Grim Tidings for the GOP Midterm

Political scientists can point to a lot of evidence from past election cycles that one early sign that a party is facing a rout at the next election is a wave of incumbent retirements. In the last two days two senior Republican House members in California have announced that they will retire this year: Darrell Issa, and Ed Royce. Issa, based near San Diego, has just barely hung on to his seat in the last couple of election cycles, and Royce’s Orange County seat has been looking more marginal for a long time. California Republicans are going to be hard pressed to hold these two seats. (Incidentally, term limit rules adopted back in the Gingrich years may have played a role in these decisions. Both Issa and Royce would lose their committee chairmanships next year even if re-elected.)

The problem is compounded by the fact that the California Republican Party does not have a strong candidate for governor this year. The GOP holds no statewide offices, and because of term limits it has few legislative leaders with much name recognition. Right now about the only serious GOP candidate is John Cox, who has only been a California resident for a little over a decade. (Of course, than makes him little different from millions of other Californians, so that hardly disqualifying.) San Diego’s Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer might run, and Assemblyman Travis Allen from Long Beach may give it a go—neither well known even to Republicans in most of the state.

Lots of well-known Democrats are sure to run to succeed Jerry Brown, and given California’s insane “jungle” primary, in which everyone appears on the ballot together and the top two vote getters face off in November, it is possible that like 2016, when no Republican made the November ballot for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barbara “Call Me Senator” Boxer, this November California voters might be faced with the choice of two Democrats for governor—a leftist and a further leftist.

Maybe an independent could sneak up on a crowded Democratic field (and demoralized Republican field) and take the second spot and make the November ballot? Joel Kotkin thinks so, and he shines a spotlight on Michael Shellenberger.

California is widely seen as a one-party state, dominated largely by rabid progressives. Yet “decline to state” voters are growing and now larger than Republicans. Surprisingly, the Democratic preference has also dropped over the past 25 years from 49 to 45 percent.

Right now the best hope for independents lies in the candidacy of environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, co-founder of the Oakland-based Breakthrough Institute. Unlike many of his green allies, Shellenberger has the courage to denounce climate policies that create higher housing and energy prices, in the process stunting upward mobility.

Shellenberger points out that the current Brown policies have not done so well in reducing emissions, as recently documented in the green magazine Grist. The main reason for last year’s emissions drop turned out to be surge in hydropower, from last year’s wet weather. Shellenberger traces the state’s less than stellar performance as well to the shutdown of nuclear power, arguably the most effective way to reduce carbon. More important still, he sees a state under the control of a corrupt political machine, first crafted by John Burton in the 1960s, dominated by “public employees and green energy companies.”

He defends “the California dream” and accuses the front-runner, former San Francisco Mayor (surprise!) Gavin Newsom of “talking more about Trump” than assessing the state’s real needs.

I like the idea. I’ll get him on a Power Line podcast some time soon.


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