October 26, 2010
The fall election campaign is now in the home stretch. The GOP is seemingly riding the crest of a national wave that will deliver it to sweeping gains across the country—and perhaps control of one or even both chambers of Congress.
But in California, the last whimpering gasps of Meg Whitman's soulless gubernatorial run are now fading quietly into the night.
By almost every measure, it is a stunning defeat.
In a political season that has seen the electorate slip Establishment Democrats the dreaded black spot from Boston to Las Vegas, Whitman's bid for the Sacramento statehouse appeared to be a race that could safely be called early.
After all, Whitman is a billionaire businesswoman with the moderate credentials that California Republicans apparently prefer (think Pete Wilson or Ed Zschau but with a bottomless purse) and who at 52-years-old faced this year's archetypal political villain: Jerry Brown—a liberal retread pushing into his 70s that has never been weaned from the Golden State's political tit.
Indeed, Brown was running for office in California when Whitman was still in middle school.
Brown was able preemptively to brush aside any challenge in the Democratic primary from the flashy mannequin mayors Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles) and Gavin Newsom (San Francisco). But his general election showdown with Whitman initially looked like it might be as evenly matched as Richard Nixon and George McGovern's 1972 match up.
Yet with just days before election, Brown now leads Whitman by anywhere from five to eight percentage points in most polls—a spread that falls outside the margin of error even at its closest. The Los Angeles Times published a poll Sunday that gave Brown a 13-point lead among likely voters, a portent of an unmitigated election night blowout of the Republican.
The curtain hasn't yet dropped—six percent of voters polled in the last Rasmussen survey declared themselves undecided and the LAT has a long history of blending its liberal ideology into its news reporting. But Brown's momentum seems undeniable. Barring some unforeseen late-breaking development, Whitman will have to sweep virtually all the undecided voters and peel away some of Brown's soft support to eek out a come-from-behind victory.
This in a state that is flat broke and facing a real unemployment rate of 20-percent.
So let the post-mortem begin: how did this happen?
How did a political ghost like Jerry Brown, who was once connected at the hip to perhaps the most widely despised liberal in the state's history—the late Chief Justice Rose Bird—emerge from the Bay area fog in this Summer of the Tea Party to trounce a Republican that had little baggage and mountains of cash-on-hand?
At its root essence, the fundamental answer is simple: immigration.
The death spiral of the GOP in California can be traced back a generation to 1986, when George Deukmejian was governor, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and California was seen as the sun dappled redoubt of conservative success known simply as ""Reagan Country". No Democrat had carried the state in national elections between Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton— a literal generation of Democratic defeats. The polling booth defections of the white working and middle class, the so-called "Reagan Democrats", appeared to be a terminal loss for the coalition that Franklin Roosevelt had first built.
But who could have known then that it would be Reagan, with the stroke of his pen in 1986 on the Immigration Reform and Control Act, who would unwittingly place his signature on what effectively was the death warrant for the Republican Party in California?
Though it was sold to an ambivalent public as a necessity that would help integrate about 900,000 illegal immigrants into American society, the measure ultimately granted a blanket amnesty to more than 3 million people—half of them in California—and rang a cattle bell throughout Mexico that triggered the longest sustained wave of mass illegal immigration in history—what VDARE.COM calls "The Mexodus".
The human tsunami that poured across the southern border smashed into California with a staggering force, overwhelming schools, hospitals, housing, public safety and social services. Working class blacks, whites and Latinos were driven from jobs they'd long-held in a wide range of industries just as Southern California was undergoing its post-Cold War makeover, shedding tens of thousands of skilled labor manufacturing jobs in defense-related sectors.
Far from securing the border, Uncle Sam was AWOL as desperate California residents were reduced to symbolic acts like parking their cars on the border with their headlights pointed toward Mexico—illuminating the mass night crossings and pleading for help.
Legal chain immigration and the current birthright citizenship policy served as potent accelerants in the rapid and radical remaking of California.
By 1994 a fed-up electorate in California passed Proposition 187 in a landslide. The measure targeted a range of social services that acted as pull factors for illegal immigrants. While nationally the GOP had virtually no interest in securing the border or enforcing immigration laws, the reelection campaign of Gov. Pete Wilson saw the grassroots rage in California as a movement he ignored at his peril.
Wilson embraced Prop. 187 and proceeded to annihilate Kathleen Brown (Jerry's younger sister) at the polls, rolling up a 1.25 million vote (15-percent) margin in the election, carrying 51 of California's 58 counties, including the entire vote-rich southern counties.
But that triumph of the popular will was short-lived. Latino racial demagogues intent on maintaining their demographic momentum litigated Prop. 187 to death, with help from a Clinton-appointed federal judge and Democratic governor Gray Davis, while illegal immigration continued apace—as did the erosion of the middleclass tax base in California as families fled the state.
Rather than mount a vigorous grassroots defense of Prop. 187 and rallying the multiethnic majority to the defense of their state, Establishment Republicans equivocated, offering little more than tepid denials to the rabid charges of racism that the Democratic leadership and Latino activists cynically heaped upon supporters of the measure.
