What the GOP Should Learn from Its Californian Wipeout

California was not always a reliable blue state. Other than in the 1964 LBJ landslide win over Goldwater, California supported the Republican candidate in every electoral cycle in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. But by the early 1990s, the increasing diversity of the state began to alter its political landscape.

The debate within the California GOP at the time was eerily similar to that happening within the national Republican Party today. Virtually all Republican leaders conceded that the rise of Latino and Asian-American voters required some response, but what that response should be was the subject of intense disagreement.

California GOP reformers, noting that a Democratic Presidential Candidate (Bill Clinton) had broken the GOP lock on the state in 1992 with strong support from minority voters, argued that the party had to modernize by reaching out to people of color, for example the many immigrants who had entrepreneurial aspirations. A different faction, who pointed out that Clinton had captured only 46% of the popular vote and that Ross Perot had attracted many conservative white voters, insisted that the Republican party double down on whites by making race-based appeals to them.

The two GOP factions battled each other in the lead-up to the 1994 gubernatorial election and the “double-downers” won. Anti-immigrant ballot Proposition 187 was the central issue of the contest, and like any Californian I can attest to the venomous, racially-divisive nature of the debate that surrounded it. Republican Pete Wilson publicly embraced the measure at every campaign stop, and rode anti-immigrant sentiment to re-election with strong support from White voters.

In the process, Wilson and those who advised him to double-down on white voters permanently crippled the California Republican Party. Subsequent Democratic Presidential candidates have not even bothered to campaign in this minority-majority state; why should they? They need only stop by to gather big campaign contributions that would have gone to Republicans in prior eras. Traditional Republicans are neutered in the state legislature and have no chance in the gubernatorial race either. The only Republican Governor since Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, won by packaging himself as a post-partisan figure who rejected many of the national GOP’s key positions.

The California lesson for the national GOP as party leaders debate whether to not to embrace Donald Trump? Racially divisive appeals to alienated white voters can work, but pursuing such short-term electoral rewards is a route to long-term political oblivion in an increasingly diverse America.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

62 thoughts on “What the GOP Should Learn from Its Californian Wipeout”

  1. It must come as a pleasant surprise to Californians that for once their votes do make a real difference – in the primary tomorrow.

    1. Again, without the link.

      Hillary won, which as a practical matter gives her the nomination. But Sanders apparently has decided "Never give up, never surrender!" So the party coming together has been, at least, delayed.

  2. Sam Wang has made a pair of tour de force posts about changing geographic patterns in US presidential elections:

    What he's done here is to factor out the nationwide changes in party success, particularly the national dominance of the Republicans in the 1980s, and look only at the evolution of state-to-state correlation functions. And what he finds is that most change in geographic patterns since the 1960s has actually been relatively gradual: there was a huge discontinuity in 1964 after the passage of the Civil Rights Act when the Deep South became Republican (or, in '68, Wallace Dixiecrat), and another jump in 1976 when the Democrats very temporarily regained the South, but since then it's mostly been a story of two trends: the South gradually becoming more Republican again, and the Democrats gradually gaining in the West. The year-to-year gains by one party or another are mostly nationwide fluctuations superimposed on this background of slow change.

    Furthermore, early general-election polling for 2016 suggests no great change in the trends, for all the weirdness of this year. We're still on the post-1976 track. The Democratic gains in the West are surely to a large degree caused by greater ethnic diversity. I remember when Republicans were crowing about population gains in the Sunbelt giving them electoral advantages, but it was a double-edged sword.

  3. I was just going to mention PEC but you beat me to it with a nice explanation. It's the site to go to for election coverage. But I might add it is not for the faint of heart mathematically. Which is part of its appeal.

    1. There are a few things about Wang's analysis that surprised me. 1972 to 1976 was a large (and, as it turned out, temporary) change in geographic patterns, but 1976 to 1980 really was not. Reagan's victories weren't just the Southern Strategy redux. The oddball 1976 pattern was changing back into one with a Republican Solid South, but only gradually, beneath the surface of Republican dominance.

      Also, the change after that is more gradual than, say, a facile analysis of George W. Bush losing various non-white groups after 2001 would suggest.

