Danehy: Arizona Republicans are getting so radicalized they could soon be as irrelevant at the California GOP

Shawnna_Bolick
Shawnna_Bolick

When it comes to avoiding future misfortune, people generally fall into one of three categories. The vast majority of people tend to learn from their own mistakes. They may have to make them more than once, but eventually, they learn. The truly fortunate are those who are able to learn from the mistakes of others, thereby saving themselves from all kinds of grief. The third (unfortunate) group consists of those who never learn from mistakes, theirs or anybody else's. These are the knuckleheads, the recidivists, the repeat offenders. And, if somebody doesn't do something to pull them out of their self-destructive tailspin, that third group is going to include whatever is left of the once-powerful Arizona Republican Party.

For indisputable evidence, one needs only to look to our neighbor to the west. If an outside observer were to take a political derivative of California, freezing the moment in time, they would be inclined to conclude that the Golden State has always been a bastion of Democratic politics. How else to explain a 5 million vote margin in the state for Joe Biden last November? Or two Democratic Senators, a huge advantage in the state's delegation to the House of Representatives, and strong control of both parts of the State Legislature?

That conclusion, however, would be wrong. California has not always been a Democratic stronghold. Since 1950, California has had 14 different U.S. Senators—seven Republicans, seven Democrats. In that same time, the state has had 11 governors—six Republicans, five Democrats. The state's political inflection point can best be seen in the evolution of its membership in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1950, California had 24 Representatives in the House—14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

After the election of 1960, it had 30 Reps—14 Republican, 16 Democrats (still a pretty even split).

In the 1970s and 80s, the Republican to Democrat splits were 19-20 and 21-22, respectively.

By the 1990s, the Dems had pulled out to a 26-19 advantage and expanded it to 30-21 in 2000. But in the past 20 years, that relatively modest nine-seat margin is now a stunning 42-11. And while there are a number of factors that can help explain that surge, more of them point to Republican self-destruction rather than Democratic brilliance.

The rapid descent into near-oblivion is often traced to the 1994 passage of Proposition 187, a draconian measure that called for the institution of a citizenship verification system in the state and the subsequent use of that system to prohibit people who were not in the country legally from using public education, non-emergency health care, and a variety of other state services. Prop 187 passed overwhelmingly, by a nearly 3-2 margin. Proponents of the measure, including then-Governor Pete Wilson (a Republican), claimed that it was strictly an economic measure, even though the California Legislative Analyst's Office said that the cost of the verification would be more than any savings in state services.

The backlash was immediate and severe. Huge anti-187 demonstrations sprang up all over the state. Three days after its passage, it was declared unconstitutional by a federal court and was never implemented. In the quarter-century since Prop 187, California has had no Republican senators and the only Republican governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose party affiliation appears to have been determined by a coin toss.

After the intense reaction to Prop 187, the California Republican Party chose to double down, becoming more reactionary and appearing more racist. Today, it's a hollowed-out shell of a political party, almost completely inconsequential in the largest state of the Union.

It's becoming obvious that chapters of the Republican Party in various states (and the nation, as a whole) aren't sharp enough to learn from California's lesson. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight Presidential elections. And in four years under Donald Trump, the Republicans lost control of the House, the Senate, and the White House. And the post-carnage evaluation? They weren't Trump enough; they need to be even Trumpier.

In Texas, the GOP has adopted the QAnon phrase "We are the Storm" that was used by terrorists who attacked the U.S. Capitol. The Republican Party in Oregon has officially claimed that the people who stormed the Capitol were really leftists dressed in MAGA costumes in an effort to embarrass Trump. And here in Arizona, the Republican Party, led by the truly horrible Kelli Ward, has gone just plain crazy.

They've lost both Senate seats, the presidential vote, they are one seat from an evenly divided Legislature in both chambers, and they've lost multiple statewide races. And so what do the Republicans do? They censure three of their own.

Now, the final nail. Shawnna Bolick, whose Arizona Supreme Court justice husband might want to let her know that Arizona is still part of the United States, introduced a bill in the State Legislature that would effectively render meaningless all voting for President in the state. She wants the Legislature to reserve the power to determine which electors go to the Electoral College. I've been around for a long time and this is the absolute most vile attack on democracy I've ever seen.

If SB1070 marked the beginning of the end for the Arizona Republican Party, Bolick's atrocity marks the end of the end. And the postmortem will read, "Death by their own petty, vulgar and often racist hand."

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