Orange County is losing its republican strength

A blue wave is rolling over California

The Democrats achieved enormous gains in the “Golden State” in the midterm elections. In the homeland of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, the Republicans are now in danger of sinking into insignificance.

The political commentators are gradually running out of superlatives. What do you call the enormous majority that California's Democrats won in the mid-term elections in the state parliament - super majority? Gigantic majority? "The blues" now hold around three quarters of the seats in both chambers, as many as last in 1883. Two thirds are enough to pass new taxes and to put constitutional amendments on the ballot papers.

Bad surprises

The triumph of the Democrats in the “Golden State” reached a new high in the recent elections. In addition to the posts of governor and vice governor and the two senators, the Democrats now have 46 of 53 members of the House of Representatives. With that, Republicans have lost half of their California seats. What is particularly painful for them is the loss of their four seats in Orange County, where future Republican President Richard Nixon was born. The last ballots have been counted since Friday, and with a wafer-thin majority, the Democrats surprisingly also captured an electoral district in Central Valley, a conservative stronghold - and thus secured their 40th new place in the House of Representatives. Another treat for California’s Democrats is that one of their ranks, Nancy Pelosi, is expected to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, number three in the American succession of power.

The republican debacle at the mid-term elections was one of the announcements: In the summer, the non-party displaced the Republicans as the second largest group of registered voters for the first time. Only 24.5 percent now describe themselves as Republicans, 44 percent as Democrats. The downfall of the Grand Old Party is all the more impressive when you consider the more recent political history of the constituent state. California produced conservative leaders like Earl Warren, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. The latter secured two terms as governor and entry into the White House with tax cuts, less regulation and a stronger police force.

Republicans are on the retreat in California

Distribution of seats in the US House of Representatives based on the 1990 and 2018 elections

In the mid-1990s, the Californians voted in a referendum for one of the country's strictest immigration laws: Proposition 187 prohibited paperless people from attending schools and accessing health care. Some observers see this as the beginning of the end of the Republican Party in this state, even if the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the project as unconstitutional. Many immigrants have not forgiven the Republicans for this law. Demographic change has fundamentally changed California. Latinos now make up almost 40 percent of the population; the majority of them vote democratically. Since 1990, the Democrats have increased their share of the House of Representatives from 58 to 87 percent.

Thanks to the President

The Democrats also owe their latest triumph to the President. Trump's hostile attitude towards environmental protection and immigration is extremely offensive to the Californians; In addition, his tax reform has harmed many wealthy people because certain depreciations, for example in the real estate sector, are no longer possible. Some MPs also stumbled upon their close ties to the president, for example Dana Rohrabacher from Orange County, who has to vacate his seat after 30 years. Many voters saw the midterm elections as a vote for the president, says Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California. This explains the extremely high voter turnout after fewer citizens than ever had voted in mid-term elections in 2014.

But Baldassare does not see the end of the Republicans in California in the latest election debacle. "In the past 40 years, the party has been down several times and has risen again." After the resignation of President Nixon, for example, the Grand Old Party had a hard time - or at the end of the 1990s after the controversial immigration law. Both times, charismatic leaders like Arnold Schwarzenegger recently launched a charm offensive in the direction of non-party voters and turned things around.

The party leadership apparently clings to this small hope. The increasing number of non-party members in California shows that many citizens are tired of the status quo and thus the democratic leadership in Sacramento, said the spokesman for the Republican Party in California. The masses of money that the Democratic campaign committee has pumped into constituencies, which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, excuse many for their own failures. "From a professional point of view, I admire the Democrats a little for how well they carried out their plan," admitted a longtime Republican advisor to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Such words are seldom heard, however, and it is better to attribute the defeat to the president. But for many Californians who advocated solid financial policies and a strong police force, the party is too far to the right on issues of immigration, environmental protection and gay rights, said Bill Whalen of the conservative think tank Hoover Institution to the newspaper "Mercury News ". It is important to offer them a political home.

No clear agenda

What the Democrats will use their new "super majority" for in Sacramento is still open. The ailing infrastructure and the enormous wealth gap are pressing problems; no state has more homeless people than California. The party is by no means united. There are deep rifts between the moderate and the political left, especially when it comes to social spending. The big question will be whether the new governor, Gavin Newsom, can keep his party under control. Newsom was previously Jerry Brown's deputy, who regularly refused to sign bills because they seemed too extreme to him.