News & Views from 465 California Street

Jarvis & Reagan are Dead

Clint Reilly

The ghosts of Ronald Reagan and Howard Jarvis are all that’s left of a dying Republican Party in California.

In 1984, I managed the initiative campaign that defeated Proposition 36, Howard Jarvis’s sequel to Proposition 13. Double-digit annual property tax increases had driven Jarvis’s citizen rebellion that blasted politicians out of the water with Prop 13’s passage in 1978.

Six years later, Jarvis wanted to put additional restrictions on government taxation and spending but the voters thought Prop 13 was enough.

The best part of the campaign was Jarvis himself. A burly character with a deep, gravelly voice, Jarvis barreled ahead with a twinkle in his eye and a real gut passion for fundamental reform of state fiscal policy.

The anti-tax Republican legislators in Sacramento are what remain of Howard’s movement that began to die in that Prop 36 campaign in 1984.

Like the dull descendants of a founding patriarch, they mouth slogans and recite numbers that don’t add up. They live off the remnants of a charismatic forebear’s accomplishments.

California’s anti-tax movement actually began when Ronald Reagan beat Pat Brown for the governorship in 1966.

Reagan’s permanent campaign against big government carried him from Sacramento to the White House and provided the intellectual grist for 25 years of Republican political dominance. Reagan’s popularity also rubbed off on a generation of statewide leaders.

Republicans were a statewide force during the 1980s and 1990s. Republican governors counterbalanced a Democratic legislature, and Californians even elected one Republican U.S. senator occasionally.

In 1994, I managed Kathleen Brown’s ill fated campaign for governor against Pete Wilson. The moderate Republican Wilson had been elected to the Senate in 1982 and served two terms before defeating Dianne Feinstein for governor in 1990.

At the time, Californians still believed that Republicans were closer to their views on crime, taxes, spending and economic growth. Brown’s liberal positions on the death penalty and immigration put her at odds with many moderate suburban Democrats.

But California’s Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right. In 1992, Republicans had nominated a senatorial candidate so conservative that liberal congresswoman Barbara Boxer easily defeated him.

In 2002, another of my former clients, Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan – a popular moderate Republican from California’s biggest city who would probably have been elected – was defeated in the Republican primary by conservative newcomer Bill Simon. Of course, Simon was wiped out by Gray Davis in the November election.

Today, the demise of California’s Republican Party is nearly complete. Ronald Reagan’s anti-government ideology has been discredited by the massive meltdown of unregulated capitalism that was his credo. Washington Republicans have lost their mantra and are aimlessly wandering the halls like defrocked monks who have lost their spiritual master.

Here in California, Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is really a Democrat. He cannot muster a single Republican vote for the new taxes that are necessary to bridge a pending $21 billion budget gap that will occur when statewide fiscal initiatives almost certainly lose.

For the past decade, California’s Republican legislators have failed to engage in solving the real problems of America’s largest state: education, corporate regulation, environmental protection, immigration reform, revenue generation, economic growth, renewing infrastructure, and building a new transportation grid.

The great Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn once said, “Any jackass can tear down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”

The Republicans in Sacramento are jackasses. The fumes of Reagan and Jarvis have been exhausted.

Comments (24)

  • I am a democrat who voted for Arnold. I have lived in this state all my life. I would agree with you about the Republicans here in California. But I also think the Democratic legislature has had a huge hand in ruining this state. I am so sick of partisans like yourself that feel every problem is all the other party’s fault. Its such a simplistic view point as is the suggestion in your column that somehow raising taxes will help solve the problems of this state. Californians already pay high taxes and what has it done for us? Our income taxes are some of the highest in the country, our Sales tax is in the top 5. There are many ways to look at our property taxes as compared to other states, some comparisons have us ranked 10th and some 45th. But even that’s not important. The fact is giving this government more money has not made our lives any better and that will continue. Both the Republicans and the Democrats of this state have been wasteful with our money. Every time a new tax is added we are promised it will solve a problem. It never does. Again, your view is simple-minded and lacks any real answers. I don’t have them either, but you won’t hear me blaming the left or the right only. I appreciate your point of view, but it lacks any real substance. Why should I elect people people to run the state who feel that’s raising taxes is the only answer. A child could come up with that solution.