  4. "If you can't plug the hole in the hull, there's no point in baling." might be a good lesson. California Republicans really couldn't do anything at the state level about illegal immigration, and so were demographically doomed. Pete Wilson was the last hurrah before the flood overwhelmed them.

    It's still to be seen whether Democrats will be able to replicate this nationally, or opposition to illegal immigration will be effectual in time to prevent the election of a new people nationally, as happened in California.

    1. This is actually wrong on the facts — Latinos were trending R prior to 187, and Rs can get a large proportion of votes in that population (George W. Bush did it in Texas). Rs could be doing way, way better in California with better political decisions than "It's over, burn it down".

      1. Strange, the graphs in this NR article on this exact topic don't show that. Rather, they show that the disparity between white and Latino votes peaked in 1994, when the GOP did unusually well, not badly. (Over all, not with Latinos, of course.) And then rebounded to it's usual range.

        In fact, what apparently happened is that Republicans remained about as unpopular as ever with Latinos, who were an increasing percentage of the population. The real change was that Republicans ceased being popular with California whites!

        I might even speculate that the real problem Republicans have in California is that they drifted far enough left to stop looking like an alternative to the Democrats. Of course, with this top two primary, the California Democratic party has now arranged for California to become a one party state, so it's all over now.

        … Ah, yes, evening: Time for the ritual down voting of the heretics.

        1. Okay I looked at your link. It's interesting. I would have to invest more time to be convinced though, since we also have seen lots of people turn "independent" here, and I don't know how those were counted. (A lot of them accidentally signed up for the AM Independent Party, btw … which is a huge issue here today, I am hearing some very weird things about the ballots people are getting, on FB… and I don't understand it either! I wouldn't know what to ask for if I weren't a Dem. I think maybe that judge got it wrong.)

          I also don't know how the (I presume…) large jump in Latino voters after the 1986 amnesty applied, and I'm not sure how I feel about exit polls themselves now that I think about it. It's interesting though. IIRC, which is always an if… the actual voter reg took some time to kick in for those new citizens, and 187 and 209 (an anti a.a. measure that came later) would've been a huge piece of that. Many of our older and white voters vote by mail here, too, so do exit polls get them? There's the whole mobile phone issue. Also, this too is subjective but presi and senate elections don't have all that much to do with California, necessarily. For some reason to me, those seem more about the person and their character, rather than state races where voters actually have an idea about how the person's ideas may directly affect them, in the near future.

          Anyway, it's an interesting question.

          Plus… not to be mean but, how do we know the GOPs in other states aren't *also* needlessly alienating their Latino voters?

          One point I think does stand – culturally, it *wasn't* inevitable that the state GOP would lose so many Latinos. It's just not. I even think they can get some of them back one of these days. And I am against one party too… it's making the state DP much too comfy with lobbyists, imo.

          1. It's not "needless". Parties are coalitions, and while you might want to add as many groups as you can to your party, you'll frequently find that what you need to do to bring in ten members of group X drives off fifteen or twenty members of group Y, who are already reliable members of the coalition. And so appealing to group X is a net loss.

            Note that, when the California GOP embraced prop 187, they actually did quite well. (As was to be expected: It WON. Support for it was MAJORITY opinion in California!) They lost ground with Latinos, but gained MORE ground with whites. So, that's demonstrably the position they were in: Alienating 10 Latinos gained them 15 whites, which is equivalent to saying, gaining 10 Latinos would have lost them 15 whites. It would be a net loser.

            But, again, after the Prop 187 moment passed, the gap between Latino and white proclivity to vote Republican in California returned to what it had been before Prop 187. Some time after the Prop 187 fuss, support for Republicans among ALL ethnic groups started dropping together. It wasn't something having to do with why the GOP did better with whites. It was an effect across all groups.

            As I've suggested, maybe Democratic indoctrination in the school system was finally becoming effective. But it wasn't anything to do with Prop 187, their support was dropping among groups that had favored it.

