Thad Kousser discusses California Politics

Thad Kousser discusses California Politics

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    • 00:10

      THAD KOUSSER: So, we've only got 15 minutes.I'm not going to be able to teach you everythingabout California politics, but what I want to do todayis to start with a puzzle.A puzzle about one of our recent elections.And, in answering the story of that puzzle,I'm going to tell you a bit about howCalifornia has changed over the last generation.And then I want to focus in on another story that illustrates

    • 00:30

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: how that change has occured demographically,and how California's demographic changes have reverberatedthrough its politics.I'm going to do that by telling a story of a proposition.Proposition 187, which is an example of direct democracy.This right that Californians haveto make laws directly, by themselves, by a public vote,and leapfrog around our elected representatives in Sacramento.

    • 00:54

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: So let's start with a puzzle that goes backto an early map of California.So this map that you see is the mapthat gave California its name.It's a map of the island of California.This is actually one of the most famous mistakesin the history of cartography.California is not really an island,we are actually attached to the rest

    • 01:14

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: are continental United States.But when the first explorers were sailing upwhat's now known as the Sea of Cortez,they thought that it just kept goingall the way through to Canada.And that California was not a part of the rest of the nation.That's the mistake that gave us our name.We're named after this mythical island of the California's, andwe've never corrected that mistake,

    • 01:35

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: because we still think of ourselves, in California,as an island.Right?This is a place where the normal laws of society and politicsdon't often apply.And trends that wash across the rest of the country,can often stop at California's border.That was never more true than in the 2010 elections.

    • 01:56

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: This was an election year in the United States, 2010,where the big trend all across the countrywas this big red tidal wave.Republicans retook Congress, took many seats in the Senate.And everywhere throughout the country,the GOP was in ascendancy, the Democrats were falling.But in California, none of that happened.

    • 02:17

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: Democrats did not lose a single seat.States congressional delegation, and the state assembly,and the state Senate, which are the twohouses that make up our state legislature, in Sacramento.And California saw two general election candidates.A US Senator, and the Governor were Democrats whowon those races by landslides.

    • 02:38

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: By double-digit margins.So what is it?What explains why, in the words of a political consultant whospent $160 million of former eBayCEO Meg Whitman's money, the Republican candidateto lose in that election by double digits.Her political consultant, when explainingwhy you wasted all our money, said,

    • 02:58

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: there was this red tide that swept across the country,and then a blue rip tide that started at the Californiaborder.So why did California have that blue rip tide?Why were we a political island in 2010?One explanation is that maybe California's alwaysbeen an island.We've always been wacky.

    • 03:18

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: We've always zigged, when the rest of the country zagged,politically.If you go back to 1994, the last timethere was a big Republican wave across the country,that wasn't true at all.California had the same Republican wave.Republicans took a lot of seats in California'scongressional delegation, and even retookone of those houses of California's state legislature,

    • 03:39

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: the state Assembly.So California moved along with the rest of the nation in 1994.But California has changed dramaticallybetween 1994 and 2010.And that story of change is a storythat starts with a policy shift, and it'sechoed with economic and demographic changes,

    • 03:60

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: and finally those lead to political changes.So that policy shift was the end of the Cold War.The United States had spend all this time and moneybuilding up its arms to face off against the Soviet Union,and a lot of those arms were built in California.Southern California.From the South Bay of Los Angeles, through Orange County,through San Diego, that's where we

    • 04:21

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: built the rockets, the planes, the warships, that were thereon task, and ready to fight the Cold War.And also this defense industry employed hundreds of thousandsof Californians, both the white collar engineers,and blue collar manufacturing workers whohad good well paying jobs that they knew theyowed to the Republican party.

    • 04:42

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: Because the Republican party, Ronald Reagan,that was the party of the Cold War.They voted staunchly Republican.And those areas were Orange County,it was a Republican stronghold.This is where Richard Nixon came from.LA County was evenly divided political territory.And San Diego also generally voted Republican.But then we won the Cold War, and all those people

    • 05:04

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: lost their jobs.We didn't need to build the planes and the bombs anymore,so they lost their jobs.And where did they go?Well many left the state.They then went to Las Vegas.They moved to the US South.So California lost a lot of Republican voters overall.And then the ones that did stay in California, oftenmoved East.

    • 05:24

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: They moved to California's Central Valley.They moved to what's called the Inland Empire, two counties:San Bernardino and Riverside, that have 3 million people.It's the eastern part of Southern California.And so this shifted the red strength in Californiafrom the coastal areas, to the eastern parts of the state.

    • 05:46

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: And these Republican voters who leftwere replaced by new immigrants.Latino and Asian American immigrants, who generally,when they came to the United States,and became citizens, and registered to vote,they generally voted for the Democratic party.So California overall loses Republicans,and gains democratic immigrants.And also that the political axis shifts in California.

    • 06:10

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: We used to be a North-South state.You can tell from these maps of congressional districts.The light districts are the Democratic onesand the darker districts are the ones held by Republicans.You can see that a generation ago, Californiawas divided along North-South lines,with Republicans controlling muchof the territory in Southern California, otherthan the inner-city parts of Los Angeles,

    • 06:32

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: and Democrats being very strong all over the Bay Area.That has shifted, by the time you get to present day,into an East-West state, with Democrats controllingalmost every piece of coastal political territoryin California, and Republicans controllingall of those eastern mountain areas.

    • 06:52

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: The Central Valley, and those areaslike the Inland Empire where so many Republican voters moved toafter the end of the Cold War.So is this just a political divide?Well the next set of map shows that this political divideis also echoed by a cultural divide.So in these maps, the darker shaded countiesare the ones with a the stronger evangelical share.

