Tag Archives: Republicans

Wouldn’t Kashkari’s world be amazing?

IMG_9936 copyGOP candidate for governor pictures very different GOP than actually exists

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari made a big speech this weekend at the California Republican Party’s convention. It was meant to do two things: shore up his base and project a vision of a moderate party that could face California’s future challenges. In many ways, these goals are diametrically opposed to each other.

It may have accomplished the base aspect, with convention goers seeming to be happy. Or at least they told the media that they were happy. Of course, it still wasn’t enough for Controller candidate Ashley Swearingen to be convinced:

Delegate Matt Kauble of Cerritos said he voted for Kashkari’s tea party rival, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), in the June primary but was impressed by Kashkari’s passion about relieving poverty and his desire to appeal to a multiracial audience.

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Ashley Swearengin, running for controller, told reporters Friday that she hadn’t made up her mind between Kashkari and Brown because she hadn’t yet had a chance to meet with the Republican. State party chairman Jim Brulte labeled her strategy “Felony stupid” in an email exchange with other party members. (LA Times)

I must say, “felony stupid” is really an underused term. I think I’ll add it to my daily conversational repertoire. At any rate, base consolidation is a question best answered by FlashReport and the similar outlets. But the question of whether he, and the CRP, can speak to the broader California electorate is a different beast. So that’s where he comes up with this:

“When they said we don’t care about the poor, we don’t care about minorities, they have no idea what they’re talking about,” Kashkari said.(LA Times)

He backed all that up with historical connections, including the GOP’s support of the Civil Rights Act. And that is partially true. The civil rights legislation of the 60s and 70s wouldn’t have occured without the support of Northern Republicans. Except that most of those Republicans (see Chaffee, Lincoln) have left the GOP for the Democratic Party. And then there is the small matter of the now widely acknowledged Southern strategy.

Wouldn’t it be great if Kashkari’s vision were actually true? I would love to live in a world where there was robust debate between two parties focused on how to best ensure that no American went to bed hungry or homeless. But that world is not this one. No matter how you try to dress up the Republican party, especially the California Republican party, it is still a right-wing organization with signed contracts of inflexibility.

Maybe in another generation or so we could see two (or, preferably, more!) parties that can speak to the California electorate giving voters real options. But the CRP that Kashkari hopes to lead is not that one.

Demographic Doom for California Republicans

Former California Assembly & Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte at Modern Direct DemocracyLA Times poll has dire warnings for the minority party

by Brian Leubitz

If you look at the composition of the legislature, or the voter registration numbers, you’ll quickly see that we are in a pretty gloomy era for Republicans. But, wait, darker days are just around the corner: a LA Times poll shows just how poorly the CRP is situated in front of the demographic wave.

Already those younger and minority voters – 38% of the voter pool – are propping up Democrats in California. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has a positive job approval rating of 55% overall. Among white voters the rating is 51%. Among black voters, it is 61%, Among Latinos, it is 67%.

Other poll findings suggest no end to that imbalance. Asked their political ideology, 52% of those ages 49 and younger describe themselves as liberal, to 40% who say conservative. That is close to the opposite of those over 50, only 47% of whom say they are liberal to 58% conservative. (LA Times)

As the Times points out, there is hope for the GOP that younger voters will gradually shift to the right, a process that has occurred in previous generations. But if you look at who today’s Republicans are, here is what you get: a middle aged, upper middle class, white man.

These are not the demographics for future electoral success. Minorities continue to grow as a percentage of voters, and broader participation in statewide elections could simply exacerbate these problems for the CRP.

But the CRP isn’t alone, this is the same problem generally facing the entire Republican Party.  And Gov. Chris Christie is an excellent example of this. He is considered a moderate Republican, and gains a strong majority of support among Northeastern Republicans. But he only gets 27% of Southern GOP support in a recent poll. And head to head against Hillary Clinton, no Republican candidate can really claim to have an electability argument in their favor.

