Jerry Brown To Replace California GOP?

An underappreciated election night story (at least nationally) was a historic set of victories achieved by California Democrats. An initiative backed by nearly all Democrats raising taxes passed by a 54-46 margin, despite falling below 50% in pre-election polls. Democrats knocked off two Republican incumbent Members of Congress, and their candidates lead in two more races against incumbents that haven’t been officially certified.

And most amazingly, Democrats achieved a super-majority in both Houses of the legislature.

This last accomplishment may seem somewhat moot since the tax-increase-for-education that Republicans were able to block in the legislature (thanks to the famous two-thirds requirement for tax increases imposed by Proposition 13 in 1978) was imposed directly by voters. But the impact on a Republican Party that essentially existed to use its veto power over taxes to remain relevant in state politics could be incalculable. Here’s veteran reporter George Skelton of the L.A. Times on this subject:

Those days of GOP bargaining leverage are history.

And when business interests and conservatives complain about liberal domination of the Legislature and labor buying votes, they should blame Republicans. They’re supposed to provide the opposition. But they’ve allowed themselves to become so weak they’re helpless.

Skelton suggests that business interests in California will now align themselves closely with Gov. Jerry Brown to blunt the power of labor and other progressive groups.

And there’s no hope on the horizon for Republicans:

It’s practically impossible to envision Californians electing a Republican governor in the future, certainly not in the next gubernatorial election, in 2014. Talk to GOP pros and none can suggest a realistic, credible challenger to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Especially after voters accepted his tax increase, Brown looks like a shoo-in for reelection, assuming he runs. And it’s hard to imagine this 74-year-old career pol not running. His life is politics and governing.

As elsewhere, though perhaps even more so, demographics are undercutting future GOP prospects in the state:

Latinos’ portion of the California electorate increased to 22% last week, up from 18% in 2008, according to an Associated Press exit poll. The percentage of voters under 30 rose to 27%, up from 20%….

The Republican slice of registered voters in California slipped below 30%. Only eight years ago it was nearly 35%. Democrats are 44%.

On top of everything else, the lack of budget leverage (the mother’s milk of “moderate” Republicans) and the reduction of the California GOP to a conservative-white-voter rump in a majority-minority state will probably intensify the Right’s hold on the party, further eroding its relevance.

Pretty amazing for the state that gave us Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.