California, Here It Comes
Yesterday, I got a note on social media from a fellow who didn't take well to my comments responding to Trump who had to trash California Gov. Jerry Brown. I had explained about Brown being popular in California, an assertion I based on him having been elected governor four times, having served as either governor, attorney general or secretary of state for 24 years, taking a $25 billion dollar budget deficit under Arnold Schwarzenegger and turning it into a $6 billion surplus, and having a +11% approval rating.
I can't exactly translate his response, but it had something to do with goats. When I repeated these realities about Brown as being facts, not opinion, and added I completely understood that the fellow seemed to hate liberals, Jerry Brown and Democrats, and so be it if that was his position, though the realities don't change, he took it even worse, brought up goats again and blocked me. Yes, and it's liberals who are apparently the "snowflakes."
To be clear, saying that Jerry Brown is popular in California -- which he is -- doesn't mean I like everything Democrats do here in the state. I don't. However, unlike most Republicans I've come across and most-especially who we see in elected office these days, I'm fine criticizing my party. But overall, I like Jerry Brown.
(By the way, though it may come across as partisan to say most Republicans don't seem to like disagreeing with their fellow party members, I completely understand, except -- it's not. It uses as its starting point a famous comment that the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, once made during a GOP presidential debate he was participating in. He called it "the 11th Commandment of the Republican Party: Thou shalt not criticize another Republican." Add to that "Commandment" how often we see House and Senate Republicans vote 100% together on issues, I stand by the observation. And if anyone thinks the same holds for Democrats, I will add another quote, this from the comedian Will Rogers that he made in the 1920s and has held true since: "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat.")
But I digress.
And return back to another comment my dear, social media correspondent made, which was the point-blank statement that it was "an accepted fact that Democrats would lose California in the mid-terms." No, really, that's not a misinterpretation, that's a quote. And, yes, that's the level of correspondence I sometimes attract away from these pages. (I believe the correct word is, "Sigh.") I didn't debate him on the point -- seriously, why waste the effort -- but merely noted politely that I thought his belief was "unsupportable." Soon after, as I said, I was blocked. My loss.
But all of that brought to mind the current political situation in California for the mid-terms, and an intriguing little-noted possible result of all that. I'd been meaning to write about it, and today seemed as spot-on ideal as possible.
And it starts with this --
At the moment as we near the state primary election in June, there have been no "name-Republicans" who have announced interest in running for the Senate against Dianne Feinstein. (Note: this is something which tends to make it difficult for Republicans to "take California." But why quibble with reality...?) And when you hear most political analysis of the state's Senate race, it stops there. But it shouldn't, because there is a pretty good, liberal Democrat who’s running against her – Kevin De Leon, the current State Senate president.
Now, to be clear, he won't beat her. And because of that, most analysts pay the race no attention. But that's their mistake, because they don't understand the California election system. It's important.
You see, the way California is set up with its odd open-system (one that I hate), because De Leon as the Senate president is reasonably known in the state and much more liberal than Feinstein, it's possible (and although hardly certain it's not at all unreasonable, especially in this Blue Wave year) that he may well get the second-most votes in the primary. And that means -- thanks to that odd California election law -- that both Dianne Feinstein and this other Democrat, Kevin De Leon, would be the only U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot in November as the top two vote-getters in the state's open primary -- with no Republican.
But that's just the U.S. Senate race. Going a step further, it may also happen in the governor’s race. The current Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is the leading Democratic candidate right now. But also on the ballot is the former mayor of Los Angeles, Anthony Villaraigosa. In fact, in a Public Policy Poll last month, Villaraigosa had closed the gap to only two points behind Newsom. While it certainly would seem like a Republican candidate should make the November ballot -- there's the problem. After all, Newsom as the state's Lt. Governor is polling at 23% overall. Villaraigosa was mayor of the nation's second largest city, and his poll numbers are 21%. And amid all the other many candidates from both parties, the highest Republican, assemblyman Travis Allen, is only at 8%. This could all change, of course, as votes get consolidated, and there are still a quarter of voters undecided -- but the primary is in just two months, on June 5.
And that's where this gets interesting, and the whole point here kicks in. It's not that a Democrat will likely win both California races in November for governor and the U.S. Senate -- especially with the current Lt. Governor and incumbent Dianne Feinstein on the ballot . That's hardly headline news. But something else entirely comes into play.
And it's this --
If if there are no Republicans even running on the November ballot for the U.S. Senate and Governor's office, that could profoundly depress Republican turnout -- in any year, obviously, but most especially in an off-year election with low turnout...and then add to add in a year that is being considered one of a possible Blue Wave. And what that means is that -- with deeply low GOP turnout in November -- all Republicans running for Congress or any state office this year in California could be in serious trouble.
That's a notable statement to make under any condition. But you have to step back and realize who that all entails. For starters, it includes perhaps the poster boy of directed-anger by Democrats, Devin Nunes. (More on him in a moment.) But also far-right Dana Rohrbacher, oddly known as the Congressman from Moscow. who is in an extremely close race right now, as is long-time Republican Ed Royce, both within four points. But also Duncan Hunter at 11 points. And another longtime GOP congressman Darrell Issa isn't even running for re-election. Furthermore, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy could actually be in trouble too, though at the moment he’s up by 14, so he’s likely safe. But if GOP voting is seriously depressed in California, who knows?
Which brings us back to the detested Devin Nunes. By all rights, he should be safe. After all, he's always won his past elections by getting at least 60% of the vote in a traditionally conservative district. But know this: at the moment, against a "generic" Democratic opponent, he's only up by 5 points! And among those Democrats who have announced in his district is Andrew Janz, a well-regarded Deputy D.A. in Fresno, known for prosecuting violent crimes. And that again brings us back to the issue I wrote about at the start of all this -- not just that it might be a Blue Wave year, but if there is no Republican on California's November ballot for governor and the U.S. Senate, depressing the GOP turnout, then no reasonably-close Republican candidate is safe.
Obviously, I have no idea if any of this will happen. It's all completely uncertain. But none of it is even remotely unlikely or unreasonable. And it's a very-serious enough possibility that any Republican candidate in California in November should be, if not concerned, then very wary.
And they should be even more wary if Democrats in the Senate primary decide to "waste" their vote and not cast it for the near-certain winner Dianne Feinstein (who, in a shockingly worst-case disaster scenario, will still absolutely get on the November ballot in second place, at the very least), but instead they vote for the much more liberal Kevin De Leon (who, being liberal themselves, they might actually even prefer) -- not as a protest vote against the more conservative Feinstein, but rather to push De Leon high enough that he'll end up in second place and knock out any Republican. Such a vote won’t really hurt Feinstein. But it could pummel the GOP.
Which brings us back to my social media crack-analyst. Insisting that it was "an accepted fact that Democrats would lose California in the mid-terms."
Willful ignorance is not a virtue.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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