            Sometimes even your best strategy doesn't have you winning. Democrats had enough strength at the national level to make sure that "the hull wouldn't be patched", that illegal immigration would continue at high levels. And "electing a new people" appears to be a winning strategy. The further it proceeds, the harder it becomes for the people you're replacing to unite to stop it. (In fact, I would say that, nationally, either the current population manages to get the "flood the nation with illegals" policy reversed in the next few years, or it's all over. The window for reversing this is closing.)

            In fact, nationally, the GOP made repeated efforts to try to reverse it's opposition to illegal immigration. Every one of them proved to be political poison, pissing off far more existing Republican voters than it brought in new Latino voters. The repeated efforts eventually got the Republican base so pissed off, that when a guy came along who promised a wall and deportation, he won the Presidential nomination over the best efforts of the party establishment to stop him.

            So, that's my position: The GOP can't, as a practical matter, appeal to Latinos, because doing so drives off more existing members than it gains new members. They tried, and it got them Trump.

          2. Well, maybe it's unfair of me, but I'm not ready to concede here. I also don't have time to really get to the bottom of it, which may be playing unfairly.

            That article used data from several different places, presi races, senate races… aren't we really talking about registration though? That data would be much less noisy I think … too bad I don't have time to chase it down. Maybe later today. Whereas, Wilson, an actual person … lost 20% of Latino voters in the blink of an eye. (Well, those Latinos registered Rep to begin with… yadda yadda yadda.) To me that seems much more cut and dried than fluctuations based on fed races with a bunch of random people.

            Btw… as to this argument going on down here V V V , in California the Dems have an open primary, so if a Republican voter is desperate enough, they can re-register as a non affiliated voter — crucially, they do not have to call themselves a Dem! — and vote in the Dem primary. They *can* influence the race. And I know people who are Dems in Arizona who do exactly this kind of thing, bc there it's the other way around. Them's the breaks. I briefly considered re-registering myself this spring, to vote against Trump. But since the state GOP didn't seem to care about rescuing itself from disgrace, I didn't bother.

            This issue of residential segregation that you raise. Now, that one's interesting. I'm not a fan of isolation.

          3. Did you see that NYT piece? (i only read about it, did not read actual piece though) It does sound as though white and older voters in CA (and elsewhere) may be under-repped in exit polls… as many do not go to the polls at all, they mail their vote in weeks ahead of time.

            I'm not sure we're going to solve this tonight, as it's late. But I assume you know, 187 was popular with the GOP electorate 20 years ago, true – and it has, I would argue, driven away tons of potential voters since. Though I don't have time now to dig into that. But I don't think that NR piece quite nailed it either. I wonder though what *would* be the best way to measure. Registration, or new registrations? It takes more to drive someone out of a party, perhaps, than to just make them avoid it in the first place. Anyhoo.

          4. Oh, another thing. I see your point about the 15 and the 10 … though, here that meant, lose 15 potential Latino voters to keep 10 older white ones who… how do we say this delicately?… may not be around that much longer.

            I wish we weren't in this kind of a place. In *theory,* one could imagine a border security policy that didn't alienate Latinos. F.e., if Republicans said, hey! We don't like the chaos, why don't we try to help our Southern neighbors have better economies and better justice systems, so that people aren't being forced to flee? Maybe if we stopped turning a blind eye to unionists getting murdered in Colombia, there would be less violence and less misery and less emigration? It would be a policy that valued order at the border but *was not* based on complacency and coldness, but rather, empathy and compassion and mutual interest.

          5. "… though, here that meant, lose 15 potential Latino voters to keep 10 older white ones who… how do we say this delicately?… may not be around that much longer. "

            No. No historical revisionism here, even by implication.

            Prop 187 WON. Remember that: It was popular. More people liked it, than disliked it. (At least among those legally entitled to vote; No question it was massively unpopular with illegal immigrants!)

            Republicans did particularly WELL when it was a live political issue, not badly. Being associated with Prop 187 HELPED the GOP in California. It didn't hurt them. Not net. It hurt them with some groups, helped with others, and was clearly, very clearly, of net benefit to the GOP.

            Not lose 15 potential Latino voters to keep 10 white voters. It was a case of losing 10 Latino voters and gaining 15. They gained more than they lose due to Prop 187.

