California GOP at the crossroads

pamelaPart of being a political writer involves reading blogs and emails from both the left and right side of the political spectrum. If there is a middle of road one, it has escaped my attention thus far.

Progressive Democrats leave little to the imagination. They express their views on sanctuary cities, health care, global warming, affordable housing, law enforcement and pro-choice policies with a passion that is to be admired. There are no secrets despite how radical some of these stands might be.

Democratic Party Central Committee meetings reflect this energy as there is never a shortage of advocates for any issue. Except for rare occasions when determining endorsements for political office, the press is welcome to cover their events. Transparency and openness dictate democratic proceedings.

Not so with the Republican Party in California these days. It would seem that it is their policy to not discuss issues as a party and allow individual office holders to deal with the press. The state party under the leadership of former state Senator Jim Brulte, (with financial assistance from Charles T. Munger) is content to act as a fund-raising apparatus.

Interviews with party officials on the state and county level are almost impossible to obtain. In fact, in Contra Costa, where I live, the chairwoman intervened to have me disinvited to an event where she was speaking. Gaining publicity and educating voters does not seem to be a priority with the state GOP game plan. They seem to be content with their current “benign neglect” role  in “Left Coast” politics.

One might ask why things have not been shaken up in the Republican Party as it exists today. In terms of achievement today we find:

  • GOP registration has continued to decline and is projected to represent less than 25% of registered voters behind the decline-to-state group.
  • The party has less than one third of membership in both houses of Legislature thus affording conservatives negligible influence in formulating legislation or approving budgets that requires a 66% majority to pass.
  • Republicans have zero state office holders and haven’t elected anyone to such a post in 10 years. Even worse, in most cases such as the U.S. Senate race in 2016, two democrats ended up squaring off in the run-off

Despite these dismal statistics, the state GOP acts as if everything is A OK at the KOA.” At the Republican State Convention that followed the general election last November, Jim Brulte ran without opposition for a third term in office. His organization was basking in the victory of Donald Trump for which they had nothing to do with. In fact, Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote was almost entirely due to her landslide win in California.

All of this has not escaped conservative rank-and-file Republicans who feel left out of the party. They are tired of having no say trying to revitalize the organization that has failed them. This group of the disenchanted regularly sends out emails and tweets that find their way to me. What separates current complaints from past correspondence is their belief that the current GOP does not have the ability to do a makeover and reform itself.

A divorce and a new political party is what they want.

According to a perplexed Pamela Olson, “Please correct me if I am wrong in this. I do believe unless we cut the dysfunction out of current boards, we will never unite a strong 2.0 versions and rebirth of conservative ideals just as we birthed Reagan conservative ideals. We’ve the right groups and right people … wrong folks on dysfunction boards is our issue”

Self-proclaimed “political contractor” John Bechtel believes the fractured state of the Republican Party goes beyond the leadership in the state level. He thinks, “In many cases, the local county chairs are the problem, alienating critical sectors of the community, proving the reality of guilt-by-association, and undermining the efforts of good people.”

To show how far things have deteriorated, Bechtel said, “The GOP is weak and apathetic that as of yet they have not applied to have a table at the State Fair in Sacramento to recruit new members. I guess it does not bother them that less than one quarter of the voters in the state belongs to the party.”

What to call the organization which is intended to recruit disgusted Republicans, many of whom have become decline-to-state voters? It was suggested by John Bechtel to replace the current GOP and call the new one the Jefferson Party, in honor of the founding fathers.

This appeals to Pamela Olson who says, “Personally it’s my favorite, though I wonder if we should avoid names already associated with hard founded groups such as the Jefferson State. We need not burn bridges just to rebuild a party that is worse than a paper house on fire!”

What is the chance that there would be the necessary manpower and funding to start a new political organization for Republicans to rally around to become a strong force in the Golden State? Probably not much but we must not underestimate the power of grass roots politics as Donald Trump’s election demonstrated.

Perhaps as Bobby McGinnis stated, “Personally I think Republican/Conservative groups already have a number of groups, chartered or nonprofits that already exist.” Naming over 10 of them she added, “I am a member of 5 of them. Not to mention all of the different clubs. Each of the above groups are chartered, file tax returns, establish mission statements & by laws and perform various duties all in the name of getting Republicans elected.”

Regardless of whether conservatives want to start from scratch or reform the existing organization, there are few rank and file Republicans who think that their party is doing a very good job enticing voters to join their ranks. Jim Brulte and the country organizations under his care should know this and try to improve an ineffective structure that has delivered dismal results in partisan elections.

Rather than wait another 4 years to continue the trend of losing voters and office holders to unaccountable progressives, the right thing to do is to admit there is a problem and that the current strategy operating  as a low key stealth political organization is not working and needs to changed. As such Brulte should consider resigning and ask all county chairs and boards to do the same.

To replace these individuals, mini constitutional-like conventions should be held throughout the state to redefine what being Republican means. Instead of hiding in the weeds, conservatives need to show voters what they stand for and present an alternative to the unabated liberalism which completely dominates California politics.

Regardless of the outcome we need to praise this band of Jefferson Republicans who want to bring conservative government back to the state. Their enthusiasm is needed to combat liberal democrats who are equally intense in their beliefs. Such passion will only serve to improve our current one sided governmental environment.

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