If the Republicans are to move forward as a viable party, they need to consider whether they will stick to the ideological guns on social and immigration issues. As it stands, even a solid political tactician like Jim Brulte won’t be able to swing the party’s fate without a major shift in their overall goals as a party.

Republicans Don’t Like Their Dirty Laundry in The Open

California Republican Assembly leader defeated after rape comments

by Brian Leubitz

Once is a slip, an uniformed comment. Twice is a troubling pattern, but perhaps just two outliers. A third crazy rape statement  makes it pretty hard to explain away. The last thing Republicans needed as March rolled around was more fuel for the rape comment fire.

Now, Celeste Greig is hardly a powerhouse. She was president of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), once a powerful group that has been slowly slipping into obscurity in step with the fate of the California GOP in general. She commanded no votes. Her power was simply that of a “grasstops” conservative activist. Not typically the kind of people that journalists are targeting for the juicy quotes. But, Ms. Greig found time to give the Mercury News just that back at the winter California Republican convention:

Before arriving at the state GOP’s spring convention here, Celeste Greig told this newspaper that pregnancies by rape are rare “because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized.” (Steve Harmon / Bay Area News Group)

Along with that, she said that Akin’s comments were insensitive, and tat they should never have been said. But by the time the reader gets to them, the factually incorrect “scientific” part of the quote has already grabbed the attention. You kind of have to feel bad for her, she isn’t really a politician, but she went ahead and talked to journalists without really knowing what she was talking about. And that is always a bad situation.

The reaction was rampant across the web as the story came out. The CRA got more attention in those few days than they had for years. But ridicule is hardly the way to bring about a renaissance, and the members of the CRA were growing restless as their election came up this week.

By an 84-78 vote, CRA members at a convention over the weekend selected John W. Briscoe, of Fountain Valley, to be president, said Aaron Park, the conservative blogger and CRA official who ran Briscoe’s campaign.

Park faulted Greig for “embarrassing headlines” and shrinking membership in the decades-old CRA, and he said the group “took decisive action to change course.”(SacBee CapAlert)

At this point, the CRA is unlikely to ever recover what they once were in the 60s and 70s, but I think many activists in the organization would settle for a quiet anonymity for the time being. Many right-wing conservatives seem to actually believe these outlandish and scientifically unsupported statements. But they just don’t want people telling reporters about them. You know, keep your dirty laundry inside and all that.

The new leader apparently shares the name John Briscoe with a Ocean View School Trustee who was creating a bit of controversy trying to display the words “In God We Trust” on schools. However, John W. Briscoe is a long time conservative activist from the OC, and apparently a well-liked member of the conservative community in Southern California.

More PPIC: Republicans Looking Even More Dismal Than Originally Thought

GOP faces credibility and demographic issues

by Brian Leubitz

I left one set of numbers off the previous PPIC poll post, mostly because they deserved to be called out independently. Namely, this party data is deeply troubling for the future of the Republican Party:

If you are a Republican, the only thing I suppose you can hang your hat upon is that you still just as well with white voters as the Democrats do.  Except that with the growth of the minority voters, that simply isn’t enough anymore. The “which party is more concerned with voters like you” question also went to the Democrats. Solid majorities of blacks (86%), Latinos (73%), and Asians (64%) choose the Democratic Party. Whites are divided (37% Republican Party, 41% Democratic Party).

And the overall 56% unfavorable rating is no way to win an election, except in the most right-wing districts. All this amounts to what we saw in the 2012 election, with Republicans falling below the 1/3 threshold for relevance.

Now, that is not to say that California voters are thrilled with the Democratic Party. In fact, some folks are looking for another option:

A majority of likely voters (59%) say the two major parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third major party is needed, while just 32 percent say the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job.

Now, I’ve always felt that California is ripe for a centrist party to make big gains, mostly by taking traditional Republican voters and some of the moderate Democrats. The work of getting there is an extremely high hurdle, creating a real third party in today’s climate almost requires a billionaire to swoop in to fund it. And even Michael Bloomberg hasn’t built up any kind of infrastructure to really grow a third party. The two-party structure is just so ingrained at this point that most of the third party talk has usually stopped at the talking.

