Will the national GOP go the way of the California GOP?

Which brings us back to the previously mentioned consequences of political madness. In California, where the radicalization of the GOP has had the longest time to work its way into hearts and minds, the Republican party has reduced itself to rump status. Once solidly conservative congressional and state legislative districts in suburban communities along the Pacific Coast have (mostly) adopted various shades of blue while Republicans have largely receded to the inland districts in the Central Valley and other more rural areas of the state. One way to fix this problem would be to allow some ideological diversity and variation among Republican candidates to tailor messages that appeal to more moderate voters but this would result in a tissue reject among GOP primary voters.

The result is a Democratic stranglehold on state government that empowers progressives to define the terms of policy debates and set the parameters of what’s desirable and achievable, following every wind of progressive doctrine and only occasionally being overruled by citizen ballot initiatives. At the statewide level, only the most dire circumstances (think Gray Davis’s budget and electrical grid meltdowns) are enough to give the GOP a shot at the governorship, and then apparently only if they select an action-hero movie idol like Arnold Schwarzenegger who can figure out a way to combine populist star power with policy moderation. The absence of an effective Republican opposition in the state, which is mostly derivative of GOP radicalization, has made conservative policy nightmares come true. Meanwhile, the people of California are stuck with an increasingly distant, dismissive, and dysfunctional state government that seems unable to deal with pressing challenges like energy, water, housing, and homelessness and uninterested in restraining its own growth.

This downward spiral of political weakness and policy landslides should (but won’t) serve as a cautionary tale for a party that “lives in terror of its voters.” Unless Republicans find the nerve to call a halt, they risk seeing their party’s long-term political prospects devoured by xenophobia and conspiracism. That is a not-insignificant problem—for everyone.