    Posted by: Mike Antoni | May 19th, 2009 at 9:00 am

  • You sir, are a buffoon. It’s the Democrats that are Jackasses. They keep
    spending and spending money we do not have! They also tend to be
    socialistic in their views. I was born

    And raised in California and it has changed drastically. Unfortunately,
    not for the better. I guess it’s because of one party rule in


    Paul R

    Posted by: Paul R. | May 19th, 2009 at 6:42 pm

  • Dear sir: after reading your ‘public service message’ in today’s Valley
    Times I can only suggest you go find a well-cleaned mirror if you are truly
    looking to find a jackass.

    As Winston Churchill said: “I contend that for a nation to try and tax
    itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift
    himself up by the handle.”

    Good grief.

    Posted by: Hodges | May 19th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

  • So, you tanked a couple losers’ campaigns. Quite a resume. Now,
    California, under a braindead democrat congress, is the most bankrupt state in the union.

    If I were you, I’d stop throwing money away on advertising your total ineptness. Just go away.


    Posted by: Forrest | May 19th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  • Sam Rayburn once said, “Any jackass can tear down a barn, but it takes a
    carpenter to build one.”

    Isn’t the jackass the mascot of the Democratic Party and haven’t they proved Sam Rayburn right? There hasn’t been much building but plenty of destruction in California in the last decade under Democratic control. Obviously, in blaming the GOP for not solving the real problems you forget that the legislature is controlled by Democrats.

    Even the governor, by your own statement, is really a Democrat.

    So, under the circumstances don’t you think your pronouncement of a final
    demise of the GOP is greatly exaggerated and rather presumptious?

    I think today’s election results will actually revive the ideas of Reagan
    and Jarvis. With one of the highest taxes in the land California can’t seem
    to live within its means. That sounds very much like a jackass to me. It’s
    time for a change!!!! Let’s kick the career politicians out and vote
    sensible problem solvers in and damn party ideologies.


    Erich K

    Posted by: Erich K. | May 19th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

  • Yesterday the Times Herald published Clint Reilly’s article, criticizing the
    Republican Party. In the article he used a famous quote from former House Speaker Sam Rayburn. “any Jackass can tear down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one”.

    Clint wrapped up his article with his own quote, “the Republicans in Sacramento are jackasses”.

    I am compelled to add my own. ” the Republicans aren’t the only jackasses in Sacramento, there are 25 Democratic Senators & 80 Democratic Assembly people who seem to have trouble finding their butt with both hands. To that list I’d have to add a political commentator who’s initials are C.R.

    Posted by: Erich K. | May 19th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

  • The fact is if people would of kept paying their mortgages we would not
    be in this mess. It is no one’s fault but the borrowers! You blame
    capitalism and Wall Street.

    Here’s an idea to fix California’s budget deficit. Send the one million
    illegal’s back to where they came from and take the one million
    deadbeats on welfare and make them work the California farmlands! And
    cut welfare and all the other bullshit programs. Somebody needs to get
    tough here.


    Posted by: Ty | May 19th, 2009 at 6:51 pm

  • In responce to your comments concerning Jarvis and Reagan, I
    think that all you have to do is read your comments in the second to last paragraph quoteing Sam Rayburn. “Any jackass can tear down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” Who, might I ask has torn down the barn,( CA ), if it isn’t the JACK ASSES in control of the Calif legislature? ( Read Democratic Party). When you can’t live within your means, you get what you pay for. The Republican Party certainly is not perfect, but for some one who lives in a glass house I’d be carefull about throwing stones.

    Posted by: Jon | May 19th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  • “The demise of California’s Party is nearly complete”. What a shame. So the only party left would be the democratic/ communist party.
    “For the last decade California’s Republican legislators have failed to engage in solving the real problems”.

    Pardon me, but wasn’t the communist party in control the last decade? The only thing the communist party could put forward was steeling more money from the hard working people.

