Splits in Democratic Party Could Boost California Republicans

Splits in Democratic Party Could Boost California Republicans

People take part in a "Palestine Solidarity" march in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 2023. Thousands of people, both Israeli and Palestinians, have died since October 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip, entered southern Israel in a surprise attack leading Israel to declare war on Hamas in Gaza the following day. (Amy Osborne/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 12/21/2023


For the first time in two decades, Republicans have a chance of getting back in the game of politics in California. The reason is the splintering of the California Democratic Party.
On Sunday after church, I returned to my apartment in Irvine and saw another pro-Palestine march in front of City Hall and the Police Station, at about 3:55 p.m. Irvine is a college town, home of the University of California–Irvine. It has more than 36,000 students, most of them radicalized to the left. Here’s a video I took. Notice all the horns honking (not mine).
I noticed numerous Palestinian flags. And signs reading:
  • “Your Taxes Pay for Genocide”
  • “Palestinian Lives Matter,” a reference to Black Lives Matter
  • “Save Palestine”
  • “Imagine Living & Raising Kids in a Cave #GAZA,” although only Hamas lives in the caves
  • “Palestine Will Be Free”
  • “Viva Palestina”
  • “The Whole World Is Watching,” a slogan repurposed from 1960s anti-Vietnam War protests
Protests like these are happening all around California, the country, and the world.

VP Kamala Harris’s Stepdaughter Is Pro-Palestinian

Here is some indication of the generation gap among Democrats on the issue. Reported the New York Post: “The stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris is publicly raising money for Gaza.” Ms. Harris is a former California attorney general and U.S. Senator from the state.
“Ella Emhoff, 24—whose father, first gentleman Doug Emhoff, is Jewish—affixed a fundraising drive ‘supporting urgent relief for Gaza’s children’ on her personal Instagram account.
“It makes no mention of the scores of Israeli children murdered among the 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. ...
“Ella Emhoff has pointedly insisted to reporters that she does not consider herself Jewish…. She is close with her stepmother, who congratulated her in an X posting after Emhoff’s graduation from Parsons in 2021.”
Another radicalized daughter of privilege is Nika Soon-Shiong, whose father is the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Pat Soon Shiong. The California Globe reported she “has called Israel an ‘apartheid state’ that is now committing ‘genocide’ against Palestinians in its response to Hamas’ barbaric attacks.”
She posted on X: “It’s not journalistic malpractice to describe the state of Israel as an Apartheid state. This is well-established in international law. It’s the legal term for unlawful ‘killing, torture, forcible transfer, and denial of basic rights.’”
Then there’s Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She posted a video featuring protests in California, Michigan, and many other states. The video attacked President Joe Biden. “Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one,” she said. “We will remember in 2024.”
Demonstrators gather during a rally in support of Israel, outside the West Los Angeles Federal Building in Los Angeles on Oct. 10, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Demonstrators gather during a rally in support of Israel, outside the West Los Angeles Federal Building in Los Angeles on Oct. 10, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Then there’s a headline on the screen: “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
Some of those marching use a chant common at all these marches: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” It’s obviously a call to get rid of Israel.
But to refute that charge, Ms. Tlaib posted, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate. My work and advocacy is always centered in justice and dignity for all people no matter faith or ethnicity.”
But Ms. Tlaib’s stance brought a rebuke from another Michigan Democrat, Attorney General Dana Nessel, who branded the remarks “cruel and hateful” and demanded they be retracted.
Reflecting the division in California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Nov. 3, “Bay Area lawmakers split on support for an Israel-Hamas cease-fire.”

