More and more are candidates getting sucked into Trump’s immigration vortex — bad news if you’re a Republican
There was a time back in the day when I used to joke with Republican friends that I would happily support a constitutional amendment that would ban all presidential candidates from California if they would agree to ban all presidential candidates from Texas. The joke, of course, was that my home state, “the land of fruits and nuts” had recently produced two conservative Republican presidents, Nixon and Reagan, while Texas’s most recent contribution had been the man responsible for “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today.” In those days of post-Vietnam liberalism, that trade seemed like an excellent deal for the left.
It’s hard to imagine now, but from Harry Truman until Bill Clinton, California voted for a Democratic president just one time, for John F. Kennedy in 1960. With a few exceptions here and there, California also voted for GOP governors and senators more often than not. Even though the state had a longstanding reputation for social tolerance and cutting-edge cultural change, politically speaking it was a conservative state, as red as Texas is now.
There were obviously many factors that contributed to California’s evolution into the deep-blue state it is today, from demographics to the culture war. But none of those things come close to the damage that then-Governor Pete Wilson did to the longterm interest of the California Republican Party in 1994, when he scapegoated Latino immigrants as the cause of all the state’s woes.
Wilson was running for re-election, and as part of his campaign to distract from the economic failure of his first term and increase turnout among his base, he ran on a platform promising to crack down on undocumented workers, and enthusiastically supported the infamous Prop 187, which set up a statewide system designed to deny any kind of benefits to undocumented workers, including K-12 education and all forms of health care.
(He also supported a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, currently guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.)
Here’s the famous “they keep coming” ad the Wilson campaign ran that year: