I’m not a Republican. But if I were, and if I had picked up the LA Times Monday to read George Skelton’s column with the headline, “Kashkari and Donnelly present 2 paths for GOP,” I’m confident that my reaction would have been: Can’t we find a third path instead?

It strikes me that, as down as the party is, it could have done a lot better than a Tea Party-Minuteman type with personal gun control issues and a very smart, young former Treasury official making his first run for elected office. But to read Skelton column and a host of other stories, the Kashkari-Donnelly race represents a battle for the future of the party. If that’s true, and I don’t think it is, let’s all hope that both sides lose.

That’s because this battle has become defined by positioning (outsider vs. Establishment) and cultural issues (pro-diversity-choice-marriage equality vs. anti). Both sides of those debates are destined to lose, because both are defined by what they aren’t. And the obsession with positioning and culture looks small in a state with such big challenges.

Here’s what would look big. Candidates who have real experience in elected office (Californians tend to prefer governors who have done this before, unless they are movie stars) and have actual things to say about the direction of the state. Kashkari has tried, with jobs and education plan, but they are too vague and narrowly drawn for a campaign to make an impact. Quick: tell me one thing new in the Kashkari jobs plan.

This is the point in the story where people say: but this is California and the Republicans don’t have a deep bench. Certainly, it’s not as deep as the Democratic bench, but there are people who could rise to the challenge. But the party seems allergic to candidates who have shown promise in elected office.

That’s too bad. The legislature, for example, is pretty good preparation for government. People as different as Jeff Gorrell and Connie Conway could make more plausible cases than Kashkari or Donnelly. Former legislators like Bill Emmerson and the now party chair Jim Brulte have deep experience and could make good candidates. Andy Vidak, with more experience, is another possibility.

Local governments also produce candidates. Ashley Swearengin of Fresno, who is running for controller, is one possibility. Jerry Sanders, the former San Diego mayor, and the Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach would be natural candidates if the party were thinking about offering candidates who have strong views and records of results.

When everything else is failing, try doing the right thing. The right thing is to offer the public strong candidates who have proven they can handle elected office. Even in defeat, such candidates might improve the brand of a party that no longer seems like it’s capable of governing