A Bold Idea for California’s GOP

After attempting to energize the grassroots back in January with mass emails declaring “President Trump Needs Your Help!,” and “President Donald Trump vs. 45 CA Democrats,” and “Trump wants to fix California’s homeless problem,” and “Will the Impeachment Sham Ever End?,” this month the California State Republican Party’s emails have a new focus. Instead of defending President Trump, they are attacking Governor Newsom.

Unfortunately, in both cases, this appeal to the grassroots rings hollow. Despite 4.7 million Californians voting for Trump in 2016, and despite the president retaining overwhelming popularity among California’s registered Republicans, the CAGOP establishment knows better than to spread a pro-Trump message to California’s wider electorate. They launched a targeted endorsement of Trump to their base that was designed more to raise money than to convey any sort of sincere appreciation for Trump. It was a hollow gesture, and the base knew it was a hollow gesture.

What the CAGOP leadership did, acting like they support Trump while being terrified of saying so to a broader audience of Californians, might be forgiven as simply an acknowledgement of political reality. That’s debatable, of course, if you believe, as the GOP base obviously does, that Trump’s policies matter more than his personality, and that on policy, Trump has been right again and again. Why not proclaim that, if that’s true? Why not own it? But in any case, Newsom is a completely different story. The CAGOP attacks on Newsom don’t have to ring hollow.

What Gavin Newsom increasingly represents to not just GOP stalwarts, but to independents and even moderate Democrats, is a Governor who has lost touch with his constituency and is driving the state to ruin. And the CAGOP agrees. Their new email blitz has been unrelenting. “Newsom wants his unconstitutional power back” (6/24), “Governor Newsom’s Dimmer Switch” [shutting down the economy] (7/02), “King Newsom?” (7/18), “King Newsom Has Gone Too Far,” (7/20).

The California Republican Party Should Endorse the Newsom Recall Campaign

So the question one may put to the CAGOP leadership is simple: If they truly believe this governor is this bad, why aren’t they supporting the current recall effort? That would put instant substance into their attacks on Newsom.

It seems this would make practical sense for the CAGOP. Unlike the CAGOP’s pro-Trump messages, which were launched in the dark of night and designed to only be seen by their microtargeted cadre of known Trump supporters (i.e., nearly the entire base of registered Republicans in the state), the CAGOP’s anti-Newsom messages ought to be seen and heard everywhere, by everyone. This is CAGOP’s chance to be taken seriously for the first time in years, if not decades. But to accomplish that, they have to endorse the current recall campaign.

There’s no disputing the urgency of the other battles the CAGOP is fighting. They want to recover swing districts in the State Assembly, the State Senate, and the U.S. Congress. These are important fights, as are the defensive fights looming against some absolutely horrible initiatives that Democrats have put onto the state ballot for this November. But it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Imagine the upside.

The mere act of proclaiming support for the Newsom recall would instantly earn the gratitude and loyalty of tens of thousands of volunteer activists who are circulating recall petitions up and down the state. It would earn the gratitude and loyalty of additional hundreds of thousands of registered voters who have already signed the recall petition. Candidates who are running for office in battleground districts could endorse the recall, show up at the many recall events which have attracted tens of thousands of activists, and they could very likely recruit these volunteers to help them with their election campaigns at the same time as they circulated recall petitions.

Why, exactly, would the CAGOP endorsing a Newsom recall fail to galvanize voters, fill them with hope and enthusiasm for their party for the first time in years, drive them to the polls on November 3, and unify them with the seasoned operatives who are fighting to preserve what remains of GOP power in California? Why not do this?

The reason why is twofold, and both are as profoundly depressing as they are curable. First, CAGOP lacks a viable gubernatorial candidate to step up, the way Schwarzenegger did back in 2003. Second, they lack a clear alternative agenda, in order to differentiate themselves from the Democrats. The first problem is harder, because it depends on somebody, somewhere, deciding to run for governor. If the right individual came along and declared their candidacy, right now, the recall campaign’s chances of forcing an election would suddenly go overnight from possible to probable. This person could be a celebrity, or they could be a lesser known elected official with extraordinary charisma and a clear message, or maybe, a known politician who suddenly takes their game to a higher level. Why isn’t CAGOP searching for this person?

The question of a political agenda is actually easier, because it doesn’t depend on anybody to step up and run for governor, it just depends on courage, vision, and maybe a bit of a gambler’s heart. Here, CAGOP may pick any half-dozen from this list, or make up their own list, but think big:

  • Implement school vouchers so that parents can send their children to any school they want, public, public charter, private, parochial, or home school.
  • Dismantle and repeal legislation such as CEQA that has made housing unaffordable to virtually all Californians, especially the disadvantaged.
  • Keep Diablo Canyon open and commission the construction of additional nuclear power plants.
  • Finance through revenue and general obligation bonds new water infrastructure, including aqueduct upgrades, desalination plants, and surface and aquifer water storage.
  • Streamline permitting to allow natural gas extraction from onshore reserves as well as offshore using slant drilling from onshore wells.
  • Build an LNG terminal on the Ventura County coast.
  • Permit mining in the Mohave Desert to extract lithium and other rare earth resources that are essential for batteries.
  • Expedite expanded sustainable logging whereby timber companies remove flammable understorage in return for the ability to harvest timber.
  • Add lanes to all major freeways; pioneer development of smart lanes and hyper lanes where autonomous cars can travel at high speeds.
  • Reform public employee pensions so California’s government agencies don’t have to continuously raise taxes.
  • Repeal Prop. 47 and Prop. 57 and restore law and order to California’s streets.
  • Relocate homeless people to shelters that are built cost-effectively in less expensive areas; break the Homeless Industrial Complex.
  • Require California’s pension funds to invest at least 10 percent of their assets as equity stakes in infrastructure projects located in California.
  • Permit utilities such as PG&E to clear cut firebreaks around rural powerlines – which other states allow – instead of the hyper-regulated current state mandate to prune around them.
  • Oppose discrimination in all forms, including affirmative action, preferential hiring, mandatory race & gender quotas, etc.

There’s much more, but details can sometimes obscure the message, and the message earns the votes. What is necessary are candidates that are committed to these principles and are willing and able to communicate them persuasively and without equivocation: Competitive abundance is preferable to politically contrived scarcity. Equality of opportunity is preferable to equality of outcome. Practical environmentalism is preferable to environmentalist extremism.

These are positions with moral worth. They justify new ideas and new policies that will transform California. And if they are presented without apology or compromise, but instead represented unequivocally as solutions that will deliver prosperity and freedom, they will appeal to all Californians.

Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Jessica Patterson announce her candidacy for Governor? Right now? Patterson is, after all, the leader of the California State Republican Party. Grab a handful of bold ideas, endorse the recall campaign, and run.

By taking a chance, the CAGOP leadership have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Endorsing the recall and finding a candidate would attract national and international attention to the CAGOP.

It would let people know, from Sacramento to Washington DC, that the CAGOP means business, that they have some fight in them, that they aren’t just dutiful, diligent, tactical and tepid, going through the motions, fighting for scraps.

And it would let Democratic politicians know, from Gavin Newsom to Joe Biden, that every state, everywhere, is back in play. Even Deep Blue California.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

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