All that being said, whether the new CRP chair Jim Brulte can do anything about these numbers is the biggest question about the CRP, but his base might really be a bigger obstacle to future growth than any individual policy or messaging point.

CRP Convention Wrapup: Karl Rove to GOP: To Win, Pretend To Be Something Else

2013 Spring ConventionbannerStrategist tells GOP crowd their “messaging” is wrong, not their principles

by Brian Leubitz

The California Republican Party is having its semi-annual big event this weekend. It isn’t exactly notable for the impact it will have on the state, more for the attempts at introspection. The party formally inaugurates their new leader, likely long-time Ranch Cucamonga politician Jim Brulte, today. Brulte called the job “more like a bankruptcy workout”  and seeing the big numbers on their debt ledger, it is hard to argue.

But the national civil war between the grassroots of the party and some of its establishment, like Karl Rove, is in full swing here. The party is looking at a more diverse and moderate electorate than they can really appeal to. The Todd Akin controversy came roaring back onto the scene when Celeste Greig, the head of the Reagan-dubbed “conscience of the Republican Party”, the California Republican Assembly, stepped in a pile of dung.  Her comments, entirely refutable if you actually read the science are really quite hard to discern from Akin’s comments that she was intending to put down as poor form.

“That was an insensitive remark,” Greig said. “I’m sure he regretted it. He should have come back and apologized.”

She then went on, however, to agree with Akin’s premise that such pregnancies are uncommon.

“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized,” she added. “I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”(HuffPo)

Who knows what Greig was going for here, but facts don’t seem to be the intended destination. She clearly doesn’t understand how the body works, and is probably best to stay away from the topic. You would have thought somebody, having observed the Akin mess, would know not to go there. But apparently not, and Greig tread on, not exactly following Rove’s instructions that came later to change the messaging.

For his part, Rove went delicately into the fray, careful to indicate that the party “shouldn’t lose its principles.” However, they should try to repackage them into a tidy package that makes Californians, and Americans more generally, forget about the Bush years (his doing) and the terrible rancor emerging from the House these days. Given that this is California, and Latinos are soon to become (if not already) the largest demographic group in the state, that is a lot of repackaging. But Rove says maybe it is time for a little flexibility, rather than demanding ideological purity.

“We’re going to have to have a little forbearance in listening to the ideas and suggestions of other people in our party about how we modernize ourselves and get ready for the next contests in the future,” Rove said, “because we don’t own all the answers right now. I don’t want to snuff out the next Jack Kemp by saying well, don’t worry, he’s not a principled person.” …

“Losing has one great benefit to it,” Rove said. “It gives you the chance to start fresh to look everything anew and start rebuilding from the ground up in innovative and thoughtful ways that will expand our reach and expand our members.”(Steven Harmon/BANG)

That may be true, but color me unconvinced that the CRP is really looking at ditching their litmus tests. While Tom Del Beccarro calls Prop 8 a “difficult issue” for the CRP, his party is also missing the pulse wildly on gun control and immigration and a host of other issues. The state rejected the anti-tax and anti-labor rhetoric last fall, and the CRP continues to try to go back to the same well.

While the supermajority rules should be completely eliminated, they could make a revitalized Republican Party matter in California again. But they need to change more than their messaging if they want to be really viable in this state.

CA GOP Looking Back to the Future: Rove Edition

PhotobucketRove to headline CRP convention

by Brian Leubitz

The California Republican Party (CRP) may love the old Michael J. Fox movies, but, if they are interested in returning to electoral viability, this doesn’t seem quite the ticket. It seems they loved the Bush years, and his “Ohio outburst” so much, that Karl Rove will be they keynote for the CRP convention in March.

The California Republican Party is turning to GOP strategist Karl Rove, the “architect” of former President George W. Bush’s political campaigns, as it works to rebuild its own brand in the Golden State.

