Tuesday, January 16, 2007

State of the Party

With the California Republican Party Convention in Sacramento just over 3 weeks away, I want to start examining the future of the California GOP.

Clearly, California has some definite Republican strongholds. Large swaths of the less urban areas of Southern California, Central California, and rural Northern California are conservative bastions and are unlikely to change voting patterns. Urban areas including SF and LA are strongly liberal areas that are unlikely to ever support GOP candidates. Though California has voted Blue in several past elections, I have already explained that I consider it to be a Purple state that could vote Republican under the right circumstances. Remember that our Governor is the infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Governor Schwarzenegger has come to the same realization that I have: most Californians are not in favor of government regulation in their personal lives nor are they socially conservative. Also, people in this state tend to favor certain "liberal" policies including developing infrastructure and protecting the environment, especially if both can be done with a minimum impact on their own lives and business.

Unfortunately, the GOP has not yet come to this same realization. Founder and Editor of the FlashReport, Jon Fleishman penned a post on his views on the GOP's shortcomings recently. In it he pointed specifically GOP members of Congress becoming addicted to spending as a reason for their loss. While I agree that it certainly made them worse members of Congress and did contribute to their loss, I contend that a bigger factor was the inability of GOP members to keep themselves from meddling in the everyday lives of Americans and keep themselves out of scandal.

In California, the Republican minority in the state legislature has grown increasingly irrelevant. The only Republican sponsored bills that are passed are either totally innocuous or are parts of deals to get budget bills (and other bills that require a 2/3 supermajority) to pass. The rest of the year, it really doesn't matter what most Republicans say (unless, of course, that Republican is the Governator). Most GOP members of the Legislature hem and haw so loudly and obnoxiously that it is hard to take them seriously. Indeed, sometimes the Assembly floor has slightly resembled the British Parliament questioning the Prime Minister, with the minority party becoming insulting to the majority.

However, it need not be this way. Not long ago, Republicans were able to enjoy a majority in the Legislature. We were once relevant in California outside the Governor's Horseshoe.

What was different then was that the GOP molded itself to fit into the mainstream of political thought among voters. Without a doubt, the GOP still fell a little to the right of public opinion. However, the party continually attempted to capture the median voter both statewide and in many local districts. In those days, such people as Governor Pete Wilson, a moderate pro-choice Republican, not only was elected but maintained the support of the party and many swing voters.

Today, a moderate pro-choice Republican by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger has managed to capture the support of 63% of the state but has been practically abandoned by the party. One would expect that a popular Republican governor in a Democratic state that proposes moderate, proactive solutions would receive support from his party when he proposes landmark legislation like healthcare. Apparently, not so.

What the California Republican Party needs are leaders who are willing to step away from socially conservative notions that are out of touch with California voters. These leaders should work with the Governor and champion traditionally liberal causes in a uniquely Republican way that promotes personal liberty, small government, and free market principles.

Soon, I look forward to reviewing some of the candidates that are running for offices within the California GOP. Nominations have not yet closed and I only know of a handful of people running for party offices. If any of you are running or know of a candidate I would be interested in (either positively or negatively) please let me know!

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