Everyone knows California is a liberal state. It’s elected just one Republican governor in the last four decades, and Arnold Schwarzenegger hardly even counts. With the sole exception of a single year in the 1990s, the state legislature has been continuously controlled by Democrats since the 1970s, and the state’s delegation to Washington, D.C., is overwhelmingly blue. Most election cycles, the best Republicans can hope for is maintaining the one-third representation in either state chamber that denies Democrats the two-thirds required to raise the state’s already high taxes, a low bar they’ve failed to hurdle this session.
But one humiliation the more than 5 million registered Republicans still living behind enemy lines in the Golden State probably weren’t expecting is an additional stab in the back from their own party. The California Republican Party recently released its regularly scheduled updates to the party platform, and, given the content of the changes, voters could be forgiven for mistaking it for the Democratic platform from a couple decades ago.
Among the proposed edits: dropping language in favor of traditional marriage and protections for religious dissenters, eliminating the plank recognizing conception as the beginning of human life, and completely nixing prior support for election integrity measures.
In the “family” section, language about “two-parent” families is out, leaving only the prior platform’s more milquetoast and vague language about what’s good for children and a “healthy family unit,” with little to say about what constitutes one. The previous platform included the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, as well as support for specific protections for churches objecting to Obergefell. It also presciently included a plank against “teach[ing] any social or political agenda” under the guise of education, which didn’t survive the revisions. Nor does the section on education mention anything about the content taught to children, despite curriculum issues being at the heart of grassroots clashes both locally and statewide.
Similarly, the new platform removes a statement on when life begins in the womb, replacing it instead with a pared-down account in favor of “abortions [being] reduced” in the state.
The proposed changes also drop the entire section on election integrity, which included support for voter ID at the ballot box, along with proof of citizenship upon registration and a chain of custody procedure for ballots.
There are other revisions, some apparently for space and clarity, and some issue items have been added in response to rising problems, like a new separate plank on homelessness. But even these new sections suffer from a lack of fortitude; the homelessness section says nothing about the encampments and open drug abuse that are destroying California’s cities and stresses “job training and placement” and addiction services rather than law enforcement.
While the party is likely to cite concerns about electability of a more conservative platform in a blue state, the reality is that many of the cultural positions that Republicans seem afraid to adopt are popular even among moderates and Democrats. It’s true that abortion does appear to be hurting the GOP electorally in some states. But an overwhelming majority of Democrats support voter ID, concerns about sexual content in schools are often shared by independent or even left-leaning voters, and just about everyone in California has noticed the increase in crime, disorder, and homelessness in urban environments.
Besides, the CAGOP is at a low-water mark in the state; how much more could Republicans really lose by standing for something more than bland sentiments that skirt around the main problems the state’s citizens are facing?
That conservatism is nothing more than “progressivism going the speed limit” has long been a griping joke among the party base. But the Republican Party in California seems to have taken it literally.