The GOP had won a strategic battle in California—and then promptly surrendered the field.
That exposed a bitter truth to the coalition of voters that passed Prop. 187: the Republican elite's heart has never been in the fight against illegal immigration.
That the corporate suits of the GOP were merely along for the electoral ride shouldn't have been much of a shocker, given the business interests that profit handsomely from the illicit importation of exploitable cheap labor that drives wages down and reduces worksite rights. And for whatever passionless overtures they have occasionally made for securing the border and enforcing immigration laws, the Republican elite sugared them for business by demanding more legal immigration into the U.S., more replacement workers for citizens still clinging to jobs that couldn't be outsourced offshore.
In the vacuum produced by the GOP leadership's paralysis, a surreal narrative emerged from the hyper-politicized newsrooms around the state, a feverish storyline that held while Wilson's embrace of Prop. 187 may have delivered him a landslide, it also alienated and energized a previously lethargic Latino electorate. That voting bloc would arise as an ethnically-motivated monolith—the story goes—that would draw no distinction between the third-generation Chicano citizen and an illegal immigrant from Michoacan that arrived a week ago.
And so the fabled "Latino vote" in California was born.
In the 16 years that have passed since Prop. 187, that chimerical narrative has gone from a counter-intuitive Democratic pipedream to a largely Republican propagated semi-reality in California. With each passing election cycle, the GOP candidates have indulged a bizarre ritual of decrying illegal immigration during the primary—and then pathetically hedging during the general election campaign.
Whitman is the epitome of the GOP's suicidal double-talk on immigration.
Since fending off a primary challenge from Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who after some hesitation made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, Whitman has slipped into something more comfortable: the milquetoast vernacular of the GOP elite when it comes to immigration. Whitman maintains a straight face as she declares she is "100% opposed to any form of amnesty" while simultaneously stating that she supports a "comprehensive federal immigration solution"—which of course will include the largest mass amnesty in the history of nation states.
Whitman declared that "English is America's national language" and demanded that immigrants be required to learn it—all while spending millions of dollars on courting Latino voters (whom are all presumably citizens that speak English) with Spanish language ads.
When asked pointblank if she supported or opposed drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, Whitman launched into an obfuscating blather about jobs, a Stepford Wife smile fixed across her cherubic face, terrified of verbally acknowledging that she—like most other Californians—opposes giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses.
The cherry was placed on top of Whitman's long con game in late September, when illegal immigrant Nicandra Diaz Santillan played her own blatant scam by stepping in front of the microphones to declare she had been used by Whitman for nearly a decade before being discarded like so much "garbage". [Lawyer: Whitman knew for years her housekeeper was illegal immigrant, San Jose Mercury News, September 30, 2010]
On cue, Whitman feigned shock that Diaz Santillan had been in the country illegally.
Most working Americans in California believe that a pair of conniving frauds like Whitman and Diaz Santillan deserve each other. But it is clear that the episode was yet another payment by a GOP Establishment that has been on an installment plan of betrayal, diligently selling out Americans as they work to build a state they are increasingly unlikely to ever win again in statewide and national elections.
The political title to the state is about to be handed to the Democrats.
If Ronald Reagan's pen stroke graced the political death warrant for the California GOP in 1986, then it was George W. Bush that carried out the execution, sabotaging what little enforcement was being done and pushing hard for another amnesty that fueled even greater waves of illegal immigration across the southern border.
In 1986 there were an estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants in California. By 2008 there were an estimated 2 million illegal immigrants in Los Angeles County alone and perhaps more than triple that figure in the state altogether. Los Angeles County recently estimated it is shelling out more than $52 million-a-month in welfare payments through the CalWorks program to the children of illegal immigrants, all while the beleaguered taxpayers in the teeming county fork over another billion dollars every year to jail and provide healthcare for illegal immigrants directly. These numbers are all going up, not down.
It's now so late in the game that the Democratic leadership in California rarely bothers trying to conceal the fact that they have secured their political hegemony in the state largely by sheer ethno-demographic warfare, at the expense of the at-risk and in-need Americans in their traditional base.
The Democratic leadership hasn't just pushed working class blacks to the back of the bus again—they've thrown them under it, effectively stripping them of their hard-won political, economic and educational gains across the state.
Meg Whitman's failed campaign in California should serve as a final wake-up call to Republicans across the rest of the country, especially those that insist on parroting Karl Rove's delusion that comprehensive immigration reform will somehow benefit their party. It won't.
Amnesty is an epic disaster for America and a death sentence for the Republican Party.
And Meg Whitman is just the latest name chiseled onto their California tombstone.
Mark Cromer (email him) is a journalist in Southern California, where he is a second-generation native. A lifelong Democrat who campaigned for liberal icon Sen. Alan Cranston in 1986, he left the party in 2006 and reregistered independent in response to the Democratic leadership's continued support for illegal immigration and the devastating impact it has had on working and middle class communities.