    “The Republicans in Sacramento are jackasses” if you want see a real jackass may I suggest you look in a mirror.

    “The views expressed in this column are Clint’s alone and do not represent the views of any Media News paper”. Thank GOD. (oh I hope I can still say GOD)

    Posted by: Marty | May 19th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  • The caption in your article reads, “The demise of California’s Republican Party is nearly complete”. As a conservative that remembers California’s better days, I couldn’t be happier!
    The Republican party, in the state and nationwide, has not moved farther to the right, as you state, but rather has shifted far to the left along with the Democratic Party.

    If Governor Schwartzenegger really is a Democrat (and I agree with you on that) why do you think he would be able to convince Republicans to go along with new taxes to bridge the $21B gap? Since California is Democratic, the challenge will be to convince mainstream voters in California (Democrats) to go along with it.

    Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Why should we once again vote for higher taxes and expect anything different than the loss of jobs and cries from those that benefit that “it’s not enough!”. Mr. Reilly, not only are you a socialist, but I declare you insane, an idiot and, yes, a jackass to boot!

    For better, but probably for worse, Democrats have been and now are firmly in control not only in our state but nationally. It’s time for you and your liberal friends to stop blaming Republicans for the shortcomings we face. I am happily going to the polls tonite to vote no on all of the Propositions except for, of course, 1F!

    Jim C.

    P.S. Your profile describes you as a “San Francisco businessman” – what kind of business were you engaged in that benefits from a soaring tax burden & high costs – organized crime?

    Posted by: Jim C. | May 19th, 2009 at 6:54 pm

  • Democrats in CA, as in MI, have run AMOK for the past decade (or longer) RUINING local economies yet the blame per Mr. Reilly are CA’s Republican Legislators by their “failure to engage in solving the real problems…”. You’re BANKRUPT thanks to the Dem majority yet Californian’s continue to stick their heads in the sand electing Dem after Dem. Only further ruin is in your future unless the taxpayers of the other 49 states help you out of your mess. Republicans could do no worse for CA that’s for darn sure.

    Posted by: Kelli | May 19th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  • Personally I think you will be very surprised when the GOP makes a BIG comeback. Even the Dems that have been continually voting for more spending are figuring it out. You can’t spend what you don’t have. Fiscal Responsibility is what makes economies strong. The props are going down in flames because the voters, both Repub and Dems are now awake and not happy. We’ve had a few years of Republicans that forgot who and what they represent. They got away from the fiscal philosophy’s that make economies strong. They are now beginning to focus again.

    Posted by: Morris | May 19th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  • How interesting that Mr. Reilly says the Republican Party in CA is dying…

    The same day voters will overwhelmingly repudiate the Democrat “tax and spend” schemes that have ruined California!

    Posted by: Jay | May 19th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  • Jay: You conveniently omit the fact that the left, people such as myself, is joining the right in voting NO on everything today.

    Posted by: Doug | May 19th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

  • Clint hits the nail on the head here. It’s R.I.P, not GOP

    Posted by: Jim Alford | May 19th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

  • If you truly believe the Reps are that out of touch you should be encouraging them to continue down the path they are on. If Californians truly want more government spending and higher taxes they will support your team. I for one hate both parties, one wants to control my social life and one wants to control my economic life. Leave me alone!

    Posted by: Sean | May 19th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

  • Ronald Regan is DEAD! His policies live on, but we’re doing something about that!

    Posted by: WASanford | May 21st, 2009 at 1:30 pm

  • Just can’t get over Reagan can you, jerk-off. Reagan will never be discredited by no-name political hacks like you……

    Posted by: Peter S. | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:04 pm

  • Give it a few more months and their spirit will be resurrected. The socialism that is being forced on us will soon reap the benefit of the enlightened masses striving to once again to throw off the burden of taxation for failed government programs that fail to deliver.

