What’s Wrong With GOP? Look in Mirror.

By Garry South

February 23, 2003

The Sacramento Bee

As they attend their biannual convention this weekend in Sacramento, California Republicans have little to celebrate and much to ponder.

They haven’t won a top of the ticket race in the Golden State since Pete Wilson’s 1994 reelection. They’ve failed to carry the state for their presidential nominee since 1988 — with George W. Bush getting blown out by 1.3 million votes in 2000, despite spending more than any GOP presidential candidate ever in California. Last fall, the GOP was shut out of all stateside offices for the first time since 1882.

I hesitate to proffer free advice to the supposedly loyal opposition party. But one of the biggest problems state Republicans must face is — well, their own public face. And to make a portrait of that public face, you can quite literally paint by numbers.

Prior to last November’s election, Republicans had 67 federal and state officeholders. That included the secretary of state, two members of the state Board of Equalization, 30 members of the state Assembly, 14 state senators and 30 members of the 52-member congressional delegation.

Of those 67 elected, there were zero African Americans, zero Asian American sand only four Latinos. The remaining 63 were Caucasians. That’s 94 percent white in a state where Anglos now constitute only 48 percent of the population.

Republicans actually gained a net of two additional state posts in November, picking up one Senate seat and two in the Assembly (while losing their only statewide office). Here are the stats on the new, improved diversity among this conglomeration of 69 federal and state officeholders (drum roll, please): still zero blacks, just two Asian Americans and a loss of one Latino for a total of only three Hispanics.

So, of the 69 Republicans now holding state of federal office in California, just five are minority and 64 Anglo — or 93 percent white. This is hardly a more colorful, representative public face.

In terms of gender, too, the GOP officeholder ranks are embarrassingly wanting. In California stateside elections, more than 50 percent of voters typically are women. But in 2001, there were just six GOP women holding federal or state office, four in the assembly and one in Congress.

In 2002, Republicans did pick up a net of one woman in the Assembly. But GOP females actually have lost ground in that chamber over the last 10 years. In 1992, there were seven republican Assembly women. Now, there are just five, versus 20 Democratic women.

Despite gaining one senate seat as well, the GOP Senate caucus still gives meaning to the term “old boys’ network”: It consists of 15 white males. When former Sen. Cathie Wright was term-limited out in 2000, it was the first time since 1984 there were no Republican women in the California Senate. As recently as 1993, there were two. That’s progress, boys.

The 20-member GOP congressional delegation has one woman — Mary Bono, who took her late husband’s seat — and 19 white males. By contrast, there are 19 Democratic women alone from California in Congress, including four blacks and five Latinas (two of them the first ever congressional sister act, Loretta and Linda Sanchez). Not to mention, of course, the first female minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, plus the first two women U.S. senators ever to represent one state simultaneously.

And, oh yeah, the California Republican Party also is on its fourth straight white male chairman. No matter how their current nasty leadership fight is decided this weekend, Republicans will be proud owners of their fifth straight white male chair. Of the two biggest cities governed by Republicans, Fresno and San Diego, both mayors are white males.

Now lest anyone accuse me of reverse racism, let me point out I am about as white as you can get — mostly Scottish and English, with a little French Canadian thrown in. Anybody who’s ever seen my face would know I have nothing against white males.

But this is California, the most diverse place on the planet. The first minority-majority state, where Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing populations. One way voters gauge whether a political party relates to them and their concerns is to ask: does this party have anyone who looks like me?

If California Republicans really want to see one of the major culprits behind their slow slide into uncompetitiveness, all they need do is look in the mirror (yeah, while you’re shaving, guys). Most surely they won’t see the face of California staring back at them.