Given the headline generating internal arguments with top of the ticket candidates and party officials about party unity, it’s probably good that the real work of re-establishing the GOP as a political force is to try and build from the ground up. The key phrase emphasized by organizers of the state Republican convention in Los Angeles this weekend was the changing face of the GOP. There clearly has been some progress in the face-changing direction as diverse candidates were introduced to the delegates.
Skeptics say the Republican effort at diversity is a sideshow; that refusing to budge on many social issues and actually recruit members of groups that typically identify with Democrats will not change the voting dynamics in the state.
One group often mentioned as a target that has avoided the GOP is young people.
There was a healthy turnout of younger people at the convention. (Alas, most places I go nowadays people are younger!) Many whites and seniors still make up a strong portion of the GOP delegates.
However, there is a sense, to borrow the Buffalo Springfield song lyric, that “There’s something happening here” with the state Republican Party. Change is in the works. Ruben Barrales said his Grow Elect effort has helped elect over 100 Latino Republican candidates to local and some state offices. It was noted by a number of observers that four Asian-Americans are running as Republicans in Orange County.
Republicans hold about half of the mayor and city council seats in the state, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The goal of the party is to have elected officials on the local level show competence in governing and move those people up to higher offices.
Still, the question is: Can the GOP connect with the attitudes and sentiments expressed by a majority of California voters on high profile issues?
Californians have a libertarian streak and that plays well with some aspects of the GOP philosophy. Other attitudes are changing for many Republican leaders.
Neel Kashlari’s run for governor has set the tone in trying to expand the GOP horizons. His interest in reaching out to groups that have previously shunned the GOP goes along with the idea that common ground may be found on libertarian issues.
Whether immigrants who may not embrace a libertarian philosophy alter that approach is something to watch. But those who come here seeking opportunity will support the freedom that comes with the quest for better opportunity.
Republicans have a long way to go to make California politically competitive. They are trying. The change won’t happen overnight, but I wouldn’t count them out.