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Examining the consequences of California's fading Republican Party

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

The Republican Party may be dying a slow and painful death in California, but that shouldn’t necessarily be welcome news for its Democratic counterpart. While recent news coverage highlights the Republican demise, the consequent pressure on state Democrats to produce actual results is an important aspect of the story not being explored.

The San Jose Mercury News pondered whether the Republicans would even have a role to play in the legislative session next year.

“Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has decided to take his tax hike initiative directly to the voters, will Republicans have a role to play in the Legislature in 2012? Or will they be relegated to little more than a cranky but irrelevant presence in the Capitol, holding fast to their anti-tax ideology but with little to show for it?."

The story noted how some believe that Democrats could be on the verge of capturing four Senate and Assembly seats that could be enough for a two-thirds majority, thanks to newly drawn district lines.  A San Bernardino Sun editorial noted the dwindling relevance of the state Republican Party and how the threat posed by the newly redrawn lines spells doom for them.

“California Republicans are still assessing the impact of the new congressional map - and still hating it. Republican leaders reportedly fear the 2012 elections could cost the party as many as five of its 19 seats in the state's 53-member delegation. The implications could be huge, both here and nationally, as Democrats seek to win back the House of Representatives.”

As the Sun notes, state Republicans in each of California’s 58 counties don’t have more than 50% voter registration, a seemingly rosy picture for the Democratically-dominated state.  Though much of this may be due to Republican mishaps, it’s not a done deal yet.  What has received little ink space so far are the potential challenges that the state’s Democrats face- thanks in part not to the new district lines, but to the state’s Independents.

The Mercury reported that Democrats best Republicans in voter registration by 44%-31% and that 20% of voters are in the decline to state (DTS) category.  Plus, a majority of the state’s registered voters may not even be on board with the Dems. Additionally, the number of DTS voters could grow even more given current discontent with the legislature as a whole.

A two-party establishment that simply divides the electorate may be an unproductive way of doing politics. But, a one-party reign in California could further fuel the awakening of Independents.  That's because more of these of voters could disrupt the perception that politics is a a zero sum game where Democrats win and Republicans lose (or vice versa), especially if things don’t get better in this state, and fast.

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