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Taking Back California – Part One: The Voters

California is a one-party state. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that California’s Republicans have nowhere to go but up. In the wake of the 2022 midterms, Republican seats in the state legislature are the lowest they’ve been in the history of the state; they hold 18 out of 80 seats in the Assembly and 8 out of 40 seats in the Senate. Every higher office in the state, from governor down to state superintendent of public instruction, is occupied by Democrat politicians. In statewide elections, from U.S. Senator to any higher state office, Republican candidates typically get 40 percent of the vote. In this article and the installments to follow, strategies will be presented  that are designed to persuade that elusive additional 10 percent of voters to vote Republican. California’s voters are the future. Winning them over will translate into success in every swing state in America.

As goes California, so goes the nation, and as goes the nation, so goes the world. It’s only slightly grandiose to make that kind of statement. California remains the undisputed global epicenter of technology and entertainment. This translates into incredible wealth. California is home to 186 billionaires, decisively ahead of number two New York with 135, and way ahead of Florida and Texas, with 78 and 73, respectively. California has the biggest congressional delegation and has a tremendous economy in spite of the government they’re under. California is also a beautiful state with what is arguably the best weather on earth.

With all these strengths, it’s hard to kill California, and it’s easy to dismiss the critics as doomsayers. To start winning again, California’s Republicans have to de-emphasize talking about problems and instead prioritize talking about solutions. Moreover, they have to pick solutions to problems that are of universal urgency. These solutions shouldn’t be primarily ideological because they need to appeal across lines of income, age, ideology, and ethnicity. Everybody in the state is concerned about education, the cost of living, and crime. These are issues that are non-partisan. These must be the focus.

Some of the problems that Republicans and conservatives have had in California are pretty obvious. A biased media. The legacy of Prop 187, a policy dating back to the 1990s that was supposedly anti-immigrant (it passed overwhelmingly at the time), aimed at denying some categories of public services to undocumented aliens. Then in 2008, there was Prop 8, the ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. These measures were passed decades ago, but the memory of both of them has been used to stigmatize Republicans as bigots.

Republicans in California also have a huge disadvantage financially, and then there’s Trump. Regardless of what you may think of Trump, he has been exploited very successfully all around the country by people who are Never Trumpers or people who are Democrats who have been thoroughly conditioned to hate Trump, and Trump is often his own worst enemy. Right or wrong, California’s Republicans are stigmatized as identifying with Trump.

These are serious disadvantages, but the only healthy approach is to consider them as excuses because there are two additional reasons that Republicans and conservatives lose and these are things that can be controlled much more effectively.

First, Republicans must find candidates that have a high profile, have charisma, are right on the issues of education, crime, and the cost of living, and are able to persuasively communicate their positions on these issues. Republicans in California must recruit thousands of candidates according to their position on these three issues, then contest all elected positions: water districts, transportation districts, city councils, school boards, and county boards of supervisors. They must find thousands of candidates to run for the more than 20,000 elected state and local offices in the state. Eventually, the best among those candidates will rise up on the strength of these universal issues and their abilities. Creating that foundation of strong local candidates to win and then advance and compete for higher offices is how Republicans can regain control over the state legislature again after a nearly thirty year hiatus.

Second, the message has to be coherent. It has to be streamlined. California’s Republican Party platform is the product of a huge and fractious committee. As a result, it’s got everything and nothing in it. Perhaps that is to be expected. But to start winning in California, Republicans can win if their actual campaign strategy focuses on and offers solutions for just three huge things: education, public safety, and the cost of living.

California’s Future Voters

The target voters in California are not the voters that Republicans already have today. Right now, 50 percent of California’s white electorate is Republican. Meanwhile, California Democrats enjoy support from supermajorities of Latinos, Asians, and blacks. Moreover, white voters that aren’t already are probably never going to be Republican or conservative because they don’t feel the consequences of the policies that are killing California the way everyone else does. California’s white Democrats tend to live in higher-income neighborhoods with better schools; often, they live in their parents’ or grandparents’ house, which means they have no mortgage and minimal property taxes. By virtue of these legacy advantages, the policies that are killing everyone else in California are merely theoretical to most white liberal Democrats.

The chart below depicts California’s electorate today. This is based on the 2020 election. It’s still overwhelmingly white—57 percent white. Latinos are actually 35 percent of eligible voters, even though, based on 2020’s turnout, they’re only 22 percent of actual voters. In 2020, Asians, blacks, and whites turned out in percentages roughly proportional to their percentage of eligible voters, and Latinos were underrepresented.

If political candidates could just offer a solution to issues of education, crime, and the cost of living, they would become relevant. As it is, all Republican candidates do is complain about how Democrats have failed on these issues, or they focus on divisive social issues for which no consensus can be formed. Education, crime, and the cost of living are urgent, nonpartisan issues that cross ideology and ethnicity and attract the voters of the future.

California’s Future is Latino

The next chart below is based on K-12 enrollment today. It isn’t much of a stretch to assume that today’s students are tomorrow’s voters. Nor is it a huge assumption to predict that California’s ethnic composition will not change significantly as the next generation is born, i.e., in the future, when today’s students have grown up and are voting, school enrollment will stay about the same as it is today—about 60 percent Latino. The white population may decrease somewhat further, and the Asian population may gain a few percentage points. But California’s future is Latino.

Even today, less than half of California’s registered Democrats (the chart uses “Democrat” and “Liberal” interchangeably) are white, as can be seen on the next chart. Even within the Democrat Party, they are already an absolute minority. And it’s just begun.

To see where this is headed, the next chart below takes California’s K-12 enrollment currently and extrapolates it to the future. In other words, if registration patterns by ethnicity stay constant between now and the very near future, this is where Democrats are going to have to get their voters. In California, within the foreseeable future, it’s not going to matter if white voters are converted to become Republicans because they’re going to be an insignificant portion of the electorate.

The future in California is primarily Latino, at around 60 percent of the electorate, with Asian and white percentages stabilizing at about 15-20 percent each. California’s black population has been consistent for decades at about six percent of Californians and may not change very much. This demographic profile is not likely to be America’s destiny insofar as the population of blacks is much higher in the rest of the nation and the population of Asians and Latinos in most states is much lower. But California’s demographic future predicts America’s in one crucial respect: convincing American liberals, whose relative affluence insulates them from the worst effects of Democrat policies, is not worth it. Not only because these white liberals are less likely to experience the hardships that Democrat policies inflict on everyone else, but because the percentage of the electorate that they represent is in steep decline.

The key to reviving the Republican Party in California is to focus on solutions to issues of universal, nonpartisan urgency, starting with education, crime, and the cost of living. In all three cases, California’s Democrats have failed catastrophically. The next installments in this series will propose specific policies that will fix education in California, end its epidemic of crime, and lower the cost of living to make the state affordable again. Offering these solutions is the path to victory for Republicans in California and a prescription for victory in every battleground state now and in the future.

 

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Voters go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights on February 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Latinos are an increasingly important factor in California where they are expected to account for 14 percent of the vote and tend to favor presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) over rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). At 44 million, Latinos make up15 percent of the US population, the nation's largest minority group according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)