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End Republican Party Obstructionism: Follow the California Model

Republican obstructionism is once again controlling Washington.  The GOP refuses to negotiate—other than on their own terms—regarding the “sequester crisis” with its thoughtless spending cuts, which have been imposed on the nation notwithstanding what will likely be a disastrous impact on our economy, if not a danger to our national security.

At least the GOP is consistent.  During the first four years of the Obama presidency, Republicans opposed everything, and after the 2010 mid-term election, when they regained control of the House of Representatives, this opposition turned into blanket obstructionism.  Still, President Obama was overwhelmingly reelected and campaigned on adopting a balanced revenue-raising and spending-cut approach to our fiscal problems, given our recovering economy after Bush II’s tax cuts and his unfunded and unnecessary wars.  Yet the GOP Congressional minority has refused to allow the President to implement the policies on which he was elected, and which are much needed to get Americans working again.

Those of us who live in California have seen the Republicans play this game at the state level, year after year, because California required a two-thirds majority to enact a simple budget, which enabled the GOP to obstruct the Democratic majority in running the state. Republicans’ refusal to pass budgets almost destroyed the California state government, at one point even preventing the state from issuing checks and requiring that temporary IOU vouchers be substituted to pay state employees and contractors.

Now, the Republican Party is over in California.  Before Republicans do more similar damage to the nation, others should study the California example.  While I am no expert on these matters, I am very aware of the gist of what occurred.

California Dreaming

Bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger had long been interested in politics, but as a moderate Republican (then still married to a prominent Democrat) in a state with a hard-right Republican base, he could not get nominated by the Republicans as dog-catcher.  However, when the recall election of Democratic Governor Gray Davis succeeded, it meant that Arnold could fulfill his dream, because he could run for governor in an open race, where he won because of his high name recognition.

When Arnold arrived in Sacramento (I know this from an informed Republican friend), he held serious but private talks with the conservative leaders who control the GOP in California, much as they do nationally. He hoped to try to get them to agree to a balanced approach to governing with some tax hikes and spending cuts, but they only wanted spending cuts, with no new taxes whatsoever.  He urged them to back off their war on women with its demands to end abortions in California, but they refused. He asked if they would support programs to improve education and healthcare, but the GOP leaders refused to consider anything other than slashing and dismantling existing programs, and cutting taxes. (Sound familiar?)

The new governor warned the GOP leaders—based on the evidence that his campaign advisers had gathered during his race—that the voter demographics were changing in California, and that the GOP could not win in the future with only aging white voters, but the GOP leaders had no interest in addressing immigration, or trying to attract other minorities to their party. To the contrary, they wanted to push for another version of the infamous anti-immigrant Proposition 187 that has resulted in several generations of immigrants (so far) turning away from the California GOP.

Although Arnold won the governorship with two landslide victories (in 2003, and 2006) his tenure as governor was anything but the dream he had hoped for when running California. To the contrary, because the GOP has moved so far right, he accomplished almost nothing, other than allowing the state to slip into increasing fiscal peril with a $26 billion budget deficit.

By 2010, former two-term governor Jerry Brown decided someone had to save this state, so he mounted a modestly-financed campaigned against the winner of the GOP primary, Meg Whitman, who carried so much GOP baggage into the general election that even spending $180 million (of mostly her own money) could not prevent her from being crushed by Brown.  But Brown, in turn, could not have won without a reinvigorated Democratic Party, the support of labor unions, and the vigor of a determined progressive movement, each pursing their own efforts, and flexing their muscle to end GOP obstructionism.

Shrink-Wrapping California Republicans

As a remarkably well-honed politician, and skillful Sacramento operator, Jerry Brown was able to announced in January 2013 that he had fixed the state’s crushing $26 billion budget deficit, and had the state back on sound fiscal footing. Brown had gone directly to California voters in November 2012, vigorously campaigning for a number of important propositions, which were approved by voters, including raises of income taxes on the wealthy, and on sales taxes for everybody, generating an estimated $5.6 billion.  More importantly, in November 2012, California voters also ended Republican obstructionism by voting that party out of power, and giving the Democrats a supermajority.

Heading into the 2012 elections, California had some 23,707,446 people eligible to vote, with 71.87 percent registered, or a total of 17,037,414 potential voters.  The affiliation breakdown of these registered voters reflected several years of efforts by Democratic organizers, labor unions, and progressives to put the GOP out of the obstruction business: 43.5 percent were registered as Democrats, 30.3 percent were registered as Republicans, 21.3 percent registered with No Party Preference, and 4.9 percent were affiliated with other political parties. Because of the ongoing efforts of these organizers, there has been a continuing decline in GOP registration, as the census data showed. At present, I understand that Republican registration is continuing to shrink, and is now at only 29.3 percent of all registered voters.

