Has The GOP Finally Lost California For Good?

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As we drag on into the second post-election month, the rare honest discussion remains centered around what a poor candidate Hillary Clinton was, what a poor campaign she ran, etc. But Hillary scored a big win that should be a little disconcerting to any California Republican, the few who remain.

Hillary won big in Orange County, a.k.a. Nixon country, the heart of California conservatism, and it wasn’t even close. Clinton rang up 609,961 votes for 50.94% of the vote to Donald Trump’s 507,148 votes for 42.35%. Libertarian candidate Gary “Aleppo?” Johnson and Green candidate Jill “Recount” Stein were negligible, with 46,128 votes and 18,068, respectively.

It wasn’t just Trump who got thumped, Republicans running for office had some real scares, most notably Rep. Darrell Issa. Issa usually won his northern San Diego district handily but this time won by the skin of his teeth, with just 1,620 votes between him and challenger Doug Applegate.

The “changing demographics” argument has been trotted out on discussion boards, as you would expect, since it has been happening for a while. Orange County has seen its share of change, no question. It started 20 years ago, really, when bombastic Congressman Bob Dornan lost to a Hispanic challenger, Loretta Sanchez, after his Garden Grove district changed from predominantly white to predominantly Hispanic.

The heart of the change is now Santa Ana, which The New York Times gleefully pointed out is 78% Hispanic and less than 10% white. That population is moving out to better neighborhoods around it, like Tustin, Costa Mesa and Orange.

However, the Orange County Register noted that Hillary’s strongest performance came in the district that’s home to UC Irvine. In the University Hills neighborhood, Hillary won 88% to 7%. Hardly a surprise, really, given the politics of the university populations.

But it’s not just changing demographics. It’s also Republican flight. Republicans are running from this state like their hair is on fire. And who can blame them? California’s economic condition is no secret. The only thing keeping the state afloat is tourism, the Silicon Valley, and inertia. Housing is outrageous, as is the overall cost of living and intrusive government from do-gooder liberals in the big cities.

As of this year, about 26% of the state’s voters are registered as Republicans, down from 35.7% a decade ago, according to the latest figures (here as a PDF) from the California Secretary of State. The percentage of registered Democrats is 45%, which is about even with 2004. “No preference” comes in third at 24%, which means it could pass Republicans soon.

In Orange County, out of two million eligible voters, 580,000 were registered Republicans and 522,000 were Democrats, a very narrow lead.

So what happened? Some blame the 1994 Proposition 187, a ballot measure that tried to roll back welfare and services for illegal immigrants. This was followed by Republican measures to outlaw bilingual education and curb affirmative action. While this riled up Hispanics and Asians, it doesn’t explain disappearing Republicans.

What’s happening is also a flight of Republicans to more friendly states. IRS data shows that the top five states losing population are all Democrat strongholds, while the states gaining are Republican. There is no connection to party, but given the decline in Republicans in the state and the most popular destinations, like Texas and Florida, a circumstantial case can be made.

And in 2015 the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that a number of GOP candidates had left the state for greener pastures, including one-time Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. This would certainly explain why the GOP couldn’t field a decent candidate for the US Senate race, among others.

I don’t blame Republicans for leaving. With the liberals in charge all kinds of stupid laws are being passed. The most recent is a banning of the use of plastic bags in stores. You now have to either bring your own or pay 10 cents for one. The complaining in the checkout aisles at supermarkets is astonishing, which means a lot of people didn’t pay attention to the ballot initiatives because it was there for all to see.

And the trend will only accelerate. As Bill Bishop pointed out in his fantastic book “The Big Sort,” people increasingly want to live among their own kind politically, not ethnically or religiously. Liberals want to live with liberals, conservatives want to live with conservatives. The only people I know who left California for Oregon or Washington were liberal in their politics, while conservatives are going to Texas, Utah and Florida.

At which point, California will be totally lost to the GOP, and a one-party state is never a good thing. Just visit San Francisco and you’ll see.

Andy Patrizio
the authorAndy Patrizio
Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in Orange County, California. He has covered the technology sector for more than 20 years and primarily writes on tech news and issues, but has also covered music and entertainment. Andy graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelors degree in journalism, along with a minor in political science. Before taking the freelance plunge, he was a staff reporter with InternetNews.com.

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