The path to Californias future

The Bush administration needs California to win the 2004 presidential elections. The grand prize will be its large number of Electoral College votes in the winner-take-all elections – California has the most electoral votes in the nation. In the last presidential elections California voters overwhelmingly voted for Al Gore. Bush political advisor Karl Rove has said that he believes California can be won for Bush this time.

In order for Bush to win California two things must take place.

First, the Republicans, with the assistance of the Bush administration, must make inroads into the current Democratic-controlled state legislature.

Second, the Republicans need to increase the Latino voter turnout in their favor and convert Latino voters to the Republican Party.

The Republicans and the Bush administration have already started to implement the Rove/Bush take-back-California plan.

The Bush people realize that both houses of the California legislature are controlled by the Democrats. In addition, the Democrats have a structural advantage in the top-of-the-ticket election contests. Every statewide position is held by a Democrat.

To accomplish the takeback of California the Republicans have sponsored a recall election against the twice elected and current governor, Gray Davis.

Republican Rep. Darrel Issa spent $2.96 million to get the recall on the ballot for an Oct. 7 special election that will cost taxpayers $60 million.

The recall effort has given the Republicans the opportunity to attack the Democrats in the state legislature as solely responsible for the budget crisis over the $38 billion state deficit. The Republicans are now using a pro-corporate message to attack Democrats as anti-business. For this reason they have blamed the Democrats for the state’s high unemployment, high taxes and what they call “out of control” worker benefits, based on the Democrats’ support for pro-labor issues such as prevailing wage, worker compensation, paid family leave, better health and safety rules and daily overtime.

Not surprisingly, nowhere in the Republican message is mention made of the Bush administration’s anti-worker economic policies, the effect of foreign trade policies such as NAFTA or the Enron/Bush administration scandal, and of course there is no mention of the war with Iraq, all of which have contributed to the budget crisis.

With the recall just weeks away, right-wing candidates such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now running as a “moderate,” and Tom McClintock, a staunchly conservative Republican state senator, have qualified for the ballot, as well as literally dozens of other candidates. The top Republican candidates march in line with the Bush administration, and their message is clear: Now is the time to take back California.

The only Democratic candidate will be Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. His candidacy may secure the Latino vote for the Democrats. This will present a problem for the Republicans in their efforts to increase Latino participation in favor of their party. In addition, another problem for the Republicans will be California labor. The California State AFL-CIO held a special convention this week to map strategy for blocking a Republican takeover of the state. This will have a major impact on the recall election.

The Republicans need to gain more votes from Latinos if they are to win California. In the last presidential elections they received about 27 percent of the Latino vote in California.

Over the past decade Latinos have had a net increase of about 1.1 million voters in California. By contrast, there has been a net decline of about 100,000 white non-Hispanic voters in the state, according to a Field Institute report.

Democrats outnumber Republicans among Latino voters in the state 3-to-1. Sixty percent of registered Latinos are registered as Democrats, 22 percent are registered as Republicans, and about 18 percent are nonpartisan or registered with another party.

Overall, there are approximately four million Latinos living in Los Angeles County, constituting over 40 percent of the total California Latino population and 12.5 percent of the nation’s Latino populace. There is no secret why the Republicans and the Bush administration are actively courting the Latino voters. The Bush people are aware of this tremendous growth and change in Southern California. Latino outreach and conversion is part of the take-back-California plan by the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

Beating back the right-wing anti-worker attack on California will take an all peoples’ front with labor, community and other progressives working to repel this attack with strength, coordination and resolve. The direction of the all peoples’ front will determine not just the outcome of the recall election, but the path of California’s future.

David Trujillo is a union organizer in Los Angeles. He can be reached at pww@pww.org