The party has tapped Rove as the keynote speaker for its spring convention in Sacramento, which will take place the first weekend in March. He’ll address members at a Saturday night banquet at the Hyatt Regency.(SacBee)

Perhaps Rove and his “unskewed” numbers are a way that the CRP thinks it can move forward. However, his politics of divisiveness have never worked here in California.  While he has been something of a moderate on immigration issues, the underlying tactics of divide and conquer do not suit California’s voter patterns or demographics.

Jim Brulte, who recently announced that he is running for CRP Chair, has a lot of work in front of him if he is successful. Forgetting about the rather large debt that the CRP is already laboring under, fundraising for a party with no hands on governmental levers is a monumental task. However, a party that is completely beholden to a fringe that has been thoroughly rejected on a statewide level cannot succeed.  I have respect for Brulte as a politician, but this may even be a big ask for a magician.

And looking to Rove, and an era that never really took hold in California, doesn’t seem a good path forward.

Republicans can’t cover up policy failure with diversity outreach

Reposted from my Sunday feature at Daily Kos. Since it’s mainly California content, I think it deserves a place here too.

Los Angeles conservative radio hosts

California right-wing radio shock jocks John and Ken. Diversity!

Immediately after the November election, I wrote about the overwhelming victory Democrats enjoyed in California, where Governor Brown’s tax measure was passed, the union-busting Proposition 32 was soundly defeated, and Democrats claimed a supermajority in both chambers that will allow them, if they so choose, to pass budgets and submit initiatives for voter approval without a single Republican vote.

Since the time of that writing, things have gotten even worse for Republicans in the legislature, as Democrats picked up two additional seats in vote canvassing in races which their candidates were trailing on election day: Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani came back to beat her colleague Tom Berryhill for a hotly contested State Senate race to pad Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s margin. And lastly, in perhaps the shocker of elections in California, Democratic candidate Steve Fox completed a comeback on the very last day of canvassing when the Los Angeles County Registrar counted the last 1,601 votes in Assembly District 36. Fox gained 463 votes from that final update, giving him a 145-vote win in a traditionally Republican area and padding Speaker John Perez’ majority to a 55-25 count in the 80-seat chamber.

Republicans have held minority status in Sacramento ever since the turn of the millennium, but it’s only now that panic is really starting to set in. Because of Proposition 13 in 1978, which began California’s so-called “tax revolt,” it takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass tax increases or put referendums on the ballot; while still a minority, Republicans had always held at least one-third of one of the two chambers, which allowed them to effectively control the terms of the debate for budgetary issues and continue to extract major cuts and concessions every single election cycle. But as the extremist Republican agenda of decimating the public sector and social services continued to cripple the state, cracks started to show. During the red wave of 2010, California Democrats not only held all their seats; they actually expanded their legislative majorities. Meanwhile, team blue also swept every single statewide office that year, despite the millions of dollars that failed CEO’s Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina spent trying to buy a governorship and Senate seat, respectively.

In 2012, the dam burst. A variety of factors combined to create a Democratic wave in California: nonpartisan redistricting created a series of competitive districts; the creation of online voter registration led to a surge of turnout by young and minority voters; and voters who had had enough of budget cuts began to believe in a different vision for the state. It all adds up to one reality: when the rounds of special elections are over and all the vacancies are filled, Democrats will be able to do what they want in Sacramento without a single Republican vote, provided that they can keep their caucus unified.

The shocking results are leading California Republicans to engage in the same refrain being used by their Washington counterparts. It’s not the policies, they claim, but rather the message:

California Republicans in the Assembly looking to revive their party have a new team on their side.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway on Thursday announced a new “Diversity Outreach Team” made up of government staff members. A news release says the group will focus on “helping strengthen Republican ties with women, ethnic communities and young people.”

“We know that most Californians share our common-sense ideas, but we need to do a better job communicating that message,” Conway said in a statement. “To become the majority party again, we must not only talk to diverse communities but also listen and that’s what our Diversity Outreach Team is all about.”