            Remember that: When Prop 187 was part of the political equation, the GOP did unusually well. Backing it wasn't a political mistake, it was the right call.

          6. Backing it wasn't a political mistake, it was the right call.

            Seceding from the union over slavery was "the right call" for southern politicians. It was very popular with their constituents who were then entitled to vote. But with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it was a poor decision. They incurred terrible costs for no lasting gain.

            So when you say that Prop 187 was "the right call," I ask: On what time frame? What did you gain, and what did it cost?

          7. You're equating slavery with refusing to extend selected public services to people present in the country illegally? To call that a stretch would be too polite, that's madness.

            It was the right call, in a democracy, to give the people something which they overwhelmingly wanted, (Again, prop 187 was popular!) and which wasn't at all morally offensive. (Because we're talking here about people who were illegally present in the country. The only thing they were entitled to was being deported. At their own expense, if possible.)

            And it was the right call politically, because the period when prop 187 was a factor in California politics was a positive deviation for the GOP from an already downward trend. A trend which might even have reversed if the proposal had been upheld, and discouraged further illegal immigration.

            Supporting it, contrary to the OP's thesis, was a net positive for the California GOP.

          8. Mind you, they'd have to do actual work, or this policy wouldn't sell. People can smell b.s. And Reps are now viewed with suspicion.

            But I really wanted to say, uh… what school indoctrination? You think they teach it in school? I am pretty sure that doesn't happen. Unless you mean that just being educated means one is more likely to become a Dem? I thought that was only true post-secondary.

          9. Just a hypothesis, my only experience with K-12 was in Michigan, not California. But teachers in Michigan had their ways of influencing students' politics, I doubt teachers in California are less skilled in that matter.

            To put this delicately, would a liberal actually notice liberal indoctrination? Being pushed in the direction you were inclined to go anyway? Might be like water to a fish.

            Anyway, I'm not married to that hypothesis. I just don't see why something that had won Republicans a great deal of support from a large part of the population would switch to being a negative in every group just a few years later. I think it more likely that the Prop 187 factor stopped helping Republicans after it was struck down, and some other factor caused a decline in support for Republicans across the board.

        2. Of course, with this top two primary, the California Democratic party has now arranged for California to become a one party state…

          With 99.7% of the results in, two Democrats got 40.3% and 18.5% of the vote, respectively, with five other Democrats picking up scraps for a Dem haul of around 63.2%. The best-performing Republican got 8.0%, and the twelve Republicans totalled something like 26.3%.

          Can you explain why Sunheim with his 8% is entitled to the space on the ballot that's instead going to be filled by Sanchez with her 18.5%? Do you think that Harris-Sunheim would be a closer race than Harris-Sanchez will be?

          Can you explain why you're blaming California Democrats for making California a one-party state, when the data strongly suggest that California voters are your problem?

          1. Because they deliberately instituted a system which would predictably have the effect of giving the voters a choice in the general election between a Democrat, and a Democrat.

            In most parts of the country, your party can get on the general election ballot even if it's clearly doomed. The Greens, the Libertarians, Democrats in Republican dominated states. They can all get on the ballot. Having an excellent chance of winning has never before been a requirement for being on the ballot. Virtually everywhere, if you don't like your choices, you can even write somebody in, and it counts.

            But, not in California. No independent candidate at all, no choice of party, no write in. The general election is, in effect, just a runoff election for the Democratic primary.

            Would you like it if Republican states started adopting this? If suddenly Democrats would walk into the voting booth in the fall, and find they had nobody to vote for, because the Republican primary had decided both candidates?

          2. The general election is, in effect, just a runoff election for the Democratic primary.

            That would be horrifying, if it were true. It's not, though, is it? The California senate primary was open to all voters of all or no party.

            Would you like it if Republican states started adopting this?

            Sure. I think it's likely to produce good results. I wish Texas would do this. They might produce better Senators if they did. Just briefly skimming the recent results, I'd expect that if this system had been in place in Texas, Cruz would still have met the same Democrat in the general, and Cornyn…it's hard to say. Seems at least somewhat likely that some other Republican would have been a more formidable general election opponent for him than the Democrat in that race turned out to be.

