David Little: GOP contemplates a New Way
"people need to know there are more inclusive wings of the Republican Party."
By: David Little, ChicoER
Nothing lasts forever — even California’s blue-state status.
That’s a bold prediction, but California’s Democratic majority eventually will disappear. I may not be around to witness it, but it will.
Those in power make mistakes and eventually voters get fed up. It will happen.
Republicans in the state seem to have a hard time recognizing that, though. They seem to be on the same reckless path as Democrats, appealing to the fringes of the party while alienating four-fifths of the population.
One state assemblyman, all but excommunicated by the Republican Party for turning into a moderate, thinks extinction doesn’t have to be inevitable. He sees the future.
Chad Mayes, from the San Bernardino County city of Yucca Valley, was tossed out of his position as Assembly Republican leader last year for (gasp) working with Democrats. He was replaced by north state Assemblyman Brian Dahle of Bieber. The fact that Dahle got the appointment is at least a hopeful sign for Republicans, because Dahle has shown the ability to work across the aisle.
Though Mayes lost his leadership role, he’s running for re-election in his district. But he has a bigger objective. Along with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chico State University graduate and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, he is spearheading a new effort to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party.
It’s called New Way California and was unveiled this week with a press conference in Sacramento and a website.
So far anyway, the extent of the effort amounts to, “Hey, we’re out here.” But that’s a good start, because people need to know there are more inclusive wings of the Republican Party.
Republicans in Sacramento have always adhered to the credo, “We shall hang together, or we shall hang separately.” This edict to never stray from the party line helps people get elected. The party throws money at candidates who will toe the line and kiss the ring. It certainly hasn’t helped the party grow, however.
Republican registration statewide has been on the decline for 15 years. Just 25.9 percent of California voters — one in four — are registered Republican.
The last time a Republican was elected to a statewide office was 12 years ago. The last time a California Republican was elected to the U.S. Senate was 30 years ago. Of the 53 California seats in the House of Representatives, 14 are held by Republicans. In the state Legislature, Republicans have allowed Democrats to have a two-thirds supermajority, though Democrats are trying to give it back because of sex scandals.
Still, there are signs of hope for conservatives if they look hard enough.
First, the percentage of “decline to state” voters grows every year. Those unattached voters almost outnumber Republicans right now, with 5 million Republicans and 4.8 million decline to state. The latter don’t identify with either political party. They’re up for grabs if either party would reach out to them on issues they care about.
Second, registration isn’t everything. Though Republican registration percentages have been on the decline for almost a century, Californians backed Republicans in every president election except one between 1952 and 1988. Those numbers are further proof that in politics, nothing lasts forever.
But with voter demographics changing, the Republican Party needs to change too. Mayes, Chavez and others hope New Way will attract people who feel alienated by actions of both the Democratic and Republican parties. There’s a lot of people like that out there.
Mayes and Chavez both believe the heresy (in party circles) that it’s OK to compromise, that it’s wise to work with Democrats. When you’re the minority party, it can’t be all or nothing, because you’ll end up with nothing.
The group so far seems nebulous. They had a press conference. They developed a mission statement. They came up with a list of principles. Now what?
I’m not sure, but I’ll be watching closely — because the steady decline of the Republican Party needs an antidote.