Much has been written about Democrats achieving “super majority” status in both the California State Senate and the State Assembly, where they can now pass all legislation with “urgency” (to take effect immediately), pass all tax increase measures, and even place measures on the ballot — all without a single Republican vote. I have spoken with many of the 36 Republican legislators in the Capitol since the beginning of session — and can tell you there is general consensus — being in in the “super minority” sucks.
That having been said, Republican legislators should be very concerned about the fact that things can get much worse they are now. Look no further than to states like Hawaii or Massachusetts to see how “super majority” can become “virtually non-existent” — scary stuff. Just for the heck of it, I went onto Google and searched for two terms — first “Hawaii State Budget” and then “Massachusetts State Budget” — and for each I then clicked on the first link suggested. Whether you look at the January 16 Honolulu Star Advertiser article, or the January 27 AP story on the Mass. budget, both have one thing in common — stories about budget proposals by the respective Democrat Governors of each state, and then counterpoint in the story from only Democrat legislators. There are no Republicans referenced in the pieces at all — as if they do not even exist.
If Republican legislators want to no longer be in a super-minority, there are a number of things that they can and should be doing. Most of those things are political, and not necessarily “in the building” — raising funds, working on candidate recruitment in swing districts, working with their “at risk” colleagues to help them shore up their re-election bids, and spending time in potential pick-up areas, creating political infrastructure in advance of the 2014 elections.
But there is also important work to be done within the halls of the Capitol — taking the Democrats on at every turn, with the vibrancy and drive of a party that is going to come back, and that is going to pick up seats. Every committee hearing should be an opportunity to blast Democrat policies, and promote GOP alternatives. Every floor session should be used to remind California voters that, unchecked, Democrats will drive us right off of our own fiscal cliff.
The voters inherently want a two-party system — with the checks and balances that come with that sort of arrangement. But a look at Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State speech reveals that, in part, it was designed to plunge the Governor into the void left by GOP losses. He is very comfortable trying to sell the public on the idea that he will provide the “fiscal restraint” for legislative Democrats that used to be done by Republicans. Republicans cannot let him do this. Given Brown’s terribly liberal record, there should be no “words of praise” for him by GOP legislators — rather Republicans should call out Brown for his hypocrisy — using rhetoric that in no way matches his track record at all. There is nothing fiscally conservative about Brown, who just championed a massive tax increase and then used a big chunk of the proceeds to pay back his public employee union allies.
Unfortunately, while a good number of Republicans appropriately raked the Governor over the coals in their responses to his address, a disturbing number of GOP legislators decided to praise the Democrat Governor. Needless to say this was immediately grabbed by our “friends” in the media. Do you think that Brown, Senate President Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez were upset at the headline from the Orange County Register, Brown Lays Out Conservative Vision For California? I think not.
It would be folly for any GOP legislator to forget that politics is a team sport, and that the other team currently holds all of the cards. The only way for Republicans to be relevant, and to therefore be able to advance the principles of freedom, liberty, and pro-growth policy, is to pick up seats. Governor Brown and legislative Democrats will work very hard to convince the voters that their “super majority” should be a permanent one. It is up to Republican legislators to fight this with every fiber of their existence, by taking on the Democrats at every turn, and making sure that unlike Hawaii and Massachusetts, every news story about the state capital has counter-point from Republicans.
Any Republican in the Capitol can vote with the Democrats, and give a patina of bipartisanship to any issue. But doing so is like playing checkers, thinking only of the moment, and not the longer game. Come election time, Democrats will use each and every bipartisan vote to try and further the case that under their “super majorities” Democrats can bring everyone together for the good of the state. And to be clear, there is nothing good for California in the Democrats having the run of the table.