            If suddenly Democrats would walk into the voting booth in the fall, and find they had nobody to vote for, because the Republican primary had decided both candidates?

            As long as I got to vote in the primary from which the two top vote-getters were selected, I'm fine with that. If conditions are such that Republicans finish first and second and the top Democrat finishes a distant third, then my party clearly isn't competitive in this district and the race in November ought properly to be between those two Republicans. I'll vote for the less-crazy one.

  5. An idle question, which might be seen as an observation as well, if it strikes you that way:

    Do you suppose all those Hispanic people who moved north to California, as well as all those Oriental people who moved east to California, were all born with Democratic genes in their chromosomes? Or perhaps, do you think maybe they became Democrats after they moved to the U.S., when they recognized that one party welcomed them while the other party acted resentful, unwelcoming, and downright antagonistic?

    1. Certainly nothing genetic. Maybe the usual phenomenon of the immigrant fleeing what's gone wrong at home, and then recreating it in their new home; The Democratic party looks a lot more like PRI than the Republican.

  6. Kevin Drum thinks he is taking issue with Dr. Humphreys, but I think Drum is mistaken. Drum's evidence argues that given demographic changes, the Republicans in California were doomed unless they changed. That's 95% identical to the point being made here.

    (I guess Drum is saying that 187 wasn't an inflection point, but that seems wrong: It was a key place where Republicans could have turned back from xenophobia.)

    1. I have great respect from Kevin so I always take his critiques seriously. I was though sent this study today by another colleague, Professor Garrick Percival, which shows that Anglos and Latinos were trending Republican prior to 187 and a few other anti-immigrant initiatives, and those initiatives reversed the direction of movement in the Democrats favor. At the same time, the authors say it took multiple waves of hostile legislation to drive people moving toward the Republican in the opposite direction, so Kevin could be right at least that 187 on its own mattered less than I claimed in my post.

  7. This amounts to a digression and I hope I can be forgiven for going off-topic, but I find arguments in the form of the original post rather vexing*.

    Republicans should have changed course in California – and should change course nationally – because their chosen course is appalling, not because they will lose elections.

    Look at Reihan Salam here trying to game out which politician is taking a more shrewd political line — Cotton or Sasse. His discussion is entirely based on political expediency rather than basic human decency.

    This approach treats Republicans simultaneously with contempt and sympathy – they are benighted fools, but also caught in a difficult situation they aren't responsible for.

    *I don't mean to critique the actual argument of the original post, but arguments of a similar form made by people who are more sympathetic to the Republicans.

    1. Personally, I find, "We're going to import as many foreigners as it takes to make this country permanently Democratic, no matter how much the existing population object, and no matter how many laws we need to break to do it!" pretty appalling, too, especially with the implied "Bwa ha ha!"

      I mean, sure, it seems to work, but so do many criminal enterprises.

      1. What you seem to be missing is that up until the GOP went nativist, the influx of Latino immigrants and their American born offspring were culturally quite conservative and were actually affiliating with the Republicans in numbers that made many analysts think that the Democrats were doomed by a California that would be increasingly Latino and Asian. The GOP drove all those people into the arms of the democrats.

        In particular, the period of greatest Latino immigration coincided with a period of great and rising Republican strength throughout California. Latino immigration is now ebbing so you are obviously mistaken about the Democrats evil plotting to flood the country with Mexicans.

        The point being that if the GOP hadn't gone off the rails to please the Birchers, strong Latino and Asian support and the growth of those communities would make California a permanent Republican stronghold.

        1. Yes–if the Democrats' plot is to flood the United States with Mexican immigrants, Obama is doing a particularly bad job of it.

      2. As someone who lived through all this, I agree with the others on this – the GOP actively pushed California Latinos away. And they've never really tried to undo the damage. Brulte sort of gets it, but the VP (I think the VP – a woman from SE Asia as it happens) just echoed Trump in the news the other day. I think this is what baseball people call unforced error?

