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California’s Leftists: Legislature’s Progressives Misreading State’s Voters

One reason for the downfall of politicians and political parties can often be summed up in one word: hubris. It is this susceptibility to arrogance that is partly responsible for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨√Ę‚??¬Ęs drop in the polls and it might turn and bite the Democrats in the hind quarters in 2006.

Schwarzenegger ran into trouble with a constituency he has to rely on, Democrats and independents, when they perceived that the way he threw his weight around in partisan attacks on his opponents had crossed the line from self-confidence to bullying. But state Democrats, emboldened if not rendered tipsy by the governor’s troubles, might be making a mistake in thinking they can now move California further to the left than most voters want to go.

One example is the insistence of Democrats on continuing to push for same-sex marriage. Although 61 per cent of Californians voted in 2000 that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman, Assembly and Senate committees recently rejected constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage.

Then, a bill that would have legalized such marriage, introduced by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, fell only four votes short of passing, making it the closest that same-sex marriage advocates have come to changing state law. And if the comments of Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, are any indication, they aren’t giving up. “This is about America, the place where no civil rights movement has ever failed,” she said, adding, “I don’t think this is going to fail either.”

One California Democrat who recognizes the danger the issue poses for the party is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein who has said, “The whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon, and people aren’t ready for it.”

Democrats also part company with most state residents by supporting driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, with a poll showing that Schwarzenegger’s veto of such a measure was backed by 63% of voters. To most people, the key word in the phrase “illegal immigrants” is “illegal,” and mainstream Californians do not believe that law-breakers should be rewarded. But they’re given the back of the hand by such driver’s license advocates as Senator Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who says, “So it’s not popular. That’s OK.”

But these are issues that make many moderates and some Democrats cringe, and the party won’t think it’s OK if it costs them at the polls in 2006. If Schwarzenegger is able to use his formidable communications skills to successfully portray the Democrats as the party of gay marriage and illegal immigrants, and generally just too liberal to control both the legislative and executive branches of government, they could suffer some pain at the polls.

Adding to their potential perception problem is the far left, some would say radical, bent of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. With Senate leader Don Perata, D-East Bay, keeping a low profile because of ongoing legal problems, Nunez is increasingly in the spotlight as the party’s main spokesman.

Nunez told the L.A. Times that after graduating from upscale Pitzer College in Claremont he was “ready to join the Sandinistas,” a reference to the former communist government of Nicaragua. He was also quoted as saying that, “Latino workers are the modern-day slaves of Southern California” and, sarcastically criticizing one of Schwarzenegger’s government reform proposals, said, “Oh we’re in a hurry, we’re anxious to negotiate with the governor on how you are going to screw all of our constituents.”

The more he talks, and the more voters pay attention to what he’s saying, Nunez might end up accomplishing for the GOP in California what Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is doing for Republicans nationally.

A state where George W. Bush, supposedly one of the most hated presidents in recent times, got 44% of the vote in 2004 — with many of those votes based on values — is not as liberal as Democrats may think. If they continue listing too far to port, they may find themselves starring in a scenario that, were it a movie, might be called “A Left Turn Too Far.”

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Written By

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and CaliforniaRepublic.org.

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