Today, there are no statewide Republican officials in California.  Democrats control both houses of the California Assembly, as well as the governorship.  California now has an opportunity to show how the Democratic Party, supported by labor and progressive independents, can govern. The GOP is now irrelevant in California. This did not happened by accident, so there are lessons here for dealing with national GOP obstructionism as well.

How Democrats, Labor, And Progressives, Made The GOP Irrelevant In California

Those on the front line of the efforts to end GOP obstructionism in California have discussed this subject, as well as its application nationally.  For example, Robert Cruickshank, who writes on California politics from a progressive viewpoint, found a loose coalition of California Democrats, labor unions, and progressives (including individuals, organizations, websites and blogs, like Calitics, where Cruickshank first posted his piece on “What California Can Teach America About Stopping Extremist Obstruction”) who realized that they first had to expand the electorate. So they sought out people of color and low-income individuals, people with progressive values who had been ignored.

Their registration drives (over the years 2007 to 2010) resulted in California not contributing to the national GOP victory sweep in 2010, as well as putting Jerry Brown in the Governor’s Office with a 13-point victory margin.  Equally important, these efforts resulted in the passage of Prop 25, which enabled the passage of new state budgets with a simple majority, ending gridlock.  In addition, voters killed the GOP’s anti-union efforts in Prop 32, and enacted the tax increase in Prop 30 that I mentioned earlier.

Some progressives initially feared the Citizens Redistricting Commission, but it turned out that the Commission fairly and honestly drew the lines of voting districts within California, in a fashion that truly represented the population. And, in the process, they removed the Republican-protecting gerrymandered districts that had existed for twenty years. The non-partisan Commission leveled the playing field.

Cruickshank reports that ending GOP obstruction in California was a five-point process: (1) Mass organizing effort to expand the electorate; (2) Ending the supermajority procedural rules of the Assembly; (3) Making voting easier via online registration and voting by mail; (4) ending gerrymandering; and (5) clearly identifying the problem: GOP obstructionism.

California Democrat David Atkins, who helped win this fight in California, pointed out in Digby’s Hullabaloo earlier this year, that he believes that the same tools can be used by Democrats everywhere.  I believe that he is correct.  I have slightly tweaked his list, and eliminated those measures that would require amending the Constitution.  But his list would be a remarkable beginning: (1) Eliminate gerrymandered Congressional districts (which could be done with lawsuits); (2) End the Senate’s dysfunctional filibuster rules (which should have been done earlier, but Democrats got suckered again by Republicans); (3) Adjust corrupt lobbying laws that now unduly favor former members of Congress working for special interests; (4) Aggressively test and re-test the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling (Democrats should do to this ruling what Republicans have done to Roe v. Wade); (5) Fix the archaic Electoral College rules by having all states adopt the National Popular Vote (NPV) provisions that have now been approved by nine states; and adopt federal laws regarding election rules that states must follow in all federal election—and if states play games with these rules, impose federal laws, which are Constitutionally-empowered. (Vikram Amar has written on the NPV movement several times here on Justia’s Verdict. His most recent commentary will be posted on this site on March 15.)

California’s Tradition of Political Trend-Setting    

California has long been considered a political trend-setting state, regardless of whether the state has had a Republican or Democratic as governor at a given time. Hopefully, its success in dealing with Republican obstructionism can serve as a model for the nation, and maybe even set a trend.  While California has not solved all its problems—no government ever can—at least it has eliminated one, and it is the same problem that Republicans in Washington are now imposing on every American.

Radical crackpots—yes, those are the correct words—control today’s Republican Party.  They want to destroy government, not govern.

Karl Rove recently journeyed to California to lecture the Republicans on how to rebuild. Probably the most important advice he gave them: “Get off your ass.”  They will; they always do. So Democrats must do the same, and end GOP obstructionism before the GOP ruins the country with their misguided—indeed, crazed—ideology.  California has shown how to do it, and why.

John DeanJohn W. Dean, a Justia columnist, is a former counsel to the president.
Posted In Politics
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  • JK1990

    If you adopt the model to end the Republican Party in a state, the end result will be adopting the Democratic model of governance. And having lived in CA for my entire life, I have seen first-hand the effects of high unemployment and a struggling economy, ever-increasing debt, and some of the strictest regulations in the country that carry such a high cost of compliance that it drives many businesses out of the state. Trust me, you do NOT want anything to do with the “California Model”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abraxasq Abraxas Qlippoth

    so what you’re saying is, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have only one political party where we get to do anything we want without objection. democracy – it’s just too hard having to deal with opposition, ain’t it?

    • Teammm

      He’s saying the Republican Party is destroying itself. They won’t last.

    • RIVietnameravet

      Too hard to deal with jokers, clowns, bigots ..yes that is true..

  • tk69

    Misguided and stupid article. The Aurthur clearly has no sense of politics or economics. And I would imagine that it is probably the same in law,, as even a three year old would see through his stupidity.

