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State, national columnists

Democratic era begins in California

By From page A11 | January 02, 2013

When California’s political historians look back on 2012, they might well conclude that it was one of those years that mark the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Just as we talk about the events before and after the advent of the full-time, professional Legislature in 1966, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, or the adoption of legislative term limits in 1990, so 2012 could mark the last gasp of the California Republican Party as a political factor, and the solidification of Democratic Party dominance of the state.

Democrats have said for years that if they could just rid themselves of Republican interference in the Legislature, they could restore California’s economic and cultural luster.

They achieved that status this year, holding every statewide office, gaining two-thirds supermajorities in the Legislature and seeing the GOP reduced to a shell of its once-potent self.

Republicans are flat broke while Democratic constituencies, especially public employee unions, demonstrated anew this year that they can raise and spend tens of millions of dollars on campaigns. Much of that money was spent to preserve unions’ fundraising prowess and pass a tax increase on the wealthy that had long been their goal.

With elections for the governorship and other state offices, as well as for legislative and congressional seats, looming in 2014, Republicans could see their thin legislative and congressional ranks decline even more, and they have absolutely no viable statewide candidates on the horizon. Moreover, there’s much internal discord in the state GOP over what to do about its lowly status.

Simply put, the Democrats now own California lock, stock and barrel. Whatever occurs in the political realm in 2013 and beyond – perhaps decades beyond – will be on them, and the major political conflicts will no longer be Democrat vs. Republican but Democrat vs. Democrat.

As we have seen in localities with one-party dominance – San Francisco by Democrats, or Orange County by Republicans – hegemony often engenders internal conflict. Dominant parties tend to fragment into factions, which evolve into quasi-parties.

Fragmentation may occur along ethnic lines or may reflect personal rivalries or minute shades of ideology – the San Francisco Board of Supervisors being a good example of the latter.

All of them are liberal Democrats by outside standards, but in San Francisco, they divide into blocs based on how far to the left they have positioned themselves.

Just weeks after the election in which Democrats achieved their long-sought supermajorities, the Legislature is already beginning to display similar tendencies, and legislative leaders may find it difficult to wield the power they hold on paper.

Whatever happens, this new era will be fascinating to watch.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him as [email protected]

Dan Walters


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • LeslieJanuary 02, 2013 - 12:41 pm

    The Democratic controlled legislature will be the death of California. With no control over spending, and no stopping far left ideas being pushed through at warped speed, California is doomed. Any civilized society needs checks and balances. And now there are none in California. Sad.

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  • Mike kirchubelJanuary 02, 2013 - 2:43 pm

    What is sad is the hyped up fear of democrats by right wing media. Do you also fear the states run by republicans? If Not, why?

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  • RichJanuary 02, 2013 - 1:57 pm

    My goodness, what is Dan thinking? The era of Democrats has ''just begun''? Democrats along with public employee thug unions have been running, ruining and marginalizing California for decades. Now the results show--California just wedged out Mississippi at bottom place for the lowest per capita income according to the US Census Bureau. California has the second highest unemployment rate too. Your once ''Golden'' State is now the ''Brown'' State of insolvency and socialist equal distribution of misery, failure and corruption. But all the State and Local Government employees love it and thats where the friction and argument is. How little does a senior staff reporter make at the newspaper versus how much a unionized school janitor make? I dont understand why you guys defend the government so much! You should be after them and their excesses every darned day!

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  • Danny BuntinJanuary 02, 2013 - 5:37 pm

    You still getting your retirement from the government Rich? Lets cut into your paycheck/retirement/healthcare, and see how you feel. You are receiving more govt funds then most people.

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  • Rich GiddensJanuary 02, 2013 - 9:20 pm

    Danny, this article is about the State of California. The Miliary is part of the Federal Government although the State does has some authority in Defense matters with it's National Guard. I was active duty though and not a member of your State Government. Only Congress can "cut into my retirement and healthcare benefits", not the State of California. Your State is a mess Danny. I don't think your Air Force dad would have approved of what has happened either.

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  • Mike kirchubelJanuary 03, 2013 - 11:13 pm

    I realize that truth And facts mean nothing to you, Rich, in your persuit of making a point, but Cailfornia is ranked 11th highest income per capita state.

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