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GOP Failing in California, but Social Conservatives Hold On

Social conservatism as a nationwide major political power in America is failing, and fiscal conservatism, such as that practiced in California by Governor Schwarzenegger, is on the decline as well. So is Schwarzenegger's popularity in California thanks to the tremendous budget problems which have wracked the (once) Golden State. Nonetheless there are signs that truly independent-minded California voters will still cross 'party lines' to support socially conservative issues when they have a mind to.

At one point several months before last November's general election, conservative pundits viewed California as "winnable" for the Republicans, and looking at the polling numbers at that time I too thought they might have a chance. McCain's brand of moderate conservatism did indeed give the GOP a shot in California, although that bright spot dimmed as we got closer to the election.

And, true to its "independent" form - as evidenced by the fact that California tends to elect Republican governors - the state's voters passed the Proposition 8 Ban on Gay Marriage (52%-48%) while at the same time the state went strongly for Obama (61%-37%). These seemingly non-congruent results demonstrate the independence of California's electorate remains, despite the migration of many of the state's Independents from the Republican Party rolls.

With their registrations sinking and their political clout withering, California Republicans have come out of the November election in danger of slipping into political irrelevance across much of the state.

"There's been a broad repudiation of traditional conservative Republicans in California," said Tony Quinn, a former GOP analyst and co-editor of the California Target Book, which focuses on political contests in the state. "There are almost no areas in the state that can be considered safely Republican anymore."

Since 2004, Republican registration has dropped by more than 317,000 in the state, while Democrats have picked up 563,000 new voters. Five previously GOP counties, including San Joaquin, Stanislaus and San Bernardino, now have more Democrats than Republicans.

Things aren't any better in the Legislature, where Democrats hold commanding majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate. The Democrats picked up three seats in the Assembly last month, including the last partisan post held by a Republican in the nine-county Bay Area.

But while fewer California voters are aligning themselves with the GOP, social conservatives see some bright spots in the 2008 election results. Interestingly enough, the extent to which Barack Obama's historic presidential effort influenced black voter turnout proved to be a boost to California's social conservatives in regards to the Prop 8 Gay Marriage ban. Exit polls showed that black voters supported the ban by a 70%-30% margin, with white voters predominantly opposed, and the Latino vote was mixed.

The California migration away from the GOP has a negative impact on social conservatism in California in the form of lower donations to the party. The GOP may have difficulty raising funds and mounting effective countermeasures to Democratic efforts in contested seats in the future as a result.

But despite the lower GOP voter registration numbers not a single one of California's Congressional seats changed parties in this past election, indicating that the sweeping change endorsed by California's voters in their support of Obama for President has not changed the electorate's strong independent streak.

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Comments (1)



Stick to national politics. Whomever you cribbed the information about California Politics is way off.

First off, there is nothing independent about the State legislature. It is more politicized than ever. The reason no seats change hands is because the Democrats who were incahrge of the redistricting after the 2000 census set up safe districts for both parties and the out numbered Republicans went along with the idea that 40% of the state assembly and Senate is better than 50% of nothing.

Secondly, the independent voter movement is not a move away from the conservative "base" of California politics, except in some sort of weird fever dream. California hasn't been "conservative" (as defined by even the modest measure of presidential politics) since the middle 80's, and probably not even then. Reagan was a native son, and both Carter and Mondale were stiffs of the highest order. Even in 1988, Bush Sr only carried the state by a razor thin 2%.

Since then, the state has gotten progressively more liberal and more "bread and circus" oriented. That it has come crashing down this year is going to be blamed on Bush and our RINO Governator. Next year will be more of the same. The shift isn't being caused by social conservatism, it is driven by a culture of neo-feudalism, with the Democrats being dominant Lords of the Manor, granting the favored citizens boons and indulgences. Republicans are just caught with quaint idea of balanced budgets and not raising taxes in a recession.

You tell me which message is more attractive: "Everyone needs to cut back equally!" or "Tax the rich people so you can get your goodies!"


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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