among many Republicans, he has not helped the state party. For one thing, except to raise money or work for the party nomination, it’s pointless for any national candidate to campaign here in the general election. There’s no chance to win the state, so he needs to conserve his efforts and campaign elsewhere.
For another, unlike in Rust Belt states like Michigan, with many Democrats leaning in his direction, he doesn’t have much cross-party appeal in California. All this is holding back support for him in all groups.
To sum up the three reasons: The Republican “brand” has been so tarnished, I hear off the record some of them are considering rebranding themselves “California Conservatives.” It’s something to watch.

Polling Shows Shift to GOP

The national polls, at least, are showing a shift toward the Republican Party. Politico reported after last November’s election, “Voters of color did move to the right—just not at the rates predicted Democrats held some key House districts in heavily Latino areas, but the GOP built on its gains with Latino voters in 2020.”
It found, “[C]ompared to the 2018 midterms, Hispanic and Asian support for the GOP jumped 10 and 17 points respectively, while Black voters shifted about 4 points to the right. When contrasted with 2020 ... the movement in favor of Republicans is in the single digits.”
Said Giancarlo Sopo, a Republican communications strategist, “All signs point to a shift among Hispanics, and it’s very promising for the future of the Republican Party. I feel optimistic about where we’re going, but I’m under no illusions that it will be easy.”
In this state, Republicans—or California Conservatives, as some may fashion themselves—will benefit from the Democratic Party’s irrational attack on parental responsibility over children. Especially on whether parents should be notified if children are given puberty blockers and sterilizing operations. Democrats say, “No,” parents have no rights, only government decides. Republicans insist, “Yes,” parents must come first concerning their precious children. Parents of whatever background—white, Hispanic, Asian, black—will back the party backing them.
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John Seiler

John Seiler

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John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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