    • 07:15

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: So these are the Christians, who are strongly politicallyand religiously conservative.And that's often where the strength of Republican partymovements, whether that's the movementto define marriage as between a man and woman,or the right to life anti-abortion restrictionmovements.Those churches are now solidly in the Central and Eastern

    • 07:38

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: parts of California, whereas the coastal area doesn't havenearly as many evangelicals.So not only are Democrats living in one area the state,and Republicans living in another area of the state.But the two parties are going to different churches.And that creates a social divide thathas made California's political dividethe most polarizing political chasm.

    • 07:60

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: The distance between the average Democratand the average Republican on the ideological spectrumis bigger, in many studies, in California,than it is in any other state in the nation.Now how do all these demographic trendsinteract with California's unique political institutions?California, for more than 100 years,

    • 08:20

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: has had something called direct democracy.And this is the right of voters to first,by circulating a petition, then getting enough signatureson that petition to qualify for the ballot,they can make the laws directly, as long as a majority of votersagree to back one of these propositions that'son the ballot.And these pass whether the legislature, or the Governor,

    • 08:42

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: like it or not.But often political actors, those legislators,those people running for governor,play a big role in direct democracy campaigns.And that was true in 1994, when oneof California's most famous propositionsappeared on the ballot.This was Proposition number 187.It was known by its authors as the Save Our State initiative.

    • 09:03

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: And what this initiative did was itsaid that the people who are here illegally,people without citizenship documentation,couldn't receive any social services.Couldn't go to school, couldn't receive any supportfrom the State.And the idea was, this would stop Californiafrom becoming a magnet for illegal immigration,and also save the state money.

    • 09:25

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: It was an idea that appealed to a lot of voters at the timewhen, with a recession, and with a cash strapped stategovernment, people said we just couldn't affordto be a place where immigrants aregoing to receive free educations and free services.That was the majority sentiment in 1994.And the governor of California at the time, a man

    • 09:46

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: named Pete Wilson, he recognized that therewas this popular groundswell of anti-immigrant sentiment,and support for this initiative.And so when his campaign was flagging,when he was way behind in the polls,he decided to attach himself to this initiative.He endorsed this initiative, he ran TV ads, famous ads,that showed immigrants running across the freeway,

    • 10:07

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: and it said "They just keep coming."And these were ads that were very alienating to Latinoswho were here legally, but also illegally,including many Latino voters who werelegal citizens of the United States,were strongly opposed to this initiative.But the majority of Californians voted for it.

    • 10:29

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: It passed by a strong majority, and it evenattracted the support about a third of Democrats,and about half of them crossed overto vote for Pete Wilson, the Republican candidate,against his Democratic opponents.So in the short term, this initiativewas a big win for the side that wanted to restrict immigrationin California, and across the nation.

    • 10:51

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: In the long term, though, it reallycrippled the Republican party for at least a generation.And here's why.First it had no policy impact.The federal courts looked at this initiative and said,you know what?This is immigration policy.Immigration.Who should live in the United States?That a Federal issue, and the States can't step into it.

    • 11:11

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: So Federal courts threw out just about every effective portionof Proposition 187.It had no policy impact.It had a short-term political gain for Republicans,but it became a long-term loser, because those Latino voters,who were so alienated by this proposition,so staunchly opposed to it, grew and grew

    • 11:34

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: as a proportion of the electorate,because their numbers we're growing so much in California,because of this immigration.So if you look at California's electorate,and you see these two pie charts that show youwhat California's population looked like,and California's electorate looked like around 2000.What we see was about a third of Latinos, by that time,

    • 11:54

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: Latinos were a voting block, about 11%of the electorate, but still not a huge voting block.By the time you get to 2010, Latinos have grown even morein the population.And in fact, in 2014 actually, the Latino populationof California overtook the white population.So Latinos are now the largest group, the biggest plurality,

    • 12:15

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: of any racial and ethnic group in California.But by 2010, they had become an even larger partof the population, and now 20% of the electorate in 2010.So all of that anti-immigrant politics whichhad helped Republican candidates in 1994,in which the Republican candidate for governorhad taken strong anti-immigrant steps

    • 12:38

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: during the primary campaign, when we gotto a general election between a Democrat who is pro-immigrant,and sided with a lot of Latinos on this issue,and a Republican who was seen as anti-immigrant, the Republicanslost badly in that election.Because California's new Latino populationwas now one in every five voters.

    • 12:59

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: What happened, and what was good politics in 1994,was suddenly terrible politics in 2000.And that's why, as the rest of the countrybecame more and more Republican, redder and redderin 2010, California's new population,and especially it's new electric, lead it to zag,when the rest the country zigged.

    • 13:20

      THAD KOUSSER [continued]: Right now, California is a clearly blue state,where Republicans probably won't even challengefor the presidential race.But it's also a state that's evolving,where the parties are trying to take new positions.Where the Republican party is trying to reinvent itself,to keep up with this ever-changing electoratein the mega state of California.

Thad Kousser discusses California Politics

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Professor Thad Kousser examines the factors that changed California from a predominantly Republican state to a heavily Democratic state. After the Cold War, population and demographic distribution in the state shifted. But it was the anti-immigrant ballot measure endorsed by Republican Pete Wilson that swung the Latino voting bloc into the Democratic camp.

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Thad Kousser discusses California Politics

Professor Thad Kousser examines the factors that changed California from a predominantly Republican state to a heavily Democratic state. After the Cold War, population and demographic distribution in the state shifted. But it was the anti-immigrant ballot measure endorsed by Republican Pete Wilson that swung the Latino voting bloc into the Democratic camp.

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