It takes a special brand of chutzpah to claim that most of a state’s voters agree with you when you hold no statewide offices and less than a third of the seats in both houses of that state’s legislature. But it also takes a special brand of either arrogance or blindness to believe that having your party be rendered entirely irrelevant in the most populous state in the nation is simply a messaging problem that can be fixed by token figures to head up a “diversity outreach” program aimed at all the various groups of voters who simply cannot stand what you represent.

It was the unified opposition of the Republican Party, after all, that thwarted Speaker Perez’ best efforts to eliminate a corporate tax break for multi-state businesses and use the money to cut the cost of higher education. Republican legislators and governors have consistently opposed efforts to make life easier for immigrants and their children. Republicans are the ones who have consistently worked to hold California’s budget hostage to painful budget cuts to social services and health care programs for the poor. And no amount of “outreach” to women will help undo the damage done at the national level by Rush Limbaugh and the constant efforts to strip away reproductive rights.

It’s not that California Republicans haven’t done a good enough job explaining their values. Quite the opposite: They’ve done too good a job. As a matter of fact, they even have their own equivalent of Rush Limbaugh in the form of John and Ken, archconservative radio shock jocks who enforce discipline against any Republican even contemplating lenience on tax issues or undocumented immigrants and who make a habit of crude insults against the very groups Republicans are now appointing a diversity team to reach.

If Republicans want to know what future they have to look forward to, all they have to do is see what has happened to them in California. The only thing saving Republicans nationwide is simply that the country as a whole doesn’t quite resemble the demographics of California. Yet.

Tim Donnelly Brings Crisis Front and Center to the GOP

Minuteman Assemblyman looks to challenge for 2014 Governor’s race

by Brian Leubitz

Tim Donnelly isn’t one to shy from a fight, and clearly that’s what he has in mind by announcing a bid for the 2014 Governor’s gig. Now, Gov. Brown hasn’t yet announced his intentions, but the speculation is that he will likely be giving it another go. Challenging Gov. Brown, even with the state’s challenges, is a tall order that many prominent Republicans (read: wealthy outsiders) may not want to take on.

So, this is what is facing the California GOP. Unless the exceedingly unlikely happenstance of a Democrat challenging Brown occurs, Republicans will likely be free to have a free for all primary and still get on the general election ballot. That being said if there were any “adults” in the room of the California Republican establishment, you would expect that they would shutter at the thought of a Donnelly candidacy.

Let’s just look at what the Republicans have here. Donnelly is a far right conservative, out of step with the California electorate, to be sure. But that is probably not a disqualifier with today’s California Republican Party. But he really came to the public spotlight through his work with the Minutemen, the anti-immigration group. While leadership in a vigilante organization is always a bit tough to spot, clearly he was in the forefront. And the organization never was all that shy about talking about race and immigration.

So, this is where the CRP is headed. In a state that is a minority-majority state with a burgeoning Latino electorate, the first major Republican to announce an exploratory bid for the Governor’s spot is…a Minuteman leader.  If Donnelly does get on the general election, it is difficult to see a path for the Republicans out of the wilderness. As Prop 187 brought Wilson to power, it also set the CRP on its course for long-term irrelevance.  That culminated this year with a legislative supermajority.

Perhaps there is a place for the Republican Party in California, but if so, they’ll need to drastically review where they are headed.  The strategy and course they are on is great for a regional party, or perhaps a Southern State. But, unless they can find some way to attract a broader base, they’ll keep walking the road to minor party status.

WSJ Whines for California Republicans

Editorial shows complete lack of understanding of past few years in Sacramento

by Brian Leubitz

The editors at the once illustrious Wall Street Journal, now having moved into new diggs next to Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly, has decided that whining worked well for Karl Rove.  Apparently so well that they thought they would give it a try:

For Republicans unhappy with Tuesday’s election, we have good news-at least most of you don’t live in California. Not only did Democrats there win voter approval to raise the top tax rate to 13.3%, but they also received a huge surprise-a legislative supermajority. Look out below.

