It is time for California Republicans to confront the real enemies who are dragging them from defeat to defeat, and this means dealing with the Tea Party extremists in their own ranks.  Until the state GOP faces up to this it cannot be rebuilt, and 2014 is exactly the time to start.

Brave talk about picking up seats in Congress and the legislature should probably be set aside.  What can a Republican candidate challenging a Democrat run on next year, “Elect me and I will shut down the government, default on our debts, destroy your 401K, cancel grandma’s Medicare, and throw the world into recession”.  Lots of luck with that.

Nationally, Republican approval is at 28 percent, the lowest ever.  Want to guess what it is in California, probably well below that.  But nothing can be done until the Tea Party is defeated, and that means taking them out at the polls.

No Tea Party congressman is more deserving of defeat than Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) whose 30-year career has been devoted to destroying the sunny, positive conservatism that Ronald Reagan gave us and replacing it with a sour, negative, anti-everything fringy right-wing populism.

California’s new “top two” general election runoff system provides exactly the tool needed to defeat the McClintocks of California.  McClintock was first elected in 2008 by winning a closed Republican primary for Congress with 53 percent of the vote.  He barely won the general election that year in a heavily Republican district, but he has not been seriously challenged since then.

However, the rules of the road have changed.  No longer can you be assured of election by winning your primary in June; the top two runoff means you could easily be forced to run against a member of your own party in November.   Ask Rico Oller; a McClintock acolyte who led in the June primary but then  lost to more moderate Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-Madera) in November.  Under the old system, Oller would be in the Assembly today, but he could not win when the electorate was expanded to include all the voters, as happens in November.  This occurred in several southern California districts where Tea Party types got the most votes in the primary but then lost top two runoffs in November.

None of this will work, however, without real issues against McClintock, and his voting record supplies them in droves.  He opposed the fiscal cliff extension of the Bush tax cuts in January because a small sliver of millionaires got their taxes raised in the compromise bill.  But 98 percent of taxpayers got a big break.  McClintock’s suburban and Mother Lode district contains huge numbers of retired people.  Many live on their stock dividends; if McClintock had prevailed, a Bush era tax break called “qualified dividends” would have gone away and his constituents would have faced a huge tax increase.

McClintock helped pilot the Ted Cruz kamikaze dive bomber this week by supporting both the government shutdown and default on the debt.  Among the biggest victims of the shutdown were the small rural counties that McClintock represents, where workers depend on tourism income from the national parks like Yosemite that were closed in the shutdown. The California Travel and Tourism Commission recently reported that in Mariposa County, one of McClintock’s counties, 53 percent of employment and 34 percent of earnings are tourism-related.  Guess who suffered most from the shutdown, urban liberal counties or counties like Mariposa?  The answer is obvious.

And people know who is to blame.  A Sacramento area cancer survivor who could not get treatment due to the shutdown delivered 140,000 signatures to McClintock’s office urging he vote for the compromise to reopen the government.  What did McClintock do, he voted “no” as he always does.

McClintock does vote “yes” on one thing, his own pension.  The Sacramento Bee recently reported that McClintock is collecting his legislative pension while a member of Congress.  That’s living on your government retirement while you are still a government official, in other words, double dipping.  When asked by the National Journal why he did not forego his state pension given his career-long railing against bloated government spending, McClintock told a reporter to talk to his wife about it.

McClintock’s district contains 189,000 Republicans, 45 percent of the total.  But the non-Republicans, some 230,000 voters, can vote in the top two runoff.  A more responsible, Reagan-type Republican candidate could appeal to these voters as well as dissident registered Republicans and defeat McClintock in a top two runoff.

Knock a bird off a telephone wire and the others take notice.  Rebuilding a credible GOP in California means getting rid of the people who are responsible for its decline, even if it has to be done one bird at a time.