The California Republican Party is now dead. The most recent evidence of this appeared last night as California Democrats completed their sweep of the congressional delegation in Orange County. Democrat Gil Cisneros defeated Young Kim, a Republican, to capture a fourth seat in a county that had once been one of the most conservative in the nation.
With Cisneros’s victory, Democrats now control all House seats in Orange County — the birthplace of Richard M. Nixon, the John Birch Society, and modern-day conservatism.
The victory by Cisneros, a philanthropist, was declared by The Associated Press. It completes what was a clear Democratic rout in California this year. Democrats set out to capture seven Republican-held seats where Hillary Clinton defeated President Trump in 2016, including all four in Orange County. They won six of them.
And now there is a growing chorus of GOP activists who say there is just one hope for reviving the California Republican Party: Blow it up and start over again from scratch.
Republicans now must deal with the aftermath of the damage from the devastation of a “blue tsunami” in California which not only wiped out six GOP-held House seats but also gave every statewide seat and a super-majority to the Democrats in both houses of the state legislature. The Democratic candidate for governor, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, easily turned back a Republican challenge.
“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,’’ says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.”
Before this election, the 53-member California congressional delegation included 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans. It now appears that after this year’s midterms it will be 45 Democrats and eight Republicans.
Republicans hit another low point this week with the defeat of Southern California Assemblyman Dante Acosta, the last GOP Latino legislator. This is a real problem since in California Latinos comprise the fastest-growing group of voters.
“The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead,” wrote former state GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen, who startled fellow Republicans with a frank op-ed this week saying Republicans must acknowledge their “serious problem” in California, particularly the toxic impact of President Trump.
“In one fell swoop Trump & Republicans who willingly handcuffed themselves to him have turned Orange County into a GOP wasteland,’’ GOP strategist John 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.”
The changing political tides in Orange County were captured in the ethnic dynamics of the race to succeed Mr. Royce. Young Kim was seeking to become the first Korean-American woman in Congress, but faced a challenge from Mr. Cisneros, a Latino in a state where Latino voters have become an increasingly powerful force.
The results were a setback for the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican who had invested energy and money into trying to salvage his delegation. Mr. McCarthy, who will be the minority leader in the next Congress, after Democrats take control of the House in January.
Republicans looking at the devastation of the midterm results say they must now decide what a new party will look like after they get rid of the current structure and its leadership has..
“That’s the question: how do you start over?,’’ said Joel Fox, a longtime GOP strategist who publishes the “Fox & Hounds Daily” commentary site.
“The rise of the Republican Party may really depend on the Democratic Party,’’ Fox said. “Voters will have to see how it handles the heady times of having a $14 billion surplus and a super-majority under the leadership of the incoming Governor-elect Gavin Newsom. If progressives try to push their agenda too far, and land too many pro-tax ballot measures in front of the voters in future ballots — including revisions of the landmark property tax measure Prop. 13, soda taxes and oil taxes — it’s possible they will create an opening for the GOP to return to viability.”
Democratic political strategist Darry Sragow had this advice for California Republicans:
“They have to take down the ‘whites only’ sign from the clubhouse door,’’ Sragow said. “And if they’re willing to allow people who aren’t white into the club, they may be able to recover.’’
“I think that the GOP is capable of turning itself around, because it’s a well-established brand,’’ he said. “The problem is, the people who manage the party are going to have to be willing to do that. And by definition, they are the opposite of that. They have no interest in that.”
If the people in charge of the California GOP don’t make some drastic changes very quickly their party may completely disappear. It remains to be seen whether they are willing to do this, however.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.