As goes California, so goes the nation!

The Beach Boys, now, and, below, then. Below them, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, then and now. As goes California, so goes Canada?

As goes California, so goes the nation – the nation in the normal scheme of things being what the world knows as the Good Ole U.S.A.

For many practical reasons that all of us instinctively understand up here north of the 49th Parallel, and even in those parts of Canada south of the 49th, as goes California, so goes Canada too.

I refer, of course, to the steep downward spiral in which the Republican Party finds itself in that large and populous West Coast state – a place big enough to be a leading nation all on its own and home, arguably to the American image, if not the American soul.

In the Republicans’ troubles in California, it is said here, we see a reflection of the coming decline of Canada’s Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Since the days when we started reading about Philip Marlowe, the chivalrous shamus, patrolling the mean streets of the City of Angels for 35 dollars a day and expenses, we’ve understood that social trends good and evil often originate on the West Coast of the United States. From there, they make their way insidiously and frequently invidiously throughout the world.

The worst trends and the best are likely to stop off here in Canada – we are close, after all – well before they show up in the souk in Marrakech or even the Ginza in Tokyo.

And so it was soon after Ronald R. Reagan, former B movie actor and California governor with a shaky grip on reality, became president of the United States that the Republicanization of everything Canadian seemingly began. This unfortunate trend led in time to the reverse takeover by the Reform Party of the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which traced its roots all the way back to our first prime minister, the great patriot John A. Macdonald.

The Reform Party, which should have been called the American Party of Canada, was then led by the Chief Americanizer himself, the scratchy voiced Preston Manning. Its adherents loved everything American except America’s good ideas. If Sir John could see what’s become of his patriotic old party since the Invasion of the Party Snatchers in 2003, he’d be spinning in his grave so rapidly he’d be throwing up wisps of unholy smoke!

But in the seeds of the Republican Party’s great success, the self-interested enthusiasms of its ideological elite and its willingness to adopt any tactic, no matter how unethical, to win, were also the beginnings of its current troubles.

That is, it had the natural inclination of all ideological political parties toward seeking perfection and the resulting tendency to put quasi-theological notions ahead of ideas that actually work.

Even now we see these same diminishing ideological returns at work in the Post-Reform-Party Canadian Conservatives under Mr. Harper – a party now based more than loosely on the American Republican model.

With this in mind, understanding where California’s Republicans are now headed is useful to plotting the near-future trajectory of our own Conservatives – and where the California Repugs are going is straight south, metaphorically speaking, not to Mexico.

In an interesting feature last Sunday, the New York Times chronicled the startling decline of the Golden State’s Republicans, and delves into the causes of it.

The Times quotes U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the lower house of the U.S. Congress, who says of his state’s party: “We are at a lower point than we’ve ever been.” This notwithstanding the fact the state is in deep economic trouble (in part because California is only one Greece-like state in the American currency union) and Democrats are in power, and hence in a position to take the blame.

How low is that? “It’s no longer a statewide party,” says a veteran Republican consultant. “They are down to 30 percent, which makes it impossible to win a statewide election. You just can’t get enough crossover voters.” (Remember, this is a “two-party system,” so 30 per cent is not the magic number it can be in Canada with multiple parties.)

“They have alienated large swaths of voters,” he said. “They have become too doctrinaire on the social issues. It’s become a cult.”

If this doesn’t sound familiar to Canadians, it should. Because this is exactly the path to ideological reductio ad absurdum the Harper Conservatives and their provincial branches like Alberta’s Wildrose Party are heading down. Witness the recent attacks on Conservative moderates by party extremists over federal dollars being spent on a tourist trap for Chinese visitors honoring a Communist surgeon.

“The institution of the California Republican Party, I would argue, has effectively collapsed,” says another Republican consultant quoted by the Times. “The Republican Party in the state institutionally has become a small ideological club that is basically in the business of hunting out heretics. When you look at the population growth, the actual party is shrinking. It’s becoming more white. It’s becoming older.”

