Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine

Getty Images

If Republicans elsewhere think California’s dismal electoral results cannot occur in their states, they’re wrong. The demographic changes that swept our state are coming their way sooner than they think.

The 2018 midterm elections were not kind to us. Of the 40 GOP-held congressional seats that flipped, seven were in California, as were eight of the 380 state legislative seats Republicans lost nationally. While all these California districts were carried by Hillary Clinton in her White House bid two years ago, most had been trending Democratic for years as a result of rapidly growing Hispanic and Asian populations.

{mosads}Even before the ballots were all counted, some individuals were offering their own drive-by political analyses; nearly all overlooked these demographic changes.

One theory is we lost because of President Trump. If that were the case, how does one explain that we went from 25 GOP-held congressional seats to 14 before Donald Trump even declared he was running for president? We also went from 17 GOP state senators to 12, and 41 state assembly members to 25 in the same time period. That said, a president with an approval rating in the low 30s in your state cannot be very helpful.

Another theory is we had bad candidates. Anyone who has ever met former state legislator Young Kim or U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham and Mimi Walters, just to name just a few, knows this is not true.

Some say we cannot win being outspent three to one. It’s certainly challenging, but we have been outspent before and won.

Others argue Democratic-led changes to state law are to blame. They have not helped, but this excuse still misses the mark.

Some blame the state GOP. We’re certainly not above criticism and there always are ways to improve, but unlike the people making this claim, I actually know what we did. I know our volunteers made more than 6 million voter contacts and I know our county volunteers added millions more. I know we raised nearly $34 million at the state party alone, spending an unbelievable 70 percent on campaign support.

All of these reasons can help explain why the losses were particularly pronounced this cycle. But none addresses the root cause of our decades of decline: demographic changes.

In 1996, the white, non-Hispanic population in California was approximately 51 percent, and GOP registration statewide was 37 percent. Today, the white, non-Hispanic population is under 37 percent and GOP registration has dropped to 25 percent. And given our party’s inability to generate significant voter registration in the rapidly-growing Hispanic and Asian voting groups, this decline in voter registration is actually accelerating. 

It is easy to forget it was not always like this. California has a long and rich history of thriving under Republican stewardship. We are the party of Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan. Since 1862, California has elected successive Democrats to be governor just twice — once was in 1886 and the other was last month when Gavin Newsom was elected to succeed Jerry Brown.  

What changed? The quick answer is the voting population: Our party and our candidates have yet to figure out how to consistently attract support from Hispanics and Asians.

California is one of five majority-minority states. Another of those five states, Hawaii, is solidly Democratic. New Mexico just elected a Democratic governor and added to its legislative majorities that include a two-thirds majority in the lower House. Nevada elected a Democratic governor, flipped a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat and increased Democrats’ numbers in the state legislature, which brought about a two-thirds majority in the lower house. And in Texas, long held as an example of Republican excellence, Republicans managed to win all statewide races, but lost two congressional seats, two state Senate seats and 12 lower House seats.

By the end of next year, a majority of children in this country under age 18 will be non-white. And by 2044, a majority of the population of our country will made up of individuals from current minority groups.

All around us are signs we Republicans need to grow our party and appeal to more voters, but we have not yet found success. For all of our hard work, we have been unable to attract enough support from non-white voters to win in California.

But Republicans beware: The demographic changes that have turned our state blue are coming to other states’ communities too.

California is not an outlier — we are the future, for better or for worse.

Jim Brulte is chairman of the California Republican Party and a retired state senator serving California’s 31st District from 1996 to 2004. From 1992 to 1996, he was the Republican leader of the California State Assembly.

Tags California Democratic Party demographics in America Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jeff Denham Mimi Walters Republican Party

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video