The main check on Sacramento excess has been a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority of both houses to raise taxes. Although Republicans have been in the minority for four decades, they could impose a modicum of spending restraint by blocking tax increases. If Democratic leads stick in two races where ballots are still being counted, liberals will pick up enough seats to secure a supermajority. Governor Jerry Brown then will be the only chaperone for the Liberals Gone Wild video that is Sacramento. (WSJ)

First, I would like to thank the SF Chronicle’s Marisa Lagos for an excellent tweet on this piece:

Now, I could spend hours debunking this on tax grounds. I could point out that the legislature, having just seen Prop 30 pass, will go nowhere near income tax rates. Or I could just merely direct them to the litany of issues where progressives are marginalized. Are you a progressive legislator? Well, hope you didn’t plan on getting anywhere near the banking committee.

California was Citizens United before Citizens United was cool. It is a state controlled by independent expenditures and campaign cash. The power of these IEs now is such that neither Democrats nor Republicans really dare to break the status quo for risk of offending them.

For example, you would think in such “liberals gone wild” situation, you would have seen some sort of fracking legislation. Something, even a bit of disclosure, but no. Despite only requiring a bare majority for much of it, progressive legislation has a way of finding its way into the suspense file.

But the WSJ isn’t concerned with such details. In a world where their heroes have been vanquished, they search about for talking points. And in California they think they have one.  However, they miss the facts. They miss the incredibly important point that most of the debt was run up under Republican governors. The GOP here clung to their tax cut portion of the “Two Santas” and an unrational fealty to Grover Norquist. They miss the fact that the Republicans weren’t a victim of some sinister plot, they were simply a political suicide.

From the author of the California Target Book, Tony Quinn:

The good news for Republicans is that they are no longer a dying party.  The bad news is that they are dead, and the final dagger into the corpse was the huge turnout of young voters on Tuesday – the exit polls show that 18 to 29 years olds made up 28 percent of the 2012 electorate.  …

it is time to let Howard Jarvis rest in peace and stop pretending we are still in the world of Proposition 13.  On Tuesday 85 of 106 school bond measures passed, according to the League of California Cities.  Californians clearly want more public resources; the question now is whether that money is spent wisely.  That is where the Republican and business focus should be.(Fox & Hounds, Tony Quinn)

The California GOP, like the greater national party, has lost young voters. If it hopes to return to a semblance of a statewide party, it will need to moderate itself back into a party that accurately represents some portion of California’s electorate. Otherwise, I guess they can enjoy their lunches at Chops, but that is about as close to actual governance as they’ll get.

Everybody Hates Tom

CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro in SacramentoCRP takes away chair’s flexibility and power in a move that comes as fundraising numbers lag

by Brian Leubitz

It isn’t easy being a Republican in California. That’s especially true if you came in promising big change and prosperity, but ended up writing a ballot measure opposing your biggest expenditure.  And so, there’s this:

With less than three months to go until the November election, the California Republican Party Board of Directors has approved a structural shake-up some insiders say is meant to limit Chairman Tom Del Beccaro’s involvement in the party’s strategic planning and fundraising efforts.(SacBee)

The structural changes take away his power over the 2012 election, registration, and gotv drives. They also form committees to take on what was most of the rest of Del Beccaro’s bailiwick. In other words, the chair’s role at the CRP has essentially been neutered by their executive committee.

Given that his biggest spending priority, gathering signatures for the senate district referendum turned into something of a disaster, and that his other fundraising numbers have been abysmal, this is not particularly surprising.  However, he does always have the dream of a prop 32 victory leading the GOP back to relevancy. (Another reason to make sure we work hard this November!)

Del Beccarro is at something of a loss at this point, without much real authority and much respect among his own party. Should be more fun times at the CRP as they try to rebuild an unpopular brand in the state.