In an opinion piece by notable conservative columnist George Will, this year’s California Senate race is highlighted as a type of a test as to whether or not the state is “irredeemably blue.” In other words, should California choose to reelect three-term incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer, an unambiguous member of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, in a year where both the state and country are facing some of the worst financial crises in generations, then there will likely be little to no hope for Republicans in regaining their power or prominence in the state any time soon.
Republican Carly Fiorina has already proven to be the toughest opponent that Senator Boxer has had to face in her nearly three decades of running for elective office in California. As Will points out, most of Boxer’s past elections have been easy cruises to victory based on the political climate of the times, not necessarily because of anything she has accomplished as a lawmaker.
Boxer spent the better part of the 1980’s representing Sonoma and Marin Counties in the House of Representatives. Even though California was still electing Republicans to the Senate and giving its substantial electoral votes to Republican candidates for president back then, Boxer was able to keep her power, much like her colleague Nancy Pelosi, by benefiting from the ever-liberal politics of the Bay Area communities which she represented.
Boxer initially won her Senate seat in 1992, the so-called “year of the woman,” when California also voted for Bill Clinton. She was able to benefit from the prosperous economy that the state enjoyed throughout the latter part of Governor Pete Wilson’s administration in the late 1990’s (when Boxer was reelected in 1998) and the strong disdain Californians had for the administration of President George W. Bush, as he lost the state by double digits in 2004 (when Boxer was reelected again).
Now, Senator Boxer has more difficult obstacles to overcome if she really wants that fourth Senate term.
She has an ailing national economy, the recovery of which has been put in jeopardy by the massive spending of her and her fellow Democrats in Washington over the past couple years.
She is representing a fiscally broken state where the unemployment rate continues to remain on the rise in many counties. While that is primarily an issue that will affect the winner of this year’s race for governor, Boxer nonetheless has to deal with the fact that she has done little to bring jobs or create the conditions needed to make jobs in her beloved California.
The final obstacle she must face is her own Senate voting record – which (unsurprisingly) is reliably liberal. She has been in favor of nearly every major vote championed by the left of her party throughout the past two decades. Although she may have somewhat of a national reputation for being an uncompromising member of the left, she has failed to show much (if any) independent leadership during her tenure. Sure, she has taken pleasure with her committee assignments, where she got to deride President Bush’s appointees like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and scold high-ranking members of the military for calling her “ma’am,” instead of “Senator.”
But where has such behavior benefited her constituents?
Bottom line: if this isn’t the year she loses, it’s hard to fathom another year where she does. The political winds from which, to her own fortune, she has benefited from for many years have begun to shift in another direction. For possibly the first time, she is facing a formidable opponent who is relentlessly remaining on the offense. By most accounts, the time for Republicans is now.
If Republicans can pull an upset in California (as they did in Massachusetts earlier this year), the state’s electoral votes may even be in play for the first time in nearly a generation. Will mentions this significant point as well, predicting that a 2010 defeat for the Democrats in California could force them to devote some of their “precious resources” to keeping the state’s electoral votes in their party’s hands in 2012, when President Obama (or the Democratic nominee) runs for president.
However, if Boxer manages to, once again, squeak by the electorate, the California Republicans may be more of a somber crowd than their counterparts around the country on Election Night. While the GOP may manage to win state offices, their clout in Washington will remain seemingly non-existent.
California Republicans, as well as Independents and Democrats alike who are fed up with Boxer, simply need to turn out to vote in November. A victory for the GOP will prompt both national parties to take our state more seriously – Republicans, because they know they can win elections in California and Democrats, because they know their party’s California voters are not merely a rubber stamp in approving their candidates for federal offices.
Will is right to view this race through the prism of being a test of the GOP’s electoral vitality in California in the near future. Hopefully it will be an exam that they pass with flying colors.