Kevin McCarthy has some explanations to do.
As the Republican from California prepares to lead the Republican Party of the House of Representatives in the minority, there is an inevitable irony that Republicans in his state received the biggest beating in the election.
In one of the last races of the partial examinations of 2018, the republican representative of California, David Valadao, lost the re-election before the democrat T.J. Cox this week, becoming the 40th Republican to see his seat in this election cycle, and seven of those were in California.
It was an act of repose, and McCarthy played a pivotal role. For the past two years, he cultivated a close relationship with President Donald Trump. As a majority leader in the House of Representatives, McCarthy encouraged even the most vulnerable Republicans in California to keep up with the party.
California Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Obamacare's repeal bill that would have devastated the state's health care system and the Republican Party tax law that hurts taxpayers in states like California. McCarthy allowed Trump's hard-line immigration agenda to seize the party, even as California Republicans watched the diversification of their districts.
In May, I wrote that McCarthy's loyalty to the Trump and Trump agenda would probably come between him and the speaker. At the time, Kurt Bardella, a former Republican Congress aide and Breitbart News employee who now identifies himself as a Democrat, made a prediction:
"The next speaker could be from California, but it will not be Kevin McCarthy," Bardella told me.
Seven months later, McCarthy is the face of a crushing defeat. Democrat Nancy Pelosi is ready for the speaker, and he is the leader of the minority.
McCarthy was optimistic about the possibilities of the Republicans in the partial exams. He was wrong.
The signs of a blue wave that crashes in California came early, when representatives Darrell Issa and Ed Royce, Republicans in the districts of Hillary Clinton won, announced their withdrawals. But McCarthy refused to acknowledge it.
"You know, when I see retirement, I look at the retirements of the Republicans who retired in the seats that Hillary Clinton had and the Democrats who retired in the seats that Donald Trump had. Do you know what that number is? Five to four, "McCarthy said in an interview with Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz at a Milken Institute event in May, predicting that House Republicans will keep the majority." We will pick up two seats in Minnesota. " .
The Republicans ended up changing two seats in Minnesota, but the Democrats did too. The large number of Republicans who retired in 2018 were not just spots on the radar; They opened doors for Democrats across the country, including California, where Democrats Mike Levin and Gil Cisneros were able to remove Issa and Royce's seats in the southern suburbs of California.
It did not stop there. Only seven of the 14 Republicans in the California congressional delegation will return to the House in January. The Democrats invested the districts that Trump won, campaigning for health care, immigration and against Republican taxes.
McCarthy has had to change his tone.
"There is no doubt that there is work to be done after these election results and we intend to grow," McCarthy said in a statement.
McCarthy is a man of Trump. Trump's agenda is really bad for California.
Three policy fights: medical care, tax reform and immigration, have defined the first two years in Trump's position. McCarthy has defended the party's position in all of them and has worked to keep his Republican colleagues from California online.
The 14 Republicans in California voted in favor of Obamacare's repeal bill, a proposal that would have cut $ 880 billion of Medicaid, a program that covers 13.4 million Californians in the nation's largest Medicaid program. To put that in context, 50 percent of Republican Representative David Valadao's constituents depend on the program, in a Central Valley district that focuses on the San Joaquin Valley and more than 70 percent of Hispanics. Valadao lost his re-election.
All but two, Issa and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), voted in favor of the tax law of the Republican Party. The law limits the deduction of state and local income and assets by $ 10,000 and reduces the mortgage interest deduction for newly issued loans from $ 1 million to $ 750,000.
According to the Center for Tax Policies, for example, in the affluent Orange County suburban district of Rep. Mimi Walters that surrounds Irvine, 46 percent of residents take the state and local tax deduction. the average price of the house in his district is $ 685,800. Only 36 percent of likely California voters approve the Republican tax law, while 58 percent disapprove. Walters and Rohrabacher lost reelection. Issa's seat was also for a Democrat.
The dangers of sticking to Trump's agenda were perhaps most visible in immigration, a problem in which Trump has led the Republican Party to the right and has seen substantial rejection by the California state government.
Growing minority populations in historically white regions such as Orange County substantially reduced Republican advantages in traditionally more conservative districts. In the Central Valley, deportations and fear of deportation have threatened local economies. According to a survey conducted in October by the Public Policy Institute of California, 52 percent of likely California voters support state and local government policies to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants.
"Immigration is your Achilles heel; This is because [Republicans] "I will never be able to win elections," Bardella told me in May. "It's a measurable trajectory about how demographic characteristics have changed in California. Particularly about immigration … it confuses me how unwilling they are to change their policy. "
Both Valadao and Representative Jeff Denham, who largely represent the Hispanic districts in the Central Valley, where deportations are highly visible, tried to maintain more moderate immigration positions, but neither was able to push the policy, which the democrats saw it as an act of deference to the republican leadership. Both lost reelection.
The stained ascension of McCarthy.
McCarthy easily won re-election at his conservative fortress centered in Bakersfield, California. He has always been more a party man than a political brain; a prolific fundraiser, who in the last weeks of the election transferred $ 5.7 million to the party groups so that the Republicans reach the goal.
It was not enough
For the past decade, McCarthy, who has had clear personal ambitions for the speaker, has seen California's Republican delegation shrink from 19 seats in 2010 to just seven.
The demographics of the state are moving away more and more from the Republicans, and the state is increasingly rooted in a culture of partisanship.
The consequence is a Republican Party that clings to the poles of the party, a reality that McCarthy represents very clearly. Trump still has an approval rating of 80 percent among Republicans in California, despite having approximately 36 percent state approval in October.
The Democrats control all state offices and have a large majority in both houses of the state legislature. A Study 2014 The American Association of Political Science showed that California is by far the most polarized state legislature in the country. And because of the open primary systemThe Republicans of California could not present a candidate for the Senate in the 2018 general election.
McCarthy may have been chosen to be the best Republican in the House. But his state played an important role in making him the leader of the minority.