(originally published at Fox & Hounds Daily)
Is it me? Or do California Republicans need something to do?
The decision by the GOP and its backers to throw $400,000 more into a referendum of the redistricting commission’s state senate districts suggests that the California party has a serious case of boredom.
And since the party can’t drink or smoke weed or watch TV (at least not as a legal entity), the next best thing is to blow money on a referendum that can’t get the party anywhere.
The logic of the referendum is that the state senate districts look bad for Republicans – bad enough that Democrats might be able to achieve two-thirds in the chamber. So what’s the problem?
It’s far from clear that even a successful referendum will result in anything better. Judges would likely draft the replacement, and those who have studied the redistricting commission’s work say it’s quite possible that judicial maps would be even worse for the party.
So why take the chance? The only explanation I can figure after reading and talking to various Republicans is that they need something to do. There are no tax increase proposals to take hostage for the foreseeable future. Legislative races, even after redistricting, will be a snooze. And the party seems to have no interest in tackling electoral reform that will make it relevant again.
That last fact illustrates the central problem facing the California GOP. It’s not money. It’s not the center-left ideology of the state. And it’s not the party’s problem with Latinos. It’s this: the party doesn’t seem to really give a you-know-what about getting back into power.
Instead of pursuing electoral reforms that would allow it to compete everywhere in the state and fashioning a policy agenda that could be used in the event of such reform, the party does just enough to hold its current position as out of power – but with just enough leverage to make demands on constitutional and budget issues.
You could say many things about this approach – it reflects a loser’s mentality, a lack of imagination, etc. – but the worst thing about it is that it’s so boring. But right now, the California GOP may be boring itself to death.