Tony Quinn’s article, How Propositions 30 and 32 killed the Republicans has the usual excellent analysis. Quinn’s insight – that the California Republican Party is now de facto led by Charles Munger, Jr. – may (groan) be correct. If so politics in California truly has changed. Likewise Quinn’s portrayal of the anti-tax zealots is accurate. I would add anti-immigration and culture wars zealots.
Although I took a sabbatical from activist conservative politics, after a year in the grassroots redistricting fight, the question “What next?” is an interesting one. A one-party state in California is a prescription for disaster. Somebody needs to do something. Here is a short list:
The CA GOP needs a smart, capable, dedicated woman as state party chairman. We must not forget that the malfeasance of the old boy network lead directly to the redistricting fiasco. We had the opportunity for a short time to fight the Redistricting Commission, but the good old boys refused. They must be shown the door. With a woman chairman the CA GOP can speak to the gender gap and detoxify from the rape comments that poisoned the last election. I met many women as a redistricting activist who were chafing under the bit of our “leadership.” Several would make excellent candidates.
The CA GOP needs to stop talking about Hispanics and do something. The idea that Hispanics are “naturally” conservative and will some day, by pixie dust, vote Republican is laughable. California has an ugly history of anti-Hispanic racism. Republicans are a large, plump target for historical enmity. Casting about after the redistricting battles for a project, I took a close look at the “Hispanic issue.” I speak Spanish, own property in Mexico, as a builder employed many Hispanics and have Latino blood lines… I know the territory.
I began researching the huge trove of polling data at the Pew Hispanic Center with the idea of writing a white paper and found the rough outlines of a message that would play well. But first, the CA GOP would have to distance itself from Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and other hard-core, anti-immigration types, and second, someone (Univision?) would need to develop conservative Hispanic talk radio and third, the state party would have to build a bench. California Hispanics are not of Cuban origin. A Marco Rubio will not arise by magic. We need to understand Mexico: it’s history, politics and the aspirations of its immigrants and find resources to support Hispanics in local races.
The CA GOP must make peace with religious conservatives. We need to tell them nicely but firmly that the culture wars fought in the political arena are over, that social conservatism lost— in the political arena— and that the place to fight culture wars is (drumroll) in the culture. We must convince them that the longer battle is not lost, not if they continue to believe in God and continue to vote. Jesus said, my Kingdom is not of this earth.
Given the circumstances, religious conservatives must accept a smaller voice in the party for the time being though they should still command our absolute respect. Non-believing Republicans must recognize that religious conservatives can reject politics and turn from the public square. They have done so historically, without them, it will be a small party indeed. With a new platform, outreach to a large gay conservative demographic with pocketbook issues. Imagine! A flood of Log Cabin Republicans joining Christians in a united party. Wouldn’t that make Democrats fume.
The CA GOP must change its law enforcement politics. California has a leviathan prison system that locks up far too many non-violent offenders. $50K per year, per inmate is obscene government spending. And does the CA GOP believe the government, which can’t deliver the mail, is infallible where criminal justice is concerned? The courts will continue to mandate reform, and get things wrong. Better to suggest fixes than to obstruct the inevitable or remain the prison party as the electorage becomes increasingly young and non-white. A smarter law enforcement policy is in order.
Lastly, the CA GOP must speak not just to College Republicans who have short hair and own a suit but to all the young. The generations coming up in California have a raw deal. K-12 is a disaster. The California Master Plan for Higher Education is being destroyed by unions, by edu-bureacrats, by privatizers and by mean-spirited, socially-and-economically foolish defunding blamed on conservatives. Meg Whitman was on to something as the education candidate but her ideas never gained traction. Young people who manage to get a degree face a terrible job market and student debt of crisis proportions. Their votes can be tapped when Republicans offer smart solutions.
All of the above can be done without abandoning Republican and conservative distinctives. The party does not need to become bland and centrist, in fact, that would be a huge mistake. Rather, the CA GOP needs a 1776 of new ideas and new, capable leadership for the future. Republicans have followed their current leaders off a cliff. Above all, the party must not whine about about moving to Texas or Arizona. Better to find the courage and leadership to fight a permanent one-party California.