With no fewer than three lead articles on the California election in the next issue of the Weekly Standard, the neoconservative spin on the election’s meaning is pretty much complete.
As usual, the neocons manage to miss (or mask) the real meaning,misdirect conservatives and Republicans who pay attention to them and desperately try to clamber on board what geniuses like me have been telling them for years.
The most interesting of the articles is one that ridicules the belief that California’s 1994 ballot measure, Proposition 187, harmed Republicans.
Prop 187, which terminated welfare benefits for illegal aliens, passed by some 60 percent of the popular vote but was later killed by the courts.
In the Standard, columnist Debra J. Saunders announces, “It is an article of faith among political journalists that Proposition 187 … was poison to the Republican Party.” And she’s right. [Pete Wilson’s Vindication, October 20, 2003]
She’s also right that the article of faith is wrong, as I have argued ever since the days nine years ago when the measure was on the ballot.
Since California victor Arnold Schwarzenegger backed Prop 187 at the time and still won this month’s election, it could not have been very poisonous.
But what’s interesting is that among the political journalists who were wrong about Prop 187—then and, until this week, now—were the neoconservatives for whom Miss Saunders is writing.
The most prominent neocons who denounced Prop 187 as poison were Bill Bennett and Jack Kemp, who held a news conference just before the vote to call on voters to reject it. In the Nov. 3, 1994 issue of Roll Call, columnist Morton Kondracke, who also opposed the measure and prematurely celebrated its defeat, told us why the two did what they did.
“Credit for Prop 187’s swift decline,” wrote Mr. Kondracke, “goes mainly to defeated California Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz, who convinced influential national conservatives Bill Kristol, Jack Kemp, and Bill Bennett to come out against it…. Kristol then convinced Bennett at a lunch in New York to reverse his position on 187, and Kemp joined him in leading a charge against it.”
If Mr. Kristol after nine years of delusion has at last grasped what was obvious to me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Gov. Pete Wilson, presidential candidate and commentator Pat Buchanan and 60 percent of California voters, I’m happy to hear it, but don’t tell me the Republican Party should pay much attention to him and his magazine in the future.
Another major article spinning the California results is one published a week later by Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes, who mainly wants to see the election as proof a Republican majority has finally emerged. [The (Finally) Emerging Republican Majority, October 27, 2003, by Fred Barnes]
Maybe so, but in reaching that conclusion (from a rather unique election), he manages to make the same blunder neocons made about George W. Bush.
With Mr. Bush, who won re-election as governor of Texas in 1998 with about 39 percent of the Hispanic vote in his state (not “half,” as Mr. Barnes claims), the neocons prophesied he would carry a “majority”of Hispanics nationally in 2000.
In fact, he won only 31 percent in that year.
Now, with Mr. Schwarzenegger having won almost the same percent of Hispanic voters in California that Mr. Bush did in Texas in 1998, Mr. Barnes leaps to the conclusion that Hispanic voters are “in play” and can be won by the GOP.
Together with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock, Mr. Schwarzenegger won about 41 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante won 52 percent, considerably less than the Democrats usually get.
But if you add Mr. McClintock’s share to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s, it’s only fair to add the portion of the Hispanic vote won by Peter Camejo of the state’s Green Party—3-5 percent—to Mr. Bustamante’s share.
That means something like 55 to 58 percent of California Hispanics did not vote Republican, so it’s just a bit of a stretch to claim the returns show they are “in play.”
In fact, California Hispanics remain solidly Democratic and liberal.
The neocons’ strategy in making up their political analysis as they go along is not only to paint themselves as winners but also to smother any talk of serious immigration control.