    What happens when other people run out of other peoples money? This is not fairyland but a real question that many state and local governments find themselves in. Nothing can be sustained. Those who thrive on the productivity of others are going to find themselves diminished. This idiot who wrote this article seems to have no concept of money. One can keep his head in the sand but what happens when reality hits? Change is coming and these fools are not going to like it. Economics is what it is.

    • http://shanenj.tripod.com/ shanen

      Amusing rant. Do you understand that when you write stupid things, it does not make your ‘opponent’ look stupid. Neo-GOP projections continue to amaze me.

      • tk69

        Reality is what it is, even if you deny it.

  • Richard Saunders

    So, why isn’t the Senate’s unwillingness to take up bills passed by the House seen as obstructionism? What stupid, idiotic, thoughtless, senseless logic that I see coming from the loony left!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ted.w.daniel.esquire Ted W. Daniel

      “The Senate’s unwillingness to take up bills passed by the House” is not a manifestation of the “loony left,” as you imply. Rather, it is the Senate minority that has consistently prevented the senate from even taking a vote on issues that a majority of senators wanted to pass. Only 41 senators in the minority can stop the Senate from functioning at all, thus defeating the will of up to 59 senators.

      • Carmena Hilliard

        Wrong. The Senate’s not willing to vote on bills passed by the House is their way of helping hide who it is that is actually thwarting the government to run properly. If the Senate votes and the bills fail, they will be viewed as DEMOCRAT failings, not republican. Harry Reid knows this. Still, he can’t keep up the guise for long. Most see it and most are waking up. Hello 2014.

      • holdbar

        Another way to look at the US Senate filibuster:

        11% of the country’s population – those in the 21 least populous states – can exercise veto power over the other 89%.

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/10/29/our-third-karpian-moment/

  • D. Chambers

    Missing the point seems to be the ‘majority rule’ in these comments. It is simply this:

    “(1) Eliminate gerrymandered Congressional districts (which could be done
    with lawsuits); (2) End the Senate’s dysfunctional filibuster rules
    (which should have been done earlier, but Democrats got suckered again
    by Republicans); (3) Adjust corrupt lobbying laws that now unduly favor
    former members of Congress working for special interests; (4)
    Aggressively test and re-test the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling (Democrats should do to this ruling what Republicans have done to Roe v. Wade); (5) Fix the archaic Electoral College rules by having all states adopt the National Popular Vote (NPV) provisions…” and the rest of the article is what has got commenters up in arms. So, suggestions which fail to address these five points are irrelevant, something the GOP is famous for: irrelevancy. Their outdated,, even antiquated ‘hypocritical Victorian morality’ (oh, yes I did say it out loud!) is a plague upon our nation and the world.
    (1) Anyone who believes gerrymandering is legally supportable knows next to nothing about election law, and should be quiet. (2) Filibustering is ‘throwing a tantrum’ and nothing more. Is the GOP composed of petulant children? Snotty brats? There are several among the Dems, I’ll grant that. But Americans elect what they believe to be MATURE GROWN-UPS to political office: I’d like to see BOTH PARTIES toe THAT particular line. Pft! (3) Any American who would allow the current state of perversity in lobbying rules to stand WANTS a plutocracy, and I seriously question their loyalty to our Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as their values and morality. Why on God’s green Earth would anyone WANT General Electric, the world’s largest, most powerful corporation (NOT a person, a “fictional entity” as described in Black’s Law Dictionary, no less), to have greater influence upon YOUR elected officials simply because they can throw ‘filthy lucre’ at them? Which naturally leads us to (4), why, oh WHY does ANYBODY think that corporations should have the same rights as living, breathing human beings? A particularly stupid brand of “crazy” has come over too many people in this great nation of ours, and it is a plague upon us all. (5) This boneheaded process is NOT what the Founders intended, and don’t bother taking my word for it. READ and EDUCATE YOURSELVES: The Federalist Papers (esp. #’s 10 & #51) will tell you precisely why FACTIONS (groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community, as in special interests, i.e. corporations-HELLO!) are to be put in check whenever and wherever they are found. #10 is read TODAY by judges as meaning the Founders did NOT intend for our federal government to be PARTISAN. My favorite relevant quote from #51 is, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Who the heck do you people think is capable of ambition sufficient to counter the ambition of say, a multi-billion-dollar CORPORATION? That’s right, not a single one of you. So, get real, people, and self-educate, before too many ‘political illterates’ permanently cede our nation and their birthrights to a soul-less corporation (probably run by a soul-less board, as well). My emphasis in caps is not meant a shouting, but rather an inability to manipulate the text within the space provided for posting.

    • Robert Tulloch

      If RATS take control, bxxxxd in the streets. We will not surrender our country to the likes of the liberal scum and their democrat tag alongs.

