Election 2020

California GOP: Is It Too Late to Save This Elephant from Extinction?

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) wears his "Make Surfing Great Again" hat after casting his ballot in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Nov. 6, 2018. The incumbent lost the race. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

It wasn’t just a “Blue Wave” that swept over California on Nov. 6, according to former GOP state Assembly leader Kristin Olsen. She said it was more like a “Blue Tsunami.” Now, some California Republicans are afraid the only thing that can save their party is the extinction of the state GOP.

“The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time,” Olsen wrote. “The Grand Old Party is dead.”

California Democrats, holding at least 60 out of 80 Assembly seats after the Nov. 6 election, will have a historic supermajority in 2019. Only eight of the 53 California U.S. House seats will be held by the GOP. In statewide races, no Republican got better than 40 percent of the November vote.

So, Democrats go into next year with the largest caucus since California’s legislature went full-time in 1966. “When the nation looks toward California, it will look like the sun is rising in the west. That’s our future, shining bright,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) said in a statement.

But, the San Diego Tribune editorial board noted, “the bad news (for Republicans) doesn’t end there.”

“Republicans used to be able to count on anti-tax sentiment among state voters. But a measure to repeal gas tax hikes went down in flames this month,” the Tribune editorial board wrote. “Supporters can blame misleading ballot language if they want, but voters’ recent support of tax hikes is also telling.”

How could this be? Life in California is far from perfect. Californians are coping with a housing crisis. More than 130,000 California residents were homeless in September, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Californians also suffer under the yoke of the highest rate of poverty in the U.S. According to the California Poverty Measure, more than 19 percent of Californians, close to 7.4 million people, “lacked enough resources to meet basic needs in 2016.”

U.S. News & World Report in March ranked California’s quality of life as absolutely the worst in the U.S. The Best States ranking graded the 50 states on having a healthy environment and a sense of community.

But, paradoxically, San Diego Tribune editorialists said voters are not blaming the party in power, Democrats, for anything that’s gone wrong.

“Voters seem to endorse Democratic values so strongly that they don’t sweat the details about everyone’s lives improving,” the Tribune wrote.

So, what’s a Republican to do about so many heads buried in so much sand?

“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think [Nov. 6] was a big step,’’ California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid told Politico. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.”

Kristin Olsen did Madrid one better. In a scathing article she wrote for Cal Matters, she maintained the California Republican Party is already dead.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life in Republican politics, so for me to make such a comment wasn’t easy. But it doesn’t make it any less true,” Olsen wrote. “While the rest of the nation saw a mix of Republican and Democrat victories, we in California experienced a blue tsunami.”

Wesley Hussey, an associate professor of government at California State University, Sacramento, said the California GOP lost its base, its foundation of voters that could be depended upon to vote Republican.

“Well-educated, well-off Republicans are abandoning the Republican Party in California,” Hussey told Courthouse News.

Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chairman who is now the state’s committeeman for the RNC, agreed the state GOP is, at best, on life support. He wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed that “California Republicans, long in the wilderness, have now reached the point of desperation.”

So who or what is to blame? Olsen said “President Donald Trump and his brand of national politics” is the cause of the California GOP’s midterm election calamity.

“We have lost our way, and it’s killing any opportunity for political balance and thoughtful debate in California, elements that good public policy relies on,” Olsen maintained.

Steel wrote that it would be easy to blame Trump – too easy.

“The party’s problems have been around longer and run much deeper than any one person. From money to grass-roots organization, California Republicans are completely outmatched,” Steel concluded. “To blame the president is to remain in denial about the real causes of California Republicans’ staggering setbacks.”

But GOP strategist John Weaver not only said that the Trump presidency wrecked the California Republican Party’s 2018 chances, he warned the Trump brand doomed the GOP for the foreseeable future.

“In one fell swoop Trump & Republicans who willingly handcuffed themselves to him have turned Orange County into a GOP wasteland,’’ Weaver tweeted this week. “You want to see the future? Look no further than the demographic death spiral in the place once considered a cornerstone of the party.”

Madrid said the crushing midterm defeats were so bad that California’s GOP has fallen to third-party status.

“The barbarians have broken through the gates. The army is in full retreat,’’ said Madrid.

Olsen made the case that it’s time for what she termed “a New Way.”

“And if the Republican Party can’t evolve, it may be time for a third party,” Olsen said, “one that will appeal to disenfranchised voters in the Republican and Democratic parties who long for better representation and a better California for all.”

Madrid has no patience for rearranging deck chairs.

“Burn it to the ground,” said Madrid. “I want to reconstitute.”