Hunting out heretics? Well, Canadian Conservatives are still good at collecting money from corporate donors – something that according to the Times’s sources, the California Republicans are getting worse at. But give them time…

The California conservatives, the Times’s sources say, are identified with the wrong side of a series of issues that put them well outside the evolving American mainstream – immigration, the environment, abortion and gay rights – not to mention the wrong side of the continent’s demographic trends.

Add to that list a sane level of gun control, and you have a portrait of the Harper Conservatives – back up microscopically in one recent poll, but still describing a long downward trajectory.

If democracy continues to function in Canada – and with Stephen Harper at the helm, that premise cannot be taken as assumed – the Conservative movement will continue to be left behind by Canadians, just as Californians are leaving the Republican Party in their wake.

The Beach Boys are back together. Jerry Brown is Governor again. And Stephen Harper is finished – just you watch!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

9 Comments on "As goes California, so goes the nation!"

  1. K. Larsen says:

    “Norway produces 40 per cent less petroleum than Canada and has one-seventh our population, but has saved more than $600 billion in oil revenue and counting.”

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/25/Norway-Oil-Wealth/

    The above quote says all you need to know about how important it is to get rid of the neo-cons ASAP. Harper is building the kind of authoritian state in Canada that we live with in Alberta.

  2. Canada Joe says:

    Are you for real? California is not the soul of America, never has been and never will be. But hey, hold on to that hope that our new NDP leader will last longer and not keel over like the last one.

  3. ronmac says:

    You just can’t blame Republicans for the current mess we are in.

    Remember it was the Democrats under Bill Clinton who repealed the Glass–Steagal Act in 1999. The Glass–Steagal Act was passed in 1933 as a direct response to the 1929 crash. It was designed to prevent banks from making risky investments and other crazy get-rich-quick schemes with the savings accounts of their depositors.

    Only about a dozen people in the U.S. congress voted against it, One was Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota who warned that the banks would become “too big to fail” and claimed that Congress would “look back in a decade and say we should not have done this.”

    They tried to do the same thing here. Both PM Paul Martin and then Opposition Leader Stephen Harper were pushing for similar reforms of our banking industry. But the head of the Bank of Canada David Dodge managed to derail these plans -thank God!

  4. david says:

    Ronmac makes an extremely good point, with which I am in complete agreement. Just to be clear, though, the point of this post was to argue that the U.S. Republicans and Harper Conservatives alike are becoming parties that are obsessed with ideological perfection and therefore resistant to common sense and practical solutions that benefit citizens. That, in turn, puts their continued political success at risk. Beyond that, the lesson in Ronmac’s point is that when parties we support get into power, our work as citizens does not end. We cannot assume they will not be infected by the same bad ideas as the parties of the hard right – just look at Tony Blair’s “New Labour,” Mr. Clinton’s Democrats or Bob Rae’s New Democrats – and so we need to watch them, lobby them and try to influence them as we would any other government.

  5. david says:

    To Canada Joe: Indeed I am for real. I didn’t say California was the soul of America, I said it was home to America’s image. In this superficial age, however, the American image and the American soul are pretty much the same thing. So where do YOU think America’s soul resides? New Jersey? Wyoming?

  6. Canada Joe says:

    Where ever true American live, which is all over the the USA. American can be what ever people want to to be, from the gay village of San Fran to the pews of Mississippi. That is what is so great about America, for better or worse. Unlike here where we have a party, lets call it the NDP, that wants everyone to be, live and think just like them. Of course the NDP will fail, just like their last leader, weak man that he was.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Everyone read again what K Larsen wrote. I have said the same about 3 times in this blog. What is wrong with this picture – Norway has 600 billion and we have had 15 billion since Peter Lockheed.Norway gets 85% of the revenue. What a bunch of socialists! We the free capitalists get 14% and trying to reduce it to attract more investment. Please hire the whole Norwegian govenment and send ours there for free as the Cirque du Soleil version ‘CANTDOIT’

  8. Bruce says:

    “And Stephen Harper is finished – just you watch!”

    I pray you’re David.

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