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Ray Haynes

California Republicans Should Thank President Donald Trump

In my last article, I wrote why I thanked Donald Trump for his service to the values in which I believe. He wasn’t perfect, but no one is. If I only voted for people that I agree with 100% of the time, either on style or principle, the only person I’d ever vote for is me, and then, I would only vote for me about 60% of the time (there has been more than one time when I didn’t like my own style). Trump has not been perfect, but he has been pretty good on principle. He was mediocre to bad on style, which is why he lost the election. In the end, I count him in the good category.

For the Republican Party in California, however, he was great in turning out voters. There are four members of Congress today that ought to be on their knees thanking the Almighty that Trump was on the ballot in 2020. This article is about to get knee deep in numbers, so if that bores you, go to the bottom of the column.

First observation: On average, in the competitive districts across the state, Republican votes increased approximately 40% from 2018 to 2020. In the four districts that Republicans lost in 2018, and recaptured in 2020, Republican votes were up 48%. By contrast, Democrat votes increased less than 33%. It was that voting differential that made the difference.

How do we know it was Donald Trump, and not the candidate? Compare 2016 to 2018. In 2018, Donald Trump was not on the ballot, and the Republican leadership in Washington spent their time opposing Trump on issues important to California Republicans, like the wall and strict enforcement of immigration laws. The result? An average 20% drop off in Republican votes from 2016 to 2018. Interestingly enough, there was no corresponding drop-off in Democrat votes. In addition, the “increase” in Democrat votes in these same districts averaged less than 10%. In many of the districts, there was a negligible increase in Democrat votes in 2018 over 2016. In 2018, Republicans didn’t lose their seats because there was a massive increase in Democrat votes in reaction to Trump. Republicans lost because the rank and file Republican voter simply failed to vote for Republican officeholders who did not support, or who were perceived not to support, Donald Trump.

In 2020, with Trump on the ballot, that all changed. It is true that Democrat candidates in those competitive districts received a large increase in votes, about 33%, but the winning Republican candidates saw an average 48% increase in Republican votes. That differential brought members of Congress Valadao, Kim, Steel, and Garcia into Congress, and that differential was because Trump was on the ballot. Nothing else changed between 2018 and 2020.

The biggest winner in this phenomenon was Congressman Valadao. He won in 2016 by 20,000 votes. He lost in 2018 by less than 1,000 votes, not because the Democrat increased the number of Democrat votes in that district (there were actually 500 fewer votes for the Democrat in 2018 than in 2016), but because the Republican vote fell off over 20,000 votes, a 25% drop-off in that 2 year period. Republican votes in 2020 in Valadao’s district increased 52% over 2018. Democrat vote increased 47%, which resulted in the Valadao 1,500 vote victory possible. Given all of this, one would wonder why Valadao voted for impeachment. The Republican voters in his district turned out to vote for Trump, and Valadao received the benefit from that. One would figure that his advisors would know that, and not go out of their way to alienate those voters again, like they did between 2016 and 2018. I can guarantee Congressman Valadao that not one Democrat will vote for him in 2022 because he voted for impeachment. However, there will be thousands of Republicans who may not vote for him because of that vote. Many things can change between now and then, but it was definitely not a smart vote.

If the California Republican Party really wishes to come back, it needs to recognize this reality. Trump was popular among Republicans, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Lots of so-call “political professionals” will tell us all the reasons why we shouldn’t support Trump, but they will be wrong. I have to admit, his style sometimes makes me uncomfortable, but it works. More important, hundred of thousands of Republicans are looking for someone who will not pursue an agenda of “business as usual.” Trump fit that mold. People may not have always liked him personally, but he was a unique political leader.

Why are the Democrats trying so hard to discredit him? Because they know what we as Republicans should know. Trump was the best thing that happened to the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. If he is allowed to keep any level of credibility, the Republican Party will turn around, especially here in California. The Democrats simply cannot allow that to happen. Look what happened when they allowed Reagan to become a national icon. Republicans moved from the permanent minority position the party had been in since 1932 to a strong, competitive political actor by 2000. With Trump as a credible national leader, Republicans could cause the Democrat party to collapse.

So the Democrats impeach, and will try to convict Trump, even after he has left office. If the Republicans are complicit in that agenda, they will go back to their pre-1980 minority position, and they will end as any kind of competitive political actor in California. That would be unfortunate.