After years of stealth promotion of their agenda, the Republicans are going for broke -- why now, and why with such intensity? Rachel Maddow and others have wondered about this, and here follows one theory. If correct, progressives may have cause to smile soon.
History provides an opaque view of what the future may hold, but sometimes it is all we have. The political history of California over the last forty years, while only somewhat interesting, may justify a closer look by providing a model for what is happening on the national level at this time.
Believe it or not, California used to be solid red. Republican governors and legislatures, conservative by the standards of those days, held unquestioned control until the late fifties and early sixties. At that time, small strongholds of Democratic support started to grow around San Francisco and Los Angeles, expanding until the redistricticting of 1980 gave Democrats a chance to control the legislature. For twenty-four of the last twenty-eight years, Republicans still held on to the Governorship. Since the last election, almost two thirds of the legislature, the Governor's chair, and all other state wide offices have been held by Democrats. Both Senators sent to Washington have been Democrats since 1993. The long term trend is clear.
The instructive part of this narrative concerns what the Republicans did during the late seventies as power was slipping out of their hands. They developed a huge effort to maintain their control, pushing conservative candidates and ballot initiatives. They worked frantically to take over Judgeships, County Boards of Supervisors, City Councils, School Boards, and even Water Districts. Where they were successful, they immediately started implementing a conservative agenda which had not been articulated during the campaigns. They charged onward in spite of massive protests and very lop-sided poll numbers against them. Any of this sound familiar?
Single-minded Republican efforts to hammer their philosophy into place had the expected result. An alerted electorate ran most of these firebrands out of office during the next few trips to the polls, and Democrats saw their control of the state continue to increase.
In a brief echo during the nineties, Republicans managed to take over the State Assembly. With a Republican Governor ready to sign anything they could get passed, they had big dreams. However, the Senate was still in Democratic hands, and nothing made it to the Governor's desk. The Republicans did manage to air out every hair-brained, conservative scheme they could think up, so Californians had another chance to see what they were up to. Again, does this ring a bell? The voters flushed the bunch of these clowns in the next election.
California is now so blue that it is actually indigo. Its fifty-five electoral votes, one fifth of what is needed to win, is pretty much conceded to Obama. Nobody here expects to see much campaigning from either side.
But what conclusions can we draw from a slice of California's political history? The theory presents itself that the current Republican ferocity at "right wing social engineering" is not motivated by the assurance of victory, but by the fear of total loss. Perhaps they sense that their time is ending, that their power is falling away, and that they are doomed, like a hooked fish flapping its last on a boat deck. What we are witnessing from the Republicans may not be a victorious rush from the trenches to smash all opposition, but rather a fanatical banzai charge which will result in their inevitable defeat.
While it may be tempting to accept the above analysis, its validity will be tested in November. This would be no time for overconfidence, but rather wariness from Democrats, who must be ready to fight this battle until the last poll closes.