Jim Hartman: California’s Biden landslide while progressives lose
Joe Biden won a near 2-1 landslide victory in California over President Trump on Nov. 3. Biden’s record-breaking margin in the Golden State exceeds 5 million votes.
At the same time, the bluest electorate in the country resoundingly rejected half a dozen ballot propositions pushed by California progressives.
In the presidential race, Biden exploited the fact that Trump was a particularly unpopular president with California voters throughout his presidency.
Trump cost California Republicans seven House seats in 2018, when incumbents were tied to the unpopular president by Democratic opponents, opines George Skelton, dean of California’s political writers.
As a result, the California House delegation became lopsided — 46 Democrats and only seven surviving Republicans. California effectively became a one-party state.
Republican voter registration has plummeted. In 2018, GOP registrations fell below voters with no party preference, which became the second largest voter group. In 1998, Republicans were 35.8% of the electorate. By 2018, they represented a dwindling 25.1% of voters.
In 2020, Trump ran for re-election without the support of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to win a statewide race in 2006.
The last two Republicans to run competitive statewide races in 2010 —successful female tech business CEOs Meg Whitman (governor) and Carly Fiorina (senator) both endorsed Joe Biden for president.
Trump never seriously competed in California in 2020.
However, the California Republican Party took baby steps toward a political comeback in November. Two House seats in the former conservative bastion of Orange County were narrowly won back by Korean-born female Republicans — Young Kim and Michelle Steel. Republicans David Valadao and Mike Garcia have razor-thin leads and may reclaim two additional House seats.
In California, the national unwillingness to veer too far left was reflected in the outcome of six ballot propositions.
California voters defeated Prop 16 decisively (57%-43%) which sought to repeal Proposition 209, passed by voters in 1996, prohibiting racial preferences — the consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin by state and local government agencies and public universities.
The Yes on 16 campaign had a tenfold funding advantage, the support of the political, business and media establishment, and endorsement by Kamala Harris. Prop 16 lost by a bigger margin than Prop 209 won in 1996.
Opposition leaders were Asian-Americans.
Prop 15 was an initiative that would have increased state property taxes on commercial properties to their highest levels in over 40 years.
Public employee unions and their Democratic allies, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, spent $60 million on Prop 15 that would have eliminated a key restraint on state spending. California’s 1978 Prop 13 caps taxes on commercial and residential property.
Prop 15 would have required that commercial property be reassessed at market value every three years. The initiative was forecast to raise property taxes by $8 to $12.5 billion a year by 2025.
Endorsers included Biden and Harris. Opponents were farmers, manufacturers and small businesses. Prop 15 failed (52%-48%).
Prop 22 exempts Uber, Lyft and DoorDash- like gig workers from a union-backed state law (AB5) reclassifying thousands of independent contractors as employees. The initiative also requires companies to pay health insurance subsidies, accident insurance coverage and 120% of the local minimum wage.
Companies supporting the measure raised a record $205 million. It was opposed by labor unions, plaintiff lawyers — and Bernie Sanders. Prop 22 passed (59%-41%).
Voters also rejected Prop 21 (60%-40%) that would have allowed local governments to expand rent control. San Francisco was the only county in California to support the measure.
Prop 18, disapproved (56%-44%), would have permitted 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections.
Prop 25 was a referendum on legislation to abolish cash bail. Both Biden and Harris support abolishing cash bail, while law enforcement groups opposed the law. 56% of voters disapproved of ending cash bail.
In November, California voters issued important checks on progressive governance.
Jim Hartman resides in Genoa. He was California Republican Party vice-chair (2002-2005). E-mail email@example.com