Election Effects

We’re less than a year from the Nov. 5 election. It’s likely this split among Democrats will widen. Helping them will be the anti-democratic Top Two system, which effectively has cut third parties out of the main elections. Otherwise, Democrats upset with Mr. Biden’s policies in the Middle East could have backed candidates from the Green and Peace & Freedom parties for California elections.
For statewide races, Republicans in California have found it difficult breaking 40 percent of the vote. This time, the U.S. Senate race could be an exception. A University of California–Berkeley poll released Nov. 3 showed Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter running close at the top. Both strongly support Mr. Biden’s policies on the Israel-Hamas war.
But if enough Democrats stay home, that could give a boost to the Republican candidate, with currently the top names being lawyer Eric Early and Steve Garvey, the former Dodgers player. Republicans pretty much are united on the Israel-Hamas War.
“The Democrat party in California and in D.C. is run by far-left Socialists and American Marxists who are against everything our nation stands for,” Mr. Early told me. “They support a pro-criminal culture, the sexualization and anti-American indoctrination of our children in their schools, while intentionally keeping parents in the dark about their children. Many of the same people are now proclaiming their support for the death cult known as Hamas and against Israel and the Jewish people. Republicans like me are standing firmly with Israel and against the growing and gathering antisemitism we are witnessing. We must continue to support Israel and the Jewish community in these dark times. The Democrat electeds are predictably starting to waver. As a result, more and more traditional Democrat voters are realizing that their politicians have left them behind, and will vote Republican in the upcoming election.”
As to the California Legislature, for the first time since 2016, Republicans have a chance to break the Democrats’ supermajority stranglehold of more than two-thirds of the seats in both the state Senate and the Assembly. For example, in 2020, Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) barely beat incumbent Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent. The margin was just 12,101 votes out of more than 500,000 cast. If just a fraction of radical UC students and faculty had skipped the election, Mr. Moorlach would have won.
Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) talks with reporters during a news conference following a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on Oct. 20, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) talks with reporters during a news conference following a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on Oct. 20, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US Congress in Play

Also at stake is the U.S. House of Representatives. The current Golden State delegation is overwhelmingly Democrat, holding 40 seats to 12 Republicans. But every seat counts in close national elections. Currently, there are 221 Republicans to 213 Democrats, with two vacant seats.Ok
If Democrats pick up five seats in California, they become the majority. If Republicans hold those seats, they keep their majority.
The Cook Political Report rates election chances on six ranks: Likely Democrat, Lean Democrat, Democrat Toss Up, Republican Toss Up, Lean Republican, and Likely Republican. The four middle ranks are the keys. For California, there are one Lean Democrat, four Republican Toss Ups and one Lean Republican—that is, six seats up for grabs. I’ll just consider two races I’m familiar with.
The one Lean Democrat race is for the 47th District Ms. Porter is vacating for her Senate run. For Republicans, the main candidate is Scott Baugh, who barely lost in 2022 to Ms. Porter. The two top Democratic candidates, both raising around $1.2 million so far, are Mr. Min and Joanna Weiss, founder and past president of Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE) Action Fund.
The chaos in the Democratic Party definitely favors Mr. Baugh. This is my district. As I mentioned above, we’re now seeing weekly anti-Biden and pro-Palestinian protests.
The one Lean Republican race is for the 45th District of Rep. Michelle Steel, who represented me when I lived in Costa Mesa. Her campaign war chest currently is $3.2 million. The top two Democrats are Kim Nguyen, a Garden Grove city councilmember, at $206,844. And Aditya Pai, a trial attorney, at $146,240.
Ms. Steel won in 2022 with 52.4 percent to Democrat Jay Chen’s 47.6 percent. Her husband is Shawn Steel, the former chairman of the California Republican Party. All of her campaigns have been well run, focusing on gathering votes. The 45th District’s largest ethnic group is Asian, at 36.9 percent, as are all the major candidates. Both Ms. Steel and her husband have made major efforts to win Asians to Republicans, which clearly is paying off.
My guess is the turmoil in the Democrat Party will peel off enough Democrats in the 45th District to seal the deal for Ms. Steel.

Foreign Policy Turmoil Usually Helps Republicans

I’ve been closely watching U.S. presidential elections since 1968, when I was 13. Americans generally trust Republicans more with foreign policy. That certainly was true in 1968, when America was stuck in the Vietnam War and picked Republican Richard Nixon over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. It was true again in 1972, when Mr. Nixon beat radical leftist George McGovern in an 49-state landslide.
Those also were times of massive left-wing antiwar protests, which split the Democratic Party, as is happening now.
Of course it was true again with Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, when Democrats Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, respectively, were thought weak on standing up to Soviet communism. And in 2004, when President Bush was reelected in the wake of 9/11, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars still were fairly new.
An exception was 2008, when the problems with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars under Mr. Bush lead to defeat for Republican Sen. John McCain and victory for Democrat Sen. Barack Obama.
The elections not mentioned largely were about domestic matters, especially the economy. It’s still a long way to Nov. 5, 2024. But it’s going to be hard for the Democrat Party to keep from splintering over policies foreign and domestic. Unless Mr. Biden pulls off some miracle in Gaza, the pro-Palestinian, anti-Biden protests will continue, maybe right up to the counting of the ballots.
John Seiler

John Seiler


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 and his email is

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