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California’s Senate Race Shows How The Ghost Of Prop. 187 Continues To Haunt Republicans

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In the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Republicans have been shut out of a spot on the fall ballot “for the first time since the state’s first direct election of Senators in 1914.”

Under state rules, the top two finishers win spots on the fall ballot regardless of their party affiliation. While there were nearly twice as many Republican candidates on yesterday’s ballot, two Democrats ultimately emerged as winners: State Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Representative Loretta Sanchez.

Either would bring historic diversity to the Senate. Sanchez as the first Latina Senator, and Harris as the daughter of South Asian and Jamaican parents.

“The fact that no Republican could muster enough statewide support to advance to the general election could be a reflection of how an ever-shrinking GOP suffered when its voters were scattered among a large field of relatively unknown candidates,” notes the Los Angeles Times.

Republicans represent just 27.6% of registered voters in California — a dismal showing in the nation’s most populous state.

As we’ve noted before, California offers a cautionary tale for Republicans in this election year and after. Once the launching pad of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, the state has not gone to a Republican in any Senate or Presidential race since 1988, when President George H.W. Bush won over Democrat Michael Dukakis.

The reasoning? The same kind of anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric we’re now seeing nationally (on steroids) thanks to the candidacy of Donald Trump.

More from The Nation:

Two decades ago, Republican Governor Wilson championed California Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative designed to discriminate against undocumented immigrants. The initiative’s proposed restrictions on access to education, healthcare, and social services were draconian, and unconstitutional—as the federal courts eventually determined.

The Republican push for the measure proved to be political folly in a state with a growing Hispanic population and a substantial Asian-American community. The Proposition 187 fight identified California Republicans with anti-immigrant policies, while Wilson’s veto of legislation that sought to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation fostered additional concerns about the party’s intolerance in a state with a large and active LGBT community.

Over the past two decades, only one Republican (Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant who frequently broke with his party on social issues) has won a statewide race for president, governor, or US senator. And, if the polls are right about Trump (who trails by 24 points in one recent survey and by 26 in another), no Republican will win a major race this year.

That’s an important reminder for the national Republican Party as it prepares to nominate a candidate who is perhaps best known for his crude anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Latino, immigrant, and Asian-American voters have demographically and politically transformed the state following the GOP’s embrace of Prop. 187 — and Republicans have paid for that dearly.

Regardless of who emerges as the victor in the fall, Republicans will be denied a chance to elect someone of their own party to the Senate. It’s a startling example for the national GOP—if only they are ready to listen.