With their registrations sinking and their political clout withering, California Republicans have come out of the November election in danger of slipping into political irrelevance across much of the state.
Since 2004, Republican registration has dropped by more than 317,000 in the state, while Democrats have picked up 563,000 new voters. Five previously GOP counties, including San Joaquin, Stanislaus and San Bernardino, now have more Democrats than Republicans.
You can read the rest here, which discusses the numbers, and which also has some quotations from Republicans pointing out that the 2008 blow-out could have been worse, so things aren’t that bad.
Certainly Republicans aren’t doing well in California. In the last two decades, California has gone from being the most reliably Republican of states to being an equally reliably Democratic state. And as the article notes, a lot of very conservative counties have switched political allegiances. I just wonder if Republicans are quite as dead as the Chron announces (and seems to hope is true).
The reason for my suspicion that conservativism in California is very sick but not dead yet and, perhaps, not even fatally ill, is what I see going on in Marin: Conservatives, tired of being treated like second, third or fourth class citizens, are starting to congregate. The party I described the other day is a perfect example of a grassroots conservative movement that’s bypassing the Republican party entirely. Whether we’ll eventually join up with traditional Republicanism remains unclear, but we’re out there and we’re not inclined to walk away from the political fray.
I’d also like to see a study showing the growth rate for registered Independent voters in California. What I’ve learned, both from my own experience, and from listening to other neocons, is that we new conservatives are not inclined to register as Republicans. Instead, we tick off the Independent box.
There are, I think, three reasons for the reluctance to become registered Republicans. First, as neocons, we don’t necessarily buy into the entire Republican package, and don’t want to give it our wholehearted imprimatur by identifying ourselves as such. (As for me, I’d register Libertarian if it weren’t for the fruitcake factor and Ron Paul.)
Second, as lifelong Democrats, it’s hard to see an “R” after our names. Independent is an almost sexy compromise, one that signals a break with the Democratic party without actually crossing the line into the former enemy’s camp.
And third, with the internet, which makes it easy for friends and neighbors to find out your party affiliation, even if they wasn’t what they were searching for when they plugged your name into Google, registering as an Independent helps preserve political privacy, especially if the neocon is not yet ready to face the opprobrium that comes with an ideological realignment.
I certainly hope that the Chron’s article is both exaggerated and premature. Still, it makes important points that conservatives (not Republicans, but conservatives) should take seriously, and reminds us all that we have an awful lot to do in California over the next few years.