Tag Archives: Republican Party

Issa Blossoms as Designated Bomb Thrower

Following the election in November, I noted briefly that Darrell Issa’s ascension to ranking member on House Oversight bore watching because he gets off on being difficult and grabbing headlines. A profile from CQ last week finds that he’s really enjoying the new role:

And House GOP leaders are already signaling that they expect Issa to stake out high-profile points of conflict with the White House. “He’s the kind of guy who will charge forward and get to where it leads him,” a figure who will “push the envelope,” said Kevin McCarthy of California, the chief deputy minority whip.

Outside analysts underline the same point: At a time when House leaders such as Minority Whip Eric Cantor are looking inward and assessing longer-term electoral vulnerabilities, more autonomous figures like Issa can be full-time partisans. “You wouldn’t put someone in there if all they wanted to do is talk consensus,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Tapping Issa for the oversight job “does say something about his party’s faith in his ability to throw a few hand grenades,” he added.

He’s already changed over two thirds of his staff with a focus on investigation, and every week he’s got a fresh outrage with which to whip the Hill into a frenzy. Which seems to suggest specific and more meta themes. For one, despite his efforts to dress up his actions as a vital watchdog protecting the checks and balances in government, Issa’s full political career is a record of naked partisanism, distortions and outright nastiness. To CQ, “Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern contends, for instance, that Issa’s mission is just ‘to tear something apart.'” It’s just who he is, and while that may make him well suited for this job in the narrow sense, it certainly doesn’t carry any nobility when the goal is simply personal victory and aggrandizement.

In the broader sense though, this offers a striking counterpoint to Cantor’s listening tours and Rush’s push to the far fringes of the Right. Issa’s tactics represent probably the only piece of the Republican party that have a shot of being effective right now- wearing down the administration with a thousand paper cuts. And in the process of triumphing on all the ticky tack stuff, Issa slides into a default position of leadership and triumph in the party. If you thought the GOP was petty and vindictive already, well, Issa would kick things to levels rarely seen and ideology would be incidental.

Keeping this administration honest is one thing, and frankly we’re already seeing good signs on accountability. But Issa’s job and his passion is to destroy government’s ability to function and destroy his opponents in the process. It’s a point to watch carefully as Republicans run out of other options for developing feasible counters to Democratic governance.

Ring the Bell: Abel Maldonado goes off on the Republican Party

It’s all out war between Abel Maldonado and his (?) Republican Party. In an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent, he accuses the GOP of wanting the state to collapse. (h/t CalBuzz):

“It was ‘Abel – let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point, that it’s the majority’s fault,'” he said in an interview, to be published Thursday in the Santa Barbara Independent.

This is nothing we haven’t heard before. We’ve known that the GOP saw possibilities in a collapse of the state government. A chance to break labor once and for all, a chance to freeze government in its tracks, a boon for conservative backwardness.

Yet with Abel, you never know what he’s playing at. He’s always looking at what’s next, using the situation to get what’s best for him.  And I’m skeptical that his statements are anything but self-serving.  Especially his remarks on the no-tax pledge:

He said his vote on the budget allowed him to wrangle reforms that do not carry personal benefit for him but “are about California.” He also expressed regret that in the past he signed a “no new taxes” pledge, saying that Republican orthodoxy on the issue “is an irrational position.”

“I regret signing” the pledge, he said. “I regret not having a couple of words added – ‘unless there’s an emergency.’ We have a fiscal emergency in our state. People want ideas and solutions, not political positions.”

These statements make him seem eminently reasonable.  Not exactly sounding out a fair and reasonable tax policy, but somebody who you think you could work with. Yet, somehow, he only came to understand the depth of the emergency after extracting what he wanted out of the situation? He could only get himself to throw the state a lifeline when he could get his ridiculous open primary initiative? His statements are extremely disingenuous at best.

Yet, despite all that, it’s hard to see how Maldonado proceeds in his political career.  Perhaps he could have switched parties earlier in the session.  I assure you, Democrats will not have him now, and as he points out, the Republicans hate him. He was thrashed at the state convention, people directly yelled to his face.  Even if his open primary measure passes, he has no base, and winning without party support would still be hard, if not impossible.

