Being Right vs. Being Relevant….


As I’ve said before, the saying goes that California is like the rest of the country, only sooner. The GOP in the Golden State has only remained politically relevant because of the bizarre requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass state budgets. Now they may have even lost that perk. I’ll share a couple of observations from what happened here that I think may be germane to the current situation nationally.

The state GOP has never shaken the bad reputation they built with Latino voters and other immigrant groups from the Proposition 187 campaign back in 1994. This statewide initiative banning immigrants from state services was the final hurrah of the California GOP, which was then hit by a wave of immigrants showing up at the polls from which they have never recovered. They perhaps could have, but they seem unable to get agreement within the party on a non-hostile policy towards immigrants, while the Democratic party has been immigration friendly (and pointed out how lacking GOP policy has been on these issues). This has been a winning strategy for the Dems, and the GOP has handed it to them.

Little noticed in this demographic shift is the place that Asian immigrants, and federal policy at the time of Proposition 187 have played. In 1994 I was working in banking at a mid-level analyst position. Like many offices in San Francisco’s Financial District at that time, many of my co-workers were Asian immigrants from the Philippines,  Hong Kong/Macao/China, Korea, etc. Some were in on H1B visas, but  many were green card holders of other sorts. At the time, they were under pressure because of changes in national immigration policy. The Clinton administration was refusing to renew green cards, and instead insisting that holders become citizens (or return home). There was a concerted effort to clear a path to citizenship for them, so it was a door opening not just closing, but it forced them to make a choice to be American. Most of my co-workers took it. I had a bunch of co-workers in the process of gaining or getting citizenship JUST as 187 passed. What surprised me at the time was how scared Asian immigrants were of 187 (even though all of my co-workers were “legal” immigrants). They were learning to fear the GOP, just as they were gaining the right to vote (and many of them planned on voting after that adventure). Proposition 187 was not just an issue for Mexicans or folks from Latin America, it struck a chill in the heart of all the immigrant communities (all of whom have some contingent of folks who are here outside the rules in one way or another).

This was not a story that I ever saw covered (the part about the push to citizenship was, but not the effect of that combined with 187 ‘s passage). Flash-forward to today, and my husband mentions to me how Asian turnout for Obama was great. This was “supposed” to be a GOP friendly immigrant group due to fiscal issues. My take based on how I saw this play out before, when Democrats speak compassionately on immigration, and when the GOP speaks harshly, it’s not just Latino/Hispanic voters who hear the message, and it has an effect at the polls.

Is the GOP ready to listen? Judging from this, I think not.

“The message from this election for me seems to be, ‘You guys keep going,’ ” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma. “The Senate was rewarded for inactivity, the House was rewarded for standing up for its principles and the president was rewarded for his. I was elected by my district to represent their values. I really don’t approach this and say, Now I’ve got to cave to what the Senate or president want.”…

…Others representing staunchly conservative districts see no reason to give in, even if the nation as a whole sided with the president on taxes.

Standing your ground sounds great from the prospect of Smalltown, OK, but what you’re saying is, “I don’t give a darn about having a viable national party.”  The GOP still has safe seats in certain enclaves of California, but these are getting fewer and fewer as the state changes, but they refuse to.

Other conversations I’ve had with my husband have centered on the incredible level of African Americans voter turnout. I’m guessing, but it seems that the problem with GOP predictions about this election centered on using 2004 turnout models for projections. Clearly traditional low-turnout groups aren’t necessarily staying home anymore. We’ve discussed how recent efforts at voter suppression, seem to be motivating folks to show up at the polls. We’ve both been doing GOTV or poll work over the last 20 years, and getting young African Americans to register and vote has been the issue of much hand wringing in that time. It looks the GOP has done more for creating a compelling case for voter turnout than Jesse Jackson, god bless ’em. Great story on turnout from Indian Country too, and how a stand on a real down-ticket issue for many, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (for those who haven’t read the Amnesty International report on rape and violence against woman on reservations, I highly recommend it), and the same issues of voter suppression seen in the African American community were at play.

On another happy note, it’s interesting to see the quiet youth revolution that is taking hold of the country, as the issues mattering to younger voters, marriage equality and marijuana reform, are pushing slowly and inexorably forward. It’s interesting to see how they are wielding their demographic power vs. the youth revolution of the 1960s. Getting to toke up is perhaps a smaller victory than getting out a military quagmire, but change is where you can make it.

My next piece should probably be about how the Democrats have a national party, but at the cost of pandering to corporate types, etc. so what do we stand for and how to proceed now that we’ve “won”? I’ll leave it to others:

The nature of the problem for labor

Pleas for a more reasonable ed policy

And again here

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