How did California go from voting for George H.W. Bush in 1988 to a state where Republicans are now essentially a larger third party, in about 25 years?
There are two simple answers: Governor Pete Wilson, and demographics.
As Wilson sought re-election in 1994, he championed Proposition 187, also known as Save Our State (SOS). The ballot measure sought to ban all undocumented immigrants from accessing any public services funded by the state, and it passed overwhelmingly as the Republican governor was easily re-elected.
“Following Prop. 187 were additional anti-immigrant measures such as Prop. 209 and Prop. 227 that proposed to outlaw affirmative action and bilingual education,” notes Latino Decision’s Matt Barreto. These measures also passed.
California in the mid 1990s was beginning a demographic shift that’s an exaggerated version of what the entire nation is about to go through over the next few decades. Though that shift happened quickly, Republicans were still able to win the governorship twice after a freak recall gave them a chance to run international celebrity/moderate Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But in 2010, as the nation was experiencing the largest Republican wave election in more than a half-century, California went bright blue, possibly permanently.
Democratic governor Jerry Brown came into power with reforms that gave his party a chance to overwhelm the Republican minority obstruction that paralyzed the state legislature and helped build up a deficit of as high as $42 billion. Today, the budget is nearly balanced and possibly in surplus, depending on whose numbers you trust.
In one generation, “The Prop 187 Effect” transformed California’s politics:
Immigration reform was the one policy recommendation in the GOP’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election. It passed the Senate with about as large a bipartisan majority as you can expect these days.
But most observers are saying that immigration reform is now effectively dead — or on life support — after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced on Wednesday, “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.” This follows reports that the House will not vote on reform this year because they don’t have time, even though the Senate bill passed in June.
As the Hispanic media is well aware, the only immigration bill that will have passed the House in 2013 is one that calls for millions of deportations.
House Republicans, like California’s Republicans in the 90s, know that taking a tough anti-immigrant stance in the short term won’t hurt them. In fact, it may even help them in the 2014 election, or at least avoid primary challenges.
But the long-term effects of punting on the best hope for immigration reform in decades could doom Republicans with the nation’s fastest-growing group of voters. Here’s five reasons why this should terrify the GOP.