        1. See my comment above; In fact, the gap between Latinos and whites in party affiliation hasn't budged. Two things have happened: First, Latinos became a much larger percentage of the population, so the fact that they continued to vote Democratic became more important.

          But, more critical, the GOP lost ground with ALL ethnic groups in California after '94.

          1. My fault! i should have been more clear. I am just talking about California, not the rest of the country. And here, the GOP really did lose a whole chunk of Latino support by its choices.
            " Republicans, burned by a backlash against Gov. Pete Wilson's strong stands against illegal immigration and affirmative action, have seen their share of the Hispanic vote slide precipitously. When first elected in 1990, Mr. Wilson won about 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.
            That dropped to 25 percent in 1994 when he campaigned for Proposition 187, a measure to cut off public services to illegal immigrants that was passed by voters but has since been blocked in Federal court. "

            I don't think we could know how all the new Latino voters here *would* have felt about the state GOP, absent this history. It can't be known, we can only guess.

            Also, at least here (though probably elsewhere too…), Asian voters followed suit iirc. Immigration and a.a. are both issues for them as well, though the a.a. can get interesting. Anyhoo. I forget what we're arguing about anyway…

          2. The GOP did lose a lot of Latino support about then. But it can't have been due to something that particularly offended Latinos, because they lost a lot of support from EVERY ethnic group at the same time. And prop 187 had hugely boosted their support among whites just a few years earlier.

            Maybe it was the new generation who'd been freshly indoctrinated in the schools reaching voting age?

          3. The GOP did lose a lot of Latino support about then. But it can't have been due to something that particularly offended Latinos, because they lost a lot of support from EVERY ethnic group at the same time.

            Sure it can. If you treat one ethnic minority badly others will notice, and their support will fall as well.

    2. We are not a pure democracy, and I don't think pure democracies are a good idea in any event so I am not saying the voters never support appalling things, but I have trouble getting mad at politicians for trying to appeal to large numbers of people — that is the check on their power that the system needs and if the Rs in California had followed it, they would be championing different policies.

  8. It's fun to speculate about the consequences if Trump leads the GOP not just to the now expected defeat but to Cannae, a low but significant and growing probability. The party would have a choice: to abandon racism entirely and reshape itself à la Schwarzenegger as a European conservative party: or double down and lose all hope of ever governing again. If the populist/progressive insurgency Sanders represents stays strong on the other side, there could be a real three-party election, possibly followed by a realignment, with two dominant parties (Clinton/CDU and Sanders/SPD) plus a marginal regional Dixiecrat party. Is this scenario possible with first-past-the-post voting plus popular primaries?

    1. "It's fun to speculate about the consequences if Trump leads the GOP not just to the now expected defeat but to Cannae, a low but significant and growing probability."

      How do you square this with the remarkable Republican dominance of state level politics?

      The GOP is doing very badly in a handful of states, but the Democratic party is totally locked out in half the states. In fact, the GOP is only a few states away from controlling enough state legislatures to unilaterally amend the Constitution via convention.

      Wouldn't that be a kicker, if you won the federal Presidential election and the Senate, took control of the Supreme court, and the Republicans ended up with enough legislatures to completely re-write the Constitution, taking it all away from you again?

      1. if the republicans are doing things the way the ones in texas are, the republican dominance in the states has been brought about by voter-suppression laws (which you are on record as approving) along with gerrymandering on a scale to make elbridge gerry wince.

        and now aren't YOU happy this isn't a pure democracy?

        1. I understand that Democrats like to think it's a product of gerrymandering. But it's really a product of Democrats' strong tendency to live in big cities. (Or, alternatively, living in big cities turning people into Democrats…) I've seen a study of this, where they used a computer program to generate thousands of district maps, using the standard criteria: Equal population, compact boundaries, but without taking voting patterns into account. Then they predicted which party would carry each district, based on precinct level voting history.

          The average map was quite disadvantageous for Democrats. Essentially, you gerrymander yourselves by huddling together in areas where practically everyone is a Democrat, while Republicans efficiently deploy themselves by being willing to live in areas with substantial Democratic minorities. It actually requires some degree of pro-Democratic gerrymandering for Democrats to achieve parity with Republicans in most states!

