This weekend, the California Republican Party’s biennial organizational convention will be held at Sacramento’s Hyatt Hotel, where some of the thousand-plus delegates will be treated to a room overlooking the State Capitol.
That’s where Republicans, holding no statewide offices, and stuck in the super-minority in both legislative aiambers, are pretty much irrelevant to the process of governing America’s largest state.
The convention promises to be a rather low-key affair – especially when compared with the last convention, which took place at the height of the GOP presidential primary, with all three remaining contenders at the time – Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Governor John Kasich – giving speeches with the press corps covering the events en masse.
Though I received a notice via email, I had to go back and remind myself who was headlining the big lunch and dinner banquets this weekend. On Friday night, my friend Hugh Hewitt, the syndicated talk radio host, will speak at dinner. Saturday’s lunch and dinner feature will two members of Congress – Devin Nunes, who serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence (there’s a pun to be made here, but we’ll just move on); and Darrell Issa, who spent six years as the high-profile, combative chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, keeping President Obama’s feet to the fire.
The party will elect a chair and statewide officers. To my knowledge, there is not one race that is contested – at least not in any way that I have heard about it. The former leader of both the Senate and Assembly Minority Caucuses, Jim Brulte, will be elected to a third two-year term – which may be a first in the party’s history, or at least a very rare event.
Brulte orchestrated a change in party bylaws allowing him to seek more time at the helm of the party. That said – there probably aren’t a lot of people looking to switch places with Chairman Brulte. While Republicans had a banner election in most of the rest of the country, including the historic election of President Trump, here in the Golden State the moribund state of the California GOP is so sad that writing it out tends to inspire pity rather than sorrow.
The GOP has been shut out of every statewide office in the state. In fact, when Democrat Barbara Boxer retired from the United States Senate last year after serving 24 years in office, there wasn’t even a Republican on the general election ballot. Despite significant efforts by Brulte and other party leaders, key legislative seats in both chambers flipped from Republican to Democrat, buoyed by Hillary Clinton’s 30+ point win in California, giving the public interest groups that dominate the state capitol a real shot of raising taxes without having to peel off a lone GOP vote.
Around the state, a great many non-partisan local offices that had been held by Republicans flipped to Democrat control. Topping it off were a slew of statewide ballot measure results that demonstrated the political heft of the left – including massive tax increases, a reversal of many of the state’s “tough on crime” criminal justice policies, and the defeat of a measure that would have required a vote of the people before the state could issue revenue bonds on massive projects. GOP voter registration continues to tumble, and soon “no party preference” voters may outnumber registered Republicans.
Under the category of “It actually could have been worse,” California Republicans did manage to stave off any more erosion in the size of their congressional delegation, which is already down to just 14 of 53 seats. It looked like Congressman Issa might lose his seat in an incredibly close battle, but as ballots were counted in the weeks following the election, Issa narrowly held onto this Orange and San Diego County seat, which had always been reliably red territory.
Interestingly, despite having just laid out an election recap that might appropriately be placed in the obituary section of a newspaper, the halls of the Hyatt Hotel may actually be filled with air of celebratory excitement. This is, of course, because of the election of President Trump, and the GOP holding onto both the U.S. Senate and House. In just over a month in office, the new Republican president has given Republicans all over the country, including those in this bluest of states, reason to be excited. The president’s cabinet appointments have for the most part been strong, conservative ones. The former chair of the national GOP is now the White House Chief of Staff. And the nomination of constitutional conservative Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat of former Justice Antonin Scalia is a huge win for those seeking to restrain a growing federal government.
Moreover, the meltdown on the left in reaction to Trump — some of the best examples of which have taken place in our own California Capitol — gives rise to much spirited enthusiasm from GOP activists, especially from a state where victories have been so elusive.
Yet Republican leaders in California continue to distance themselves from President Trump (even yesterday, most Republican legislators chose to abstain from yet another resolution blasting the president’s crackdown on illegal aliens). Ironically, it is possible that the only road back to relevance for the California Republican Party will depend on the success of the new Republican Commander-In-Chief.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. His columns appear regularly on this page. You can follow him on Twitter here.