Twenty years ago it became unmistakably evident that the California Republican Party was on the verge irrelevance and greatly in need of a reinvention to both reinvigorate its base and electoral chances.
Fast forward 20 years, and the California Republican Party is in probably even worse shape, and the perennial question continues to be: Why can’t the California Republican Party get its act together?
I don’t have any internal knowledge of Republican Party politics and the reasons why the California Republican Party appears content to relish in its obscurity and almost complete irrelevance.
But in 2016, I see a huge opportunity to rebuild and revitalize the California Republican Party.
Several key factors have now come into sharper focus which I believe provide an unmistakable opening for the resurgence of the California Republican Party in California politics. However, the rebuilding process must be done right for the long-term, as opposed to a quick fix, and serve to put the California Republican Party back on track for long-term electoral success in California politics not only today but 20 years from now.
The decline of the California Democratic Party and its increasingly tenuous positions