Tag Archives: Prop 187

Prop 187, Pete Wilson, and the CRP

Governor Pete Wilson and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley at Los Angeles Metro subway opening day, January 29, 1993New York Times looks at the fallout of Prop 187 and anti-immigration politics

by Brian Leubitz

In 1994, Pete Wilson was looking at an election that was something of a risky proposition. The economy, like most of the country, was scuttling, and his favorable numbers weren’t doing so well.  As the race for the Democratic nomination shaped up with Kathleen Brown (sister of the current governor) easing to victory over (now Congressman) John Garamendi and Tom Hayden, the dynamic was not looking to be an easy win for Wilson.

Yet in November, Wilson had claimed a 15 point victory over Brown. What happened in those years? Before Karl Rove rose to national prominence, and this became a term, it was Rovian politics at its best. Wilson knew he needed something to both turn out his base as well as tear some undecided voters, whatever the cost.  The cost turns out to be the future viability of the California Republican party by going all out for Proposition 187, the egregiously (and unconstitutionally) anti-immigrant measure that would have blocked the state to providing most services to immigrants.

It worked in 1994, with the issue serving as a wedge that motivated the majority white voting bloc to lean heavily towards Wilson. Yet, just as surely as it worked in 1994, the fallout has been devastating to the CRP. Every few years, some reporter writes about the legacy of Prop 187.

As Congress begins debating an overhaul of the immigration system, many in California sense that the country is just now beginning to go through the same evolution the state experienced over the last two decades. For a generation of Republicans, Gov. Pete Wilson’s barrages on the impact of immigration in the 1990s spoke to their uneasiness with the way the state was changing. Now many California Republicans point to that as the beginning of their downfall.

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“The fact that the Republican Party got identified with anti-immigration has made things very difficult for them,” said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California, which closely monitors shifts in the state. “It is what is going on nationally now, but California started much earlier.”(NYT)

The Republicans are now attempting to dig themselves out of that mess, but it takes more than a few platitudes to make up for a generation of words and deeds. The demographics make it nearly impossible to win statewide election without a considerable portion of the Latino vote. And, interestingly enough, this is where Texas looks like it may be following in California’s footsteps. The two states now have nearly half of the nation’s Latino population, and both are rapidly growing.

California has always been on the leading edge, especially in politics. As goes California, so goes the nation. Jim Brulte and his CRP compatriots have a lot of colleagues in the same boat across the nation. Changing the dialogue is a gargantuan task, and one that may terrify much of the activist base.

Photo credit: Metro Transportation Library and Archive. Gov. Pete Wilson with LA Mayor Tom Bradley

Pete Wilson’s Resurgence

Pete Wilson has a long and sordid past in this state.  Casting aside some of his early work in San Diego, his run as Senator left something to be desired, to say the least. He considered himself a “fiscal conservative”, going so far as to go by the moniker of “Watchdog of the Treasury.”  Yet all the while, he was one of the bigger supporters of the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) in the Senate, despite the fact that SDI never showed any glimmer of actually being able to do anything.

And then, as he comes back to California to be governor as some sort of victory lap, where he proceed to well and truly make the situation worse.  He never met an insurance reform bill that he wouldn’t veto for a bit of campaign cash from the industry, and apparently couldn’t find room in his heart from a plea from Mother Theresa on a death penalty case.

Besides his cruel veto of a workplace discrimination protection measure for gay and lesbian Californians, he went on to pass the vile Proposition 187 along with his re-election bid of 1994.  He used the measure to beat Kathleen Brown over the head with the issue, despite the fact that the measure was unconstitutional on its face.  That it was later ruled as such by federal courts didn’t really make a difference for Wilson. After all, he had been re-elected.

Toss in a few anti-labor measures, and there you have a quick summary of Wilson’s career. I suppose at this juncture, I should point out the work he did for reparations for Japanese internment victims, but his record is hardly one of a lifelong commitment to civil rights.  So, this is where he re-enters the game in a big way.  He is now the co-chair of the campaigns of both Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley. And he’s doing everything he can for both of them.

To reduce Wilson’s role in Whitman’s campaign to the immigration issue or to one “tough as nails” radio ad, however, is to miss the significance of his involvement.

Early in the contest, Wilson’s support was significant in signaling to GOP insiders that Whitman, with no political experience, could run a credible campaign.

He came with a Rolodex full of donors and consultants, many of whom helped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger win election. He also had the perspective of being a former two-term governor and U.S. senator. If Whitman cared to talk strategy, he is the the only Republican to have defeated her Democratic opponent in an election.(SacBee)

You think that’s some big involvement? How about the fact that Steve Cooley has said on numerous occasions that it was the former Governor that recruited him for the AG’s race, rather than the other way around.  Wilson has taken to the role of elder statesmen (or Obi-Wan as the article called him) of the GOP.

But this course is not without risks.  Californians should not forget his role in Prop 187, and his cynical use of families as a wedge issue. Or his fight against the right to organize through his so-called “paycheck protection” measure.  Wilson had it all planned out, and he is still trying to pull the strings on the marionettes. One can only hope we are better at seeing through Whitman than we were cutting through Wilson’s bull.

Odds and Ends 10/20/06

I’ve been putting all the Odds, and all the Ends, in the extended.  But this one, this one, gets front page treatment: The Sacramento Bee has endorsed Jerry McNerney:

If you prefer the politics of extremes; if you’re OK with selling off national parks; if backroom deal-making and tainted money suit you; if you embrace out-of-balance budgets and the concentration of wealth — Pombo’s your man. But he is no longer representing the true interests of his district, state or nation. That’s ample reason for voters to send Jerry McNerney to Congress.

The Bee becomes just the latest in a string of endorsements of McNerney and fellow Dem Charlie Brown.  Now, let’st get to the teasers of the stuff over the flip: Schwarzenegger drops another $3.5 mil, Garamendi cleared, Pooch’s frivilous lawsuit, Dick Mountjoy being…Dick Mountjoy, and more…

  • The rhetoric about the joke of a lawsuit regarding Jerry Brown’s State Bar status continues. The general response from legal scholars, including the very well-respected Erwin Chemerinsky: this lawsuit stands no chance of success.
  • Garamendi was cleared of any wrong-doing involving Executive Life (Sac Bee)
  • Schwarzenegger dumped another $3.5 mil of his own money into his campaign. Wasn’t the $100 million he’s received from special interests enough?  I guess not.
  • The GOP continues to identify itself not as a big tent, but as a party of bigotry. Leonard Pitts in the SacBee discusses the Radical Right’s purge on gays in the GOP.  Money quote: “The Republicans cannot be the party of both gay tolerance and the Christian right.” Who do you think they will choose? Respect for human rights, or respect for bigotry?
  • This is actually from yesterday: Dan Weintraub discusses both candidate’s positions on health care.
  • Apparently the LA Times Editorial Board doesn’t think purging voter rolls and massive voting machine problems, and you know, general voting rights issues, are a “compelling reason” to um, get off your ass and elect the best candidate for SoS.  Hey, this endorsement couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with the fact that McPherson is a long-time newspaper publisher, could it?
  • Dick Mountjoy loved his first racist proposition, Prop 187, that he wants another crack at the immigrants.  He’s filed another initiative with the state that would permanently bar immigrants from attaining driver’s licenses or in-state tuition.