Bill Simon surprised the experts in losing California's gubernatorial election by only 5 percentage points, 47%-42%, to massively-funded Gray Davis. In contrast, in 1998, Dan Lungren, the Republican Attorney General, lost to Davis by 20 points, 58%-38%.
Simon was not a talented candidate, but he's a good man who wouldn't have deserved the humiliating loss that the smart money was gleefully predicting. The namesake of his impressive father William E. Simon, he leads an admirable life as a businessman, devout Catholic, major philanthropist, occasional surfer, and attentive father. During the campaign, my younger son went on a Cub Scout campout with Simon, who was tenting it as the leader of his son's pack. It's hard to imagine the ferret-like Davis spending a campaign weekend up a canyon in Cell Hell where he couldn't dial for dollars for a full 48 hours—even if he had any children.
It was soon clear, though, that a man like Simon who enjoys such a fine existence away from politics didn't need to win in the worst away, the way Pete Wilson—the most successful California politician since Ronald Reagan—needed to win … at least as the Los Angeles Times would define "worst."
Ward Connerly, leader of the 1996 Proposition 209 initiative that banned the use of racial preferences in California government agencies, tried to explain to Simon right after his primary victory that Wilson's re-election, despite the economic collapses, riot, earthquake, and fires during his first term, was because he took strong stands against multiculturalism, especially against illegal immigration. (Here at VDARE.COM, we call these "National Question" issues.)
But Simon didn't listen. Instead, he ran on little more than two contentions: that Davis' for-sale sign on the governor's office was a disgrace to a state which had a proud record of electing principled men like Hiram Johnson, Earl Warren, and Ronald Reagan. that Simon would be a better manager than Davis.
(Unfortunately, the two black marks against Davis's management skills — the electricity crisis and the budget deficit — could be attributed plausibly to failures of the free market that Simon so enthusiastically endorsed: the Republican-instigated electricity deregulation of 1996; and the Internet bubble.)
Simon ran away from the three vote-winning but subsequently-ignored National Question initiatives (against illegal immigration, racial quotas, and bilingual education) that former Governor Wilson had endorsed to his political profit.
The legend has grown that California is now so Hispanicized that true Republicans have no chance. Harold Myerson writes the same article making this point over and over, most recently in the November 18 American Prospect Magazine. The take-home lesson: any attempt to motivate white voters will be massively punished by the supposedly huge number of Hispanic voters.
In fact, of course, whites a.k.a. Americans still make up three-quarters of California's electorate. That's the basic, brutal reason Simon came so close—despite being crushingly outspent by Davis.
George W. Bush, who wasted many millions of dollars in California in 2000 only to see Al Gore spend zip and drub him by double digits, tried to avoid being seen in public with Simon. Karl Rove, Bush's Steve Sailer, may have been sulking because he failed to persuade California Republicans to select former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan in the primary. In an election where the President's prestige as Commander-in-Chief proved crucial, Bush's absence was badly damaging. Even worse, while Rove unleashed his secret but now famous get-out-the-white-vote drive with tremendous results in some 30 states, California wasn't one of them.
Nevertheless, the same absolute number of California whites showed up to vote in 2002 as in 1998. But the number of minority voters dropped by around 45%. Further, while Lungren lost 51%-45% among whites in 1998, Simon won the white vote 46%-43%.
The vaunted Republican "surge" among Hispanics didn't seem to make it out of Florida. Simon only received 24% of the Hispanic vote, according to the LA Times exit poll [PDF]. And sure, it would have been nice for Simon to win another 10 points of the Hispanic vote, the way Republican Rick Perry did in Texas.
But many pundits seem to forget that 10% of the Hispanics's 10% share of the California electorate is a grand total of – one per cent (1%). That's a ridiculously small increment to worry about.
The reason Perry won big in Texas and Simon lost in California was not their relative Hispanic appeal. It's the fact that Perry won 70% of the white vote, vs. 46% for Simon. If Simon had won 70% of the 74% of the California electorate that was white, he wouldn't have needed a single minority vote to be elected governor.
The same applies at the national level. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because he only got 54% of the white vote, vs. 59% for his father in 1988. But in 2002, the final Gallup Poll showed the House Republicans carrying the white vote 58%-38%. Combined with strong white turnout, this far more than offset the GOP's performance among minorities—which actually worsened despite all the Bush-Rove pandering.