But I’m not sure if his fate in the Republican Party would be any better even had he stuck with the caucus. The party is so out of touch with the majority of the state, and the riff with Maldo clearly shows that.  I say this not as a partisan Democrat, but as a political observer, the statewide Republican Party is risking traveling the path of irrelevance already walked by the Massachusetts Republican Party. I suppose I should suppress that smile, huh?

Red California Death Watch

In 2007, right-wing political operatives tried to place a measure on the June 2008 ballot that – if successful – would have awarded California’s electoral votes by Congressional District.  Democrats and progressives strongly opposed it, because everyone assumed it would give the G.O.P. presidential nominee an extra 19 votes.  California is a deep blue state, but parts of Orange County and the Central Valley are still reliably Republican.  New data from last November’s election, however, suggests that “Red California” is becoming less and less relevant.  Barack Obama carried eight Congressional Districts that had long voted for Republican presidential candidates, and John McCain came close to losing three more.  All these districts are currently represented in Congress by Republicans, but a few incumbents came close last year to losing to Democratic challengers.  It’s only a matter of time before some of these districts will eventually flip.  None of this is a surprise, however, because the state’s Republican base is older, whiter and shrinking in size.  But the rate of this change is quite staggering, which explains why Republicans in the state legislature have clung to the “two-thirds rule” for passing a budget.  After all, it’s the only reason they have any power left in the state.

Thanks to the work of bloggers at the Swing State Project, it is now possible to quickly check the results of the last presidential election by Congressional District, and compare it with 2000 and 2004.  Congressional Quarterly even has a cool map that you can look at online.  What it shows for the future of California Republicans is not pretty.  None of us were surprised that Barack Obama won the Golden State by a 60-40 margin.  But the bigger story here is that “Red California” has become far less Republican.

Take the 24th Congressional District, which includes Ventura County and inland parts of Santa Barbara County.  The District is home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, the same town where an all-white jury voted in 1992 to acquit the cops who beat up Rodney King.  Republican Elton Gallegy has been the Congressman there for 22 years, and he’s never had to deal with a tough challenger.  In fact, the lines were drawn to intentionally give him a safe seat.  But Obama won the District by a three-point margin.

Or how about the 48th District in Orange County – which includes Irvine, Laguna Hills and the mansions of Newport Beach?  George Bush carried the District by a 20-point margin in both elections, but Obama won it by over 2,600 votes.  Republican Chris Cox represented the District for years, and when he stepped down in 2005 successfully passed it on to a GOP successor.  Democrats tried in 2006 and 2008, but Congressman John Campbell has so far managed to ward them off.  Now, Irvine City Councilwoman Betty Krom has thrown her hat in the ring – and her campaign kick-off featured Loretta Sanchez.

When you look at the map, the most obvious change is the 25th District – which hugs a huge section of the Nevada border and includes Death Valley, before heading south to include parts of northern Los Angeles County.  The City of Palmdale, home of the late anti-gay bigot Pete Knight is in the District.  It’s always been a safe district for Republican candidates, but Obama managed to win it by a percentage point.  Mormon Congressman Buck McKeon has had the seat since 1992, and has never had to worry about Democrats.  That could change …

But can a candidate like Obama give “coat-tails” for Democrats in Red California?  Ask Dan Lungren and Ken Calvert, two Republican members of Congress.  When Lungren – the GOP’s losing candidate for Governor in 1998 – moved to the Sacramento suburbs to stage a political comeback, he decided to settle in a safe Republican district.  Calvert has represented Riverside and Corona since 1992, and even survived a prostitution scandal early in his career to get re-elected – because the District at the time was so Republican.

For Lungren and Calvert, the state’s demographics are catching up with them.  Obama won both of their districts, and both of them came extremely close to losing their jobs in November – when spirited Democratic challengers took them on.  Both districts have had an influx of suburban sprawl, and now the headache of foreclosures has hit their communities hard.  We’re seeing similar trends in Districts 26 in northern Los Angeles (Dave Dreier), 45 in Palm Springs (Mary Bono) and 50 in San Diego (Brian Bilbray.)  Obama won all of these districts, and a strong Democratic challenger could benefit.

