Political analysts in California have watched the fractious internal debate at the CA GOP Convention this weekend with no small doses of trepidation and amusement. According to conventional wisdom, the CA GOP is on its last legs. “Headed off a cliff”, says Calbuzz in a post dripping with the satisfaction only schadenfreude can provide:
Like a herd of wooly mammoths at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the California Republican Party is on the verge of extinction.
It may still recover. The CRP has come back from near death before. And redistricting, alongside the top-two primary system may yet revive it. But judging from the infighting, narrow thinking and rigid ideological positioning on display at the party’s organizing convention last weekend in Sacramento, the signs are not good.
As former GOP Assembly leader Bob Naylor put it succinctly Sunday morning, “It’s on life support.”
Perhaps. Or perhaps analysts are looking at things from the wrong perspective: one that assumes that the purpose of the GOP, at least in California, is actually to win elections. That may be a mistake.
In reality, the GOP at a national and state level exists to 1) deliver money from the poor and middle class to the rich; and 2) feed enough red meat to their prejudiced and unthinking base to garner just enough votes to continue achieving objective #1. That’s pretty much it.
Right now, the GOP doesn’t actually need to win any of the statewide elections in order to accomplish those goals. Winning them would be helpful, but is ultimately unnecessary. Knowing that the chances of anyone overturning Prop 13 and the 2/3 requirement on revenues are slim to none, all they need is at least 1/3 of the members of just one of the statehouse chambers. To ram through all cuts budgets and destroy faith in government, they need do nothing more.
With that in mind, it doesn’t matter if the GOP wins more elections. All that matters is that they get to that magic 1/3 number in either the Senate or the Assembly, and then that all of those 1/3 + members hold the line. If they do, they ensure an all cuts budget; they ensure that Democrats take the blame; and most importantly, that California gets held up to the world as a mockery and failure of supposedly “liberal” government. There’s nothing that serves Republican interests at a state and national level more than to see California fiscally collapse. That means shock doctrine, a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich, an ability to end all state labor contracts in a way Governor Walker would only dream of, and ultimately the ability to crush the belief of the People in the power of their government to do good on their behalf.
More depressingly, they don’t even need 1/3 of the legislators in either chamber, as long as there are enough squishy “moderate” Democrats afraid to vote for tax increases even if the Dems do technically gain control of 2/3 in both chambers–already an unlikely event, particularly after redistricting and the change to a top-two primary. There will be likely be at least one or two Democrats eager to play the Joe Lieberman in order to shore up their “independent” or “moderate” credentials to voters.
From this perspective, the CA GOP is crazy, all right. Crazy like a fox. They don’t really need more elected officials. They just need to keep the ones they have in line, and they’re in good shape. The worst thing that could happen to them is that enough of their members go off the GOP reservation that a responsible budget with a balance of cuts and appropriate revenue enhancements makes it before the voters–and it passes with a majority. That would actually do far more damage to the GOP than would losing several more elections.
So count on the California Republicans to demand more purity from their members, at the expense of winning elections. It is, after all, the savvy thing for them to do.