      2. Cannae is losing the House, not just (which is now odds-on) the Senate, White House and therefore the Supreme Court. As I said, this is a low probability, but no longer a trivial one, and there are no inherent limits to Trump's fall. Trump will be the GOP candidate for President. Downticket Republicans must either run with him or against him. Neither are promising.

        Your constitutional convention would involve a minority of the population imposing its reactionary antebellum vision of the constitution on the majority, using the undemocratic accident of the very unequal population of the states. The precedent of 1861 is not encouraging.

        1. Heck, you won on SSM that way: The public opposed it, but the tiny fraction of the population who happened to be judges imposed it anyway. So, who are you to talk?

          1. It's a fundamental right, Holmes. Judges are *supposed* to insist upon them. It's kinda why they're there.

            I hope we can skip the tired debate about how long it's been that this right wasn't recognized. I don't care. Traditionally, as a woman I am little more than a talking cow. I don't have the energy for that debate anymore.

          2. It's frustrating, isn't it? I don't know why we even need a constitution, nor judges to interpret it. Simple plebiscites should be sufficient to limit any government.

      3. You may wish to review Article V before counting on this process to establish Bellmoreism in the country.

        1. I assume that you're referring to Congress' role in the Convention process. But that's purely ministerial.

          If enough states clearly call for a constitutional convention, and Congress simply ignores it, then the rule of law is out the window, and we're in a pre-revolutionary circumstance, where the rules become completely different.

          1. Congress could ignore it on the basis that the majority of the states represented a small minority of the population of the country. Would that be wrong?

            There is incidentally a progressive version of the call for constitutional reform, articulated most clearly by Marty Lederman. The projectors could be hoist by their own petard, and whatever they might be looking for – states' rights, fetal rights, etc – could be replaced by the abolition of the Senate, alignment of presidential and congressional terms, ERA, entrenched social rights, or the strengthening of the Second Foundation rights of equality under the laws strictly enforced by the federal government. Congress could bring this about by ensuring that the delegates to the constitutional convention were proportional to population, like the House of Representatives.

          2. Yes, that WOULD be wrong, since Article V, (Which you directed me to review.) doesn't condition holding a convention on the population of the states, just their number. AND, it specifies that ratification is based on number of states, not population.

            You might have just a ghost of a basis for the delegates to the convention being allocated on the basis of population. But given the whole tenor of the article, it would be a stretch. You'd still run into ratification being explicitly on a state, not population, basis. So that no amendment Republican dominated states disliked would have a chance of ratification.

            Don't suggest that somebody review Article V, and then propose things that violate it.

          3. That was me that urged you to review it.

            The procedures for conventions are not specified, and seem to be left up to Congress, so perhaps the Bellmore Constitution wouldn't be binding here, no matter how convinced you are that you are the The Only True Interpreter.

          4. No.

            I'm referring to the complexities involved.

            You need two-thirds of the states to call for a convention.

            Then delegates have to be selected on some basis. If the delegates are chosen by popular vote within the states then they are not going to lean as heavily Republican as the state legislatures. (Nice of you to gloat about that ridiculous situation, and talk about Democrats "huddling" in cities.)

            Then the convention only gets to propose amendments, which still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, either by the legislatures or state-wide conventions, as Congress specifies.

            Not happening so fast.

          5. Depends on whether the delegates are chosen on a state-wide popular basis in some form of PR, or on a popular basis within House districts. The former would somewhat favor Democrats, (And, despite my not liking Democrats, I do support proportional representation. It really is the only workable cure for gerrymandering.) but would be hard to justify when there's a federal law prohibiting PR for federal elections. The latter would, obviously, tend to replicate the result you see in the House of Representatives.

            In either case, whether to hold a convention is decided on a state by state basis by votes of legislatures, a procedure which clearly gives Republicans control right now. And ratification is on a state by state basis, and either it's the legislature, which favors Republicans, or the conventions, which are somewhat of a wash depending on how they're managed.

            But James' suggestion that Congress could ignore the state petitions for a convention on the basis of population is a complete non-starter, constitutionally.

