Why even ask this question? After all, California is the biggest bastion of Blue, right? The Democrats have achieved what Karl Rove could not have dreamed of in his wildest fantasies: Complete control of all levers of government, super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature, and a deep bench of rising young politicians to continue the run. The Republican positions on many issues are losers here. Whether it is climate change, the social contract, reproductive choice, immigration, evolution...they are on the wrong side of history, and, increasingly, on the wrong side of the electorate. Liberals point to California as a foreshadowing of how things could turn out nationwide.
It is not news to this Board that a core part of Republican strategy is to find wedge issues to split their opposition. The grand-daddy of these wedge issues was the Southern strategy, in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Pit working class whites against minorities by exploiting racism and economic fear to get them to vote against their interests. And it largely worked, otherwise the Republican party as we know it would have ceased to exist by now. (Of course, racial divisions existed long before 1964, but it was in the 1960s that they became the organizing principle and the 'brand' of the Republican party.)
It took a long time for Democrats to realize they needed to have each others' backs, but eventually, they appeared to get it. The two elections of Barack Obama represent the crystallization of a progressive coalition that long struggled to take shape. Whether or not Obama is truly a progressive is not the issue here; the point is that so many disparate groups, finally recognizing that they were in the same foxhole, under attack from the same adversaries, and sharing at least some of the same values, were able to pull in the same direction long enough to turn the tide, at least a little bit.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have been flailing about, trying to find a new wedge issue that can revive their fortunes. Unfortunately, certain Democrats may have done their dirty work for them.
Read on for more...
California is the ultimate Rainbow state: Democrats won by capturing huge majorities of many out-groups--Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Women, Hi-tech folks, Gays.... One would think that the Party leadership might give careful thought to how to nurture this coalition. So it comes as a shock that the California State Senate recently passed, on a strict party-line vote, a bill calculated to tear apart this coalition.
I have previously published on this bill, SCA5. In short, it is a bill that would result in a drastic (perhaps 50%; some estimate even more) reduction in admissions of Asian-American students to the public universities in California. Shockingly, the party that voted rank and file to do this were not the Republicans, but the Democrats.
Asians voted Democratic in recent elections for many reasons. It appears that the party did not understand what those reasons were. Let's distill it down to one fact: Asians have enough fresh memories of being persecuted, both in our ancestral lands and then in the U.S., that we will never stand for it again. Watching and hearing the racist spew from Republicans convinced a lot of us that, whatever our positions on other social and economic issues, we were not welcome in the Republicans' tent. We pinned our hopes on being welcome in the Democratic tent.
Since becoming active in the opposition to SCA5, I have talked with several dozen Asian immigrant industry and community leaders. Some of these people went from penniless and barely able to speak English, to founding companies that have employed thousands of people in the U.S. Their rage and sense of betrayal over SCA5 is white hot. Many of them have already filled out the paperwork to leave the Democratic party. Their position is simple: all the Party rhetoric about standing up for minorities is, in their eyes, hypocritical bullshit. Remember, for all our stereotypical success, many Asian immigrants are still poor and struggling, and education is universally seen as the way out and up. Take that away, and you may as well invade our homes and assault our families.
Ethnic Asians make up only about 4% of the electorate nationally, but in California we are almost 14%. California's status as a Blue fortress would be put into question if half of Asians were to switch parties. If this seems unlikely, consider that just one generation ago, Asians did in fact vote Republican. We are not die-hard party loyalists-- we vote based on actual weighing of policy. The recent behavior of the Republicans was enough to swing our votes from 60% Republican to 76% Democratic, in one generation. We still find the Democrats more reasonable on a host of issues, but that will not be enough to hold us in the face of a direct assault on our children's futures.
Members of this board have been engaged for months in a parlor game, guessing when Texas and Virginia will turn Blue. That may have been premature. What would happen if, instead, against all bets, California were suddenly in play again? It could happen, if the Democrats do not reverse course on SCA5.
SCA5 is coming up for a vote in the state assembly, and there is no consensus on whether enough Democrats will break ranks to stop it. I have attended Democratic Party events, including a recent fundraiser, and there are signs that some of the party officials realize the danger. But these officials are from districts that are majority Asian.
Will the rest of the Democrats in Sacramento wake up in time? That is up to all of us.