      Revolution NOW

  • Valerie Fisk

    For one Obama did not win by a land side. I has born and raised in California. California is not a model to follow. We have become a joke to the rest of the country. We need less government not more. I am so sick of the liberalism here in California and the country. Get off your soap box and go to work like the rest of us. I for one am tired of supporting you, life is not a handout.

  • LZ

    Never ceases to amaze me….the idiocy contained within some of these articles by grandiose title holders who seem to forget what liberty is about…..

  • http://shanenj.tripod.com/ shanen

    No, what he is saying is that “rule of law” requires a functional government. Yes, both sides are to blame–both sides of the neo-GOP. One side is the ultra-rich ultra-conservatives who actually like big government as long as it pumps money into their big companies. The second side consists of the fanatics such as libertarians, religious extremists, and the occasional racist they hired to pressure the politicians (who couldn’t be bribed more cheaply and directly). Now that second side of the neo-GOP has turned into a kind of angry mob of Frankenstein’s monsters, chanting “We must destroy the government in order to save it!”

  • Sandor

    Except CA is bankcrupt, and Democrats defined obstructionism during 2006-2008. Oops.

  • Sandor

    Make voting easier! As if the horrific voter fraud perpetuated by the Democratic party using blacks and hispanics without identification is not horrid enough, lets have retard college students vote 5 times a head! Is this guy some sort of comedian?

  • Paul L.

    So the point of this article is that people who hate Republicans should work to defeat Republican politicans.

    Thank you for this keen, original, and not-obvious-at-all insight, Mr. Dean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.pauline.90 Tony Pauline

    “he GOP refuses to negotiate—other than on their own terms—regarding the “sequester crisis” with its thoughtless spending cuts”…LOL- the sequester cuts were part of the negotiation to raise the debt limit- agreed upon by obama and the demoKrats….now they want a mulligan….same sh!t/different day….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Sterling/1671453733 Doug Sterling

    Mr Dean illustrates the real problem with the Republican Party. Too many Democrats in disguise like himself have served in high office as “Republicans”.

  • bkk71

    Kommiefornia has evolved into what the old Soviet Union was…a one party leftist government imposing higher and higher taxes, and rife with moral corruption.

  • SargeInCharge

    How could you write such a lengthy article about how California went from a solidly Republican state to a one-party Democrat state without once mention the true reason — California’s monumental shift in demographics.

    When California was predominantly white and functioning with a greater surplus and better schools it was Republican. As of 2013, Hispanics are now more numerous in California than whites. Add in California’s large and growing Asisn population, which votes overwhelmingly Democrat like the Hispanic population, and you see why Cslifornia is really now Democrat. Please also not that Cslifornia’s failing cities are largely Hidpanic with the notable exception of Oskland which is majority black.

    To not mention the demographic shift when discussing California’s political shift is either a horrible oversight or horribly PC.

  • http://twitter.com/DaMav DaMav

    While many will criticize the falsehoods and political nonsense laid out in this article we should recognize the awesome caliber of pot being produced in California that makes writing this kind of moonbattery possible.

  • xuinkrbin

    “GOP Congressional minority …” — Um, perhaps You did not notice but the GOP is in the minority of only one part of the congress.

    “… has refused to allow the President to implement the policies on which he was elected” — And the GOP majority in House was elected to implement other policies, whether any of Us like it or not.

  • tk69

    Oh? It looks like I hit the nail right on the head and you know it. So, instead of insulting me so you can feel worthy about your self, you out to focus on living in the real world. Or you can continue to blame god because he did not create your twisted version of reality.

    To focus on things that are not real is not good the wallet or the soul. And a legacy of anger, especially if it is misdirected, is not good for the next life, as if you have thought beyond your nose.

    So, If no one is paying attention to you look in the mirror and you will see your worst enemy.

    And you should ask yourself what are you going to do when Oamacare denies your mental medication? What are you going to do when your democratic masters stop throwing scraps from their tables to fill your needs?

  • tk69

    When confronted with reality, just misinform and blame others. But you beef is not with me, but with God. After all, it is he whom did not create your twisted view of reality.

    But i suppose that in this way you can feel some relevance although not justification. After all, if one has no power to persuade others to abandon truth, just blame others, What else can he do? It’s not like anyone listens to him.

    But in the end, it does not really matter, although tearing others apart does not alter the truth. What you really need to do is to look into the mirror and see to whom your enemy really is.

    • http://shanenj.tripod.com/ shanen

      What a clueless moron. You sir or madam, but certainly an idiot, are PROOF POSITIVE that there cannot be a just and good god with any influence over human beings.

      • tk69

        Blaming others for your short failings. Is that the best you can do? No wonder you feel so irrelevant to anything.

        You must realize that the truth is what it is. If you want to find the source of your instability, you only need to look into the mirror.

 

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