            I should note that I don't expect to like a new constitution resulting from a convention. But I expect the left to dislike it even more.

          6. First, ratification calls for 3/4 of the states, not 2/3. That takes it from 34 to 38, a fair-sized jump. Second, presumably both the call for a convention and ratification of amendments require the approval of both houses of the state legislatures. (In the case of ratification there is also the convention possibility, which can be required by Congress). So numbers alone, not even allowing for the various obstructive tactics available, make it unlikely that any sort of controversial amendment would get through that way. My own opinion is that we would see substantially less straight party-line voting on these issues than on day-to-day matters.

            As for the PR possibility, I don't see that as a problem. The Constitution is plain that it's up to Congress to make these rules, and a statute can't take that power away. Of course, your view is that penumbras and emanations, however thin, count when they support your preferences, so I can see how you might disagree. .

          7. " So numbers alone, not even allowing for the various obstructive tactics available, make it unlikely that any sort of controversial amendment would get through that way. "

            I don't expect any controversial at the state level amendments to make it through. That's not the same thing as controversial at the federal level, or even noisily opposed by some faction. Lots of things are 'controversial' in a trivial sense but widely popular enough to be adopted for the federal government at the state level, such as term limits.

            I'm simply pointing out that conservatives have a considerable advantage over liberals in terms of state level government, and that has serious implications for amendment by convention. It also has implications for the depth of your 'farm team', as you're seeing now in the discussion of who would be a good VP for Hillary. The number of people you've got of national prominence coming up from the state level is quite limited.

            My view on PR is that it's likely the best system of representation in a democracy, but it's not surprising that people elected under a first past the post system would outlaw it.

          8. I'm not sure your distinction makes sense. "Controversial" means that there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue who care a lot about it. Are you saying that even though there may be a 55-45 split on an issue at the national level the accidents of state politics would let an amendment pass? (I assume you agree that Constitutional Amendments should require some sort of super-majority support to be enacted.)

            Conservatives do in fact have an advantage at the state level, partly because of gerrymandering and partly because of the population concentration facts you mentioned above. Is it good that we have state legislatures, and a House, that are considerably unrepresentative of the relative voters?

            To my mind much of this stems from the association of political interests with geography, rather than people. Just as the Senate is silly, so to some degree, is the whole notion of legislative districts. If we have a state that is 60-40 Republican then it seems to me that about 60% of its Congressional delegation should be Republican, not 90%.

            PR is one way out, though it's tricky, and there are different ways to implement it. I would restrict the number of legislators selected by a group of voters to some fairly small number – 5 to 10 maybe. Call it five. Let each party nominate five candidates. Then, rather than using party lists I'd give each voter five votes to distribute among candidates (no more than one vote per). I think that would lead to less partisan politics, because candidates would have some incentive to try to pick up "the fifth vote" of voters from the other party. Third parties wouldn't do as well as under a party list system, but would probably pick up some seats.

            Just a thought.

          9. "James' suggestion that Congress could ignore the state petitions for a convention on the basis of population is a complete non-starter, constitutionally." I'll concede that. But you have conceded that Congress could perfectly well see to it that the delegates were in proportion to population, which would be fair as well as politically necessary. This means that liberal amendments are far more likely to emerge than conservative ones. They would then all die in the states. I'm afraid Americans are stuck with their marvellous piece of obsolete 18th-century clockwork for the foreseeable future.

          10. The House has seats allocated according to population. How are you doing there? You'd be right if the delegates were chosen by some form of PR. If they're appointed by legislatures, or elected by House district, (As I think more likely than PR.) Republicans end up with the advantage.

          11. How are we doing?

            If the question refers to the country then we are doing very badly in the House. The majority seems to consist of fanatical morons, and its leader is a con man. It spends its time investigating Benghazi and repealing Obamacare. The latter, at least, is harmless enough, and I guess it keeps them off the streets, but for those who claim to be concerned about the country's finances they sure spend a lot of money on the former.

            The fact is we have minority rule, or something close to it, in the House, and the minority involved is stupid and evil. (And no, a Supreme Court decision or two that you happen not to agree with doesn't make that OK).

Comments are closed.