    See you then,

    Chris Z

    Posted by: Chris | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:05 pm

  • I got sucked in by the first paragraphs of your op-ed where you tried to
    position yourself as somehow aligned with conservatives. However, it’s
    clear based on following paragraphs that you are yet another Democrat
    operative parroting a party line which is based on sound bites and outright lies. For example:

    - Anyone with any financial credibility and education (and I have it) knows that the current recession was not caused by Reagan economics nor the Bush administration. In fact, the mortgage crisis dates back to the 1970s and the start of government interference in sound lending practices in order to accomplish social engineering.

    - The concept that Republicans have moved left is an optical illusion
    caused by the Democrat party moving to an extremist Marxist philosophy.

    - The Democrat party is controlled by a small group of ultra-wealthy left
    wing ideologs such as George Soros who are using the party to further their own wealth.

    These are the indisputable facts proven and accepted by credible economists:

    - Supply side economics is no longer in debate, it worked spectacularly
    resulting in 25years of wealth creation.

    - The current recession has made but a small dent in that wealth.

    - The policies suggested by the Democrat party have proven, over and over again, in Europe and elsewhere, to FAIL. They lead to stagnation.

    At least be honest about your own views and admit that your a Democrat or Soros Operative.

    Posted by: WMK | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:06 pm

  • Aaaaaah. But if you read this a.m.’s Chron., the G.O.P rebirth has just
    started. In 4 years you will be the dinosaur party.

    Posted by: Mike F. | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:11 pm

  • Clint,

    The election results today prove that Jarvis & Reagan are very much alive. The remaining option for the radical Demos in Sacramento is bankruptcy for California. I think the electorate has decided it is the Demos Jackass who have torn down the barn. The bankruptcy judge will dictate how to rebuild it.

    Clint, when will you tell your readers that you will request to be covered by the Obama Health Plan?? Or are you part of the elite that will be exempted??

    Hank R

    Posted by: Hank R. | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:12 pm

  • Well, if Jarvis is dead, I guess 65% of the California electorate had a seance yesterday…

    Clint, I know you came out of the government bureaucracy, and always call for more taxes. But have you considered how much we are already taxed, and how our money is squandered? People are figuring this stuff out now, my friend.

    I recently left this little note for another commentator so I’ll share it with you as well:

    “…may I suggest that your comments that by not raising our state taxes to go beyond what is already the highest in the nation, we may not like what we get as a result. Sir, when state union workers receive 14 paid Holidays a year, and world class companies like Cisco and HP only provide their employees 10 paid Holidays, and the recent cut back from 14 to 12 saved the state of California $1.2B a year! If the state workers were given a reasonable 10 paid Holidays a year for the last 5 years, the state would have saved $12B!!! And this is just one single issue!

    Sir, I tried to research what each person in California must pay to make the state budget each year versus Oregon and other states. I am no expert and my numbers are very imprecise (I would appreciate your expertise in this area). But my quick and dirty analysis estimated about $3500 a year that each citizen in California must contribute, and about $1500 a year for Oregon (estimated based on their biennial budget process).

    Sir, please do not insult the electorate with a proclamation of dire consequences. We’re just plain tired of getting ripped off.”

    Clint, I am not sure of your motives nor why you find it so important to pay to express your opinion, but trust me – Californians have a LOT more respect for Howard Jarvis and those like him than for the money grubbers that have been running the state into the ground the past decade. And unfortunately you sound like one of them.

    And lighten up on the rhetoric…and then do a google search on “California
    government waste” and then come around to Mr. Jarvis. Hmm, the Jarvis Reilly Taxpayers Association. Has a nice ring…

    Posted by: J. Roman | May 22nd, 2009 at 12:14 pm

  • Dear Clint and friends,
    The leftist social policies of the last decade, observe Sen. Barbara Boxer, has had a remarkably pernicious effect on this state in particular. The very idea of highly qualified Catholic and Evangelical lawyers and professional people standing for public office has become essentially impossible now. Their churches’ conservative views on abortion and homosexuality render these individuals persona non grata. Until that time when one’s abortion position or one’s attitude towards gay marriage becomes irrelevant, we can all plan on our legislators being chosen for their “correct” views and not for their financial or legislative abilities.

    Posted by: Dr. W. McInerny | May 29th, 2009 at 8:38 pm

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