Granted, California still has Republican parts – and progressives were right to defeat the so-called Dirty Tricks Initiative to split up electoral votes by Congressional District.  I have never liked the Electoral College’s “winner-take-all” system – where a state awards all of its electoral votes to the plurality winner.  But until every state splits up their votes to ensure that every minority (not just California Republicans) has a voice in picking our next President, it is unfair and undemocratic.

John McCain won 11 out of California’s 53 Congressional Districts – which means that Republicans in the Golden State are still red, but not dead.  But in three of them – George Radanovich’s 19th in Fresno, Ed Royce’s 40th in Orange County and Dana Rohrabacher’s 46th in Palos Verdes – the margin was surprisingly close.  As the party keeps pandering to its Southern base, it will drift into oblivion in California.  And if a measure to abolish the “two-thirds rule” in the state legislature passes, it will mean the death of the California GOP.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of BeyondChron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.

The Predator State

I have just begun reading James K. Galbraith’s 2008 book, the Predator State.  While he was writing mostly about the administration and policies of George W. Bush, what we seen now in California seems to me to be the death throes of a movement that has lost all pretense of relevance and is only holding on to the myths of a past era. The liturgy still demands that they chant “no new taxes” but no one is even reading their lips any more.  

It makes sense to ask what the conservative economics, and by implication conservative politicians, have to say about any of our current concerns, as Galbraith did.  

Do they have an alternative to our oil addiction, to imperial commitment, to global warming? No.  Did they have a program of recovery for the city of New Orleans? No. Is there a realistic conservative plan for health care? No. There is merely opposition to everyone else’s ideas. Predator State p. 8

 In giving lip service to the power of the market to guide us, they replaced oversight and regulation with winks and nods, instead of even experienced technocrats, they gave us cronies and lobbyists as regulators all under the guidance of California Republican Christopher Cox. We see the same playing out in the rhetoric of a Chuck Devore who is clearly using the current budget crisis for his own political advantage, hoping to secure a place on the ballot of a failing party.

The world of free market excess that coalesced behind Reagan and Thatcher was an experiment that failed.  It has been abandoned by policy makers at all levels and is no longer given more liturgical reference by policy makers at any level. Stripped of political power around the world, led in Congress by a John Boehner who seems to be such good fodder for comedy that he attracted Dan Akroyd back to SNL, they cling to those last few enclaves in which they can have any influence.  Unfortunately, the only place where that seems true in in Sacramento.

From my own conversations with my State Senator, it feels as if Maldonado is un-Abel  to give up on the idea of a political career… it beats farming… and knows that he as to have a big list of victories to show Republicans if he has any hope of winning a primary battle for statewide office. I believe that his tendency would have been to settle this long ago but that he has not the courage to lay his political career on the line for the sake of anybody, or in this case, for the preservation of a functioning state government.

So, we are left with a true predator state, and a predatory Republican Party, cornered and lashing out with the only weapon left, the ability to vote NO.  Such predators are dangerous as they could do much damage before they die.  

Sick of Republicans? Cancel your San Diego Union Tribune Subscription.

A friend of mine just called and gave me a great idea. If there ever was a doubt that the editorial board of the Union Tribune and the Republican Party were in bed together, this week's orchestrated attack on Aguirre should make it clear. Those of us who have been around long enough, have seen it played over in every election. The editorial endorsements read word for word like a Republican hit piece: the Democratic candidate is in the pocket of big labor and the Republican candidate would bring “reform” and business acumen to the office. Well, if you are fed up with the UT's right-wing, pro-developer, anti-working people, anti-environment slant, cancel your subscription. Since their circulation numbers have fallen dramatically in the last few years, every canceled subscription can actually hurt them. To make it easier, here is the contact information for subscription services:

General Inquiries & Customer Service Phone: (619) 299-3131 or (800) 244-6397 Email: [email protected]

Also posted at San Diego Politico.