By Howard Hyde
Watching the returns on election night, it was difficult not to be thrilled by what can only be characterized as the best election for Republicans in at least a decade, and in some ways, in nearly a century.
At the same time, of course, watching from Los Angeles, California, some of us can be forgiven for feeling that we urgently need a No Republican Left Behind Act. What about us? Do we even live in America here anymore?
The fact of life in coastal California is that Democrats (and when we say Democrat in California, we mean liberal socialist progressives) outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1 or worse, and that the iconoclastic Jerry Brown is untouchable, no matter how dismal the record.
But it is precisely in those numbers that California Republicans must find encouragement. In spite of being outnumbered by worse that 2 to 1, we broke the Democrat supermajority in the state Senate. Republicans in many high-profile races lost by much narrower margins. Pete Peterson for Secretary of State earned 47% of the vote. Ashley Swearingin got almost as much. The newcomer Elan Carr took 42% in one of the most liberal Congressional districts in the country, jockeying to replace the retiring Henry Waxman against a well-known established Democrat state Senator, Ted Lieu. 43% for Attorney General candidate Ron Gold is a very respectable showing against the incumbent Kamala Harris.
The fact is, anything over 30% should strike fear into the hearts of Democrats convinced of their righteous invincibility.
But we don’t have to be content with the consolation prize; we can win these same races next time around. How?
If 25,000 more House District 33 Republicans had voted for Carr; if 800,000 more statewide Republicans had supported Gold; if half that many had turned out for Swearingin and/or Pete Peterson, then these races would have been won.
How do we make that happen? It is true that Republicans need to reach beyond their traditional base to appeal to minority voters, blacks, hispanics, women and log-cabiners. But possibly the most important sector we can work on is... drumroll please... registered Republicans.
There are around 5 million registered Republican voters in California. If we pride ourselves on being the party of constitutional government, responsible citizenship and civic participation, then we need to set the example; that is a failure we cannot blame on Democrats.
Voter participation or turnout in the United States peaked in 1876 at 82%, averaged 74% in the 19th century, 57% in the 20th century and 56% in the 21st. 56 percent of 5 million is 2.8 million, which is about how many Republican votes were cast in the statewide races. To get over the top, holding Democrat participation constant, we need 3.2 million, and so with no addition to the Republican rolls, we would need to vote a rate of 64% or better. Above average, but no where near the historical record. If we are truly as concerned as we say we are about the future of our state, then what is our excuse?
The title of majority party in California has changed hand 7 times in the past 100 years; the last time Republicans were it was 26 years ago. But even if we are not the majority party, we can be the majority VOTING party starting right now.
This state is ours for the taking. It’s not a futile cause; all we have to do is show up.
[First published as the ‘President’s Message’ in the November newsletter of the Southern California Republican Women and Men]