Calls for change by the Republican Party – especially its California branch – came from all sides in the days immediately following President Obama’s reelection last fall.
But don’t expect that to go anywhere fast. For this is a party that values its core principles and predilections more than it does victory.
As early as 1993, when California was just one year into its shift from being a Republican mainstay to becoming reliably Democratic in presidential elections, the GOP was warned that it needed to change its stances on immigration amnesty, gun control, birth control and abortion, equal pay for women and many others.
The GOP is now generally supportive of equal pay for women. But it has not changed much on anything else. Nor is that likely, despite the fact that some of the change-oriented advice it has lately received comes from its most conservative members.
Take Ted Cruz, the newly-elected Tea Party-sponsored Republican U.S. senator from the GOP bastion of Texas, where no Democrat has won statewide office since the 1990s.
“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority in our state,” Cruz told a reporter. “If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple … the Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party.”
So Cruz implies he might compromise on some things. But many other conservative Republicans remain defiant of the need to change. Here’s what newly-reelected GOP Congressman John Campbell of Orange County wrote just days after the election:
“I’ll be damned if this member of Congress is going … to go along with a slow move towards socialism rather than a fast one. This game is not over!”
There it is: Almost anything that rubs conservative Republicans wrong, they tend to label socialist. But is allowing women to make their own reproductive decisions socialist, or is it fundamentally libertarian? Is gun control socialist -- especially in the wake of the rampage in Newtown, Conn.? And so on.
Even the Republicans in the state Legislature, now less than a one-third minority, are being warned not to sell their souls or betray their “no new taxes” pledges.
“Voting for Democratic bills would be like taking a torch to the city of Rome,” wrote Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative Flash Report blog and former executive director of the state GOP. “It’s just a bad idea.”
What’s more, Republicans are looking at November's national results and seeing that they control governorships and both legislative houses in 23 states, while Democrats have the same one-party rule in just 14 – although the Democrats’ 14 have far more population than the Republicans’ 23.
But Republicans regained control of the Wisconsin state Senate, lost temporarily to them via several recall elections last summer.
Those kinds of offices are viewed by national parties as a sort of “farm team” that can often produce future candidates for the U.S. Senate or House. Republicans are doing just fine there, which makes many feel that fundamental change is not needed.
“Our strength is in the states,” trumpeted Grover Norquist, author of the no-new-taxes pledge signed by most GOP candidates. He suggests that’s where the GOP will try to enact its anti-union, anti-teacher tenure goals, ideas that did not fly in California, where the anti-union Proposition 32 lost handily last fall. The first state moving on this post-election was Michigan, once a union bastion.
But the party must change, and especially on immigration, suggests new information from the America’s Voice pro-immigration amnesty lobby.
“While the Latino electorate’s disconnect from the current Republican Party runs deeper than immigration alone, it will be impossible for the GOP to get a hearing on its other issues unless and until they work to pass immigration reform,” said Frank Sharry, the group’s director. “Continued obstructionism on immigration would threaten the party’s future, especially when reliably red states like Texas and Arizona would go the way of California (as their large Latino populace becomes more politically active).”
The Tea Party, which ran a couple of longtime Republican U.S. senators out of office last year via GOP primary elections, remains unwilling to accept anything like that.
“The presidential loss was not on us, but on the country club establishment and Beltway elites,” said Jenny Beth Martin, a Tea Party leader.
Put it all together and real change will almost certainly elude the GOP both nationally and in California over the next two years. Expecting change, even though the GOP now has sunk below the 30 percent level among California registered voters, is as realistic as expecting a dog to quack.
Email Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft-cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to californiafocus.net.