Why is red California turning purple?

The Orange County Register | October 8, 2018

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was asked about the disaster that was the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, and the Massachusetts Democrat responded by saying, “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

I would amend this statement by adding that if the stakes are high enough and the defeat is spectacular enough, not only is failure an orphan — we might need Maury Povich to determine the paternity of this bastard child.

You can already see the blame game shaping up on the GOP side of the aisle, to explain away its anticipated losses in next month’s midterm elections.For the partisan Democratic take, I would recommend paying attention to any cable news talking head who is labeled a “Republican strategist” or “former Bush advisor.” These people will quickly and gleefully place the blame on President Trump, who currently has a 44 percent approval rating, according to the most recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll.

They may not be entirely wrong — and I would imagine that more than a handful of Republican members of Congress agree with them.Then, you have the plausible excuse that the party that occupies the White House always has a tough time in midterm elections. President Obama can attest to this fact, as the Democrats lost six Senate seats and 63 seats in the House of Representatives in 2010, and nine Senate seats and 13 house seats in 2014.

This is true. Since 1938 the party in control of the White House has gained seats in the House in only two midterm elections: 1998 and 2002.If the GOP gets obliterated this November, expect to hear the above explanations most frequently. But if the GOP loses control of the House by a narrow margin, you should cross the Golden Gate Bridge before you start pointing fingers, because the blame lies in California.

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 11, which created a Citizens Redistricting Commission — made up of five Republicans, five Democrats, and four commissioners who don’t belong to either party — to draw state legislative districts. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 20, which expanded the commission’s power to include congressional districts. Reform advocates felt that these changes were needed to ensure fair and competitive elections, as incumbent parties retained every single congressional and state legislative seat in the 2004 statewide election.

The theory was that if regular people — instead of political experts — drew the district lines, districts would consist of communities of similar interest and elections would become more competitive.

As it turns out, the commission produced exactly the opposite results, and California voters were left with precisely the type of partisan gerrymandering they wanted to avoid.

Democrats immediately figured out how to game the system to get their desired result.

As part of a national look at redistricting, the nonprofit journalism site ProPublica says that the commission “reconstructed the Democrats’ stealth success in California, drawing on internal memos, emails, interviews with participants and map analysis. What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old.”

Meanwhile, ProPublica found that “California’s Republicans were hardly a factor. The national GOP stayed largely on the sidelines, and individual Republicans had limited success influencing the commission.”

Where was then-California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring and then-House Republican Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy? Professor Doug Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute in Claremont, told ProPublica: “Republicans didn’t really do anything … They were late to the party, and essentially non-entities in the redistricting process.”

One former Republican member of the California delegation told me that when it became apparent that the new map was a Democratic gerrymander, they tried to build support among Golden State Republicans to challenge the work product.

However, McCarthy quickly shut it down. The ambitious congressman from Bakersfield was drawn into a safe Republican district, and convinced other Republicans in safe districts that the new lines were actually good for the GOP and their future electoral prospects. This move successfully blocked all efforts to have the commission’s Democratic-friendly tilt overturned.

After redistricting, Republicans immediately went from 19 to 14 seats and no Democratic-held district has been lost. To make matters worse, today, five currently held Republican congressional districts are listed as “toss ups” by the highly respected University of Virginia Center for Politics.

If Democrats win control of the House and Kevin McCarthy is denied the speakership he has long coveted, he can blame himself for putting Nancy Pelosi in the speaker’s chair.

John Phillips can be heard weekdays at 3 p.m. on “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips” on KABC/AM 790.

View Original Publication: The Orange County Register