Sunday, November 25, 2018

Don't misread California's 2018 election as a "crisis for the Republicans" since it is a death-knell for all traditional political parties to the benefit of Trump

As an old-school native son of California who was active in the Democratic Party back in 1964, it is discouraging to regularly see my state's politics interpreted through an Atlantic Coast filter.

I understand that Ronald Brownstein wrote for the LA Times. So it is frustrating that his article in The Atlantic - California Has Become a Crisis for the Republicans - about California's political history leading to the Republican losses this year is misleading and even inaccurate. Let's begin with the following:

    After Lyndon Johnson’s landslide win in 1964, Republicans again won California six straight times from 1968 through 1988, with native sons Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as the presidential nominee in four of those races.

"Native son" means "a person born in a particular place." Some broaden it to include someone raised in that place.

Ronald Reagan was not a native son of California. Now that might not seem important. But two native sons of Californian are significant to California's 20th Century post-Depression political history, Republican Earl Warren and Democrat Pat Brown. Neither is mentioned despite the fact that the New York Times in Brown's obituary noted:

    Governor Brown once described his politics as "liberal and responsible" and as "reasonable, rational and realistic." He was very much a part of the bipartisan era of California politics, and shared the philosophy of one of his progressive Republican predecessors, Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the United States.
    "One had a suspicion Earl Warren was happy to see Pat Brown as Governor," said Mr. Kevin Starr ... who is now the state librarian of California.
    As Governor, Mr. Brown oversaw the creation of a state commission on fair employment practices and the passage of two fair-housing laws, pushed the development of expanded water supplies for Southern California and worked for the creation of jobs outside the military industry.
    Under his administration the state produced its Master Plan for Higher Education, a landmark document that plotted the expansion of California's college system. During his eight years as Governor, the University of California added three new campuses and the state college system added six.
    He also increased benefits for the unemployed, the blind and the elderly....

The most significant 21st Century change in California's political reality is the Primary system that led in the 2018 election to two Democrats running against each other in the General Election for numerous offices including the U.S. Senate. This is not mentioned.

California's Hispanic and Asian ethnic groups are culturally conservative. If it weren't for the traditional American bigotry found in California's history and the politics of current "Red" California counties, a conservative political grouping could be created outside the current party structure.

During 2016 I was regularly amused by Bernie Sanders advocacy of tuition-free higher education. We actually had that in California in 1964 because of Governor Pat Brown (Jerry's dad).

Most people do not remember that Ronald Reagan's years as Governor began when he defeated Pat Brown in 1967 and ended when Jerry became Governor at the end of Reagan's second term in 1975.

We lost that low cost higher education because of Prop 13 approved by the voters in 1978 during Jerry's first term because, as the first post-Reagan Governor, he focused on maintaining his celebrity status.

"Celebrity" was locked into American politics by California just before Reagan's Presidential win to the detriment of policy considerations. Right now California is focused on making parties irrelevant which could leave the focus on "celebrity" in political contests.

Trump changed the meaning of political parties at the national level using a superficial populist-makeover to allow "celebrity" to dominate elections. Trump took over the Republican Party because the Republican Party in selecting a Presidential candidate turned the matter completely over to Primary voters who allowed "celebrity" populism to sway how they would vote.

Many of us in California hope, after Arnold and Jerry, that the focus on "celebrity" is shifting to include some consideration of policy and the ability of the candidate to deliver policy changes. We hope that voters will note that populist Bernie Sanders failed to deliver during his 35 years in holding public office - in his case, there aren't even tuition-free colleges in tiny Vermont.

The role of party control through populism will matter in the future. Just ask Depression-era Germany.

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