Got that? GOP performance among minorities worsened in 2002. The Gallup Poll, which correctly predicted a six-point Republican victory overall, also showed the Democrats winning the minority vote by an 82%-14% margin. In contrast, the 2000 Voter News Service exit poll had Gore beating Bush 77%-21% among nonwhites. (For the full story on the demographics of the latest election, see my updated and almost encyclopedic UPI article from last Tuesday, "Whites, not Latinos, win it for GOP.")
Bottom line: Bush-Rove blew a good chance to elect a Republican in California and strip the Democrats of much of their 2004 fundraising muscle.
Can the California GOP win in the future? The lesson of the 2002 election: only if it motivates the white vote. To do that, I believe Republican candidates must directly attack the contradiction that lies at the heart of the California Democrats' political perpetual motion machine: the interaction of immigration and environmentalism.
The Democrats favor mass immigration because more immigrants means more poor Democratic voters, which increases the population, which creates more sprawl, crowding, and pollution, which increases the pressures for more environmental regulations, which Democrats favor, which means more affluent, tree-hugging voters vote Democratic.
Got that? Well, then, you're almost unique. Obviously, the Democrats' positions are contradictory. But as long as the GOP is terrified of talking about immigration, it can't point that out.
Now, there are plenty of Republican mouthpieces in the rest of the country who argue that Californian voters should just forget about trying to protect their environment and instead welcome ever more millions of immigrants. But they don't understand why Californians are so peculiarly pro-environment.
It's simply because our nature out here in California is so much more civilized than yours. I used to live in Illinois. Going for a walk in the woods meant you were guaranteed to run into several of the following: mosquitoes, humidity, underbrush, mud, sleet, and/or flatness.
In contrast, if you want to see what California's environment looks like, click here for samples from the late landscape photographer Galen Rowell, the Ansel Adams of color photography—and a supporter of immigration limitation.
In California, the only way to alleviate the ever-worsening conflict between property rights and environmental conservation is to alleviate population pressure—by cutting immigration. California GOP candidates must run strongly against immigration.
Indeed, a Republican who ran on building a security fence from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico like the one that successfully keeps would-be suicide bombers from the Gaza Strip out of Israel would probably win about the same percentage of Hispanic voters as Simon won by pretending that the immigration situation is hunky-dory. The recent Pew-Kaiser poll of registered Hispanic voters found that 48% say there are too many immigrants in this country, vs. only 7% who say there are too few. Hispanics do tend to like legal immigration because it gives them control over which of their relatives get to come here. But they frequently hate illegal immigration because they suffer the most direct consequences: lowered wages, overcrowded schools, and that annoying third cousin who shows up uninvited and wants to sleep on the living room couch until he gets himself established in a few years.
What about individual California races?
In 2004, Barbara Boxer, much the less respected of the state's two Democratic women Senators, is up for re-election. In 2006, Davis will be term-limited out, and Diane Feinstein will be 73 and possibly retiring from the U.S. Senate.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is currently widely assumed to be a shoo-in for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006, after he successfully sponsored an initiative providing after-school programs "for the children"—an ominously goo-gooish thing to do. Clearly, Schwarzenegger is a formidable man who has succeeded at everything he has tried in life. But he has no known views on immigration and the National Question. (Even more ominously, he tried to rescue Bush I from Pat Buchanan in the 1992 New Hampshire primary.) And Schwarzenegger did more to promote the use of one type of illegal and dangerous drug—steroids—than anyone else in history. That may (and should) raise some qualms about his candidacy.
Potential Senatorial candidates remain much murkier.
No Republicans will hold statewide office, so the party must get creative.
Many VDARE.COM readers will disagree, but personally I kind of like the idea of a black candidate willing to run on this National Question platform. That could inoculate against the inevitable charges of racism, which do matter to California's liberal whites. I think Ward Connerly would make an excellent candidate. Or maybe a military officer or one of the retired black jock millionaires that California is full of. For example, Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman, according to baseball statistician Bill James the smartest ballplayer ever, currently a TV commentator, author, and owner of a Coors bottling plant, was converted to Republicanism when a Houston Astro in the mid-60s by—Congressman George H.W. Bush. I don't know the politics of Dusty Baker, a hero to Los Angelenos as a baseball player and to San Franciscans as a manager, but the three-time Manager of the Year could do well.
OK, OK – I admit choosing Ezola Foster as his running mate didn't help Pat Buchanan!
But California is a lot less hopeless for the Republicans than Harold Myerson argued—or, to be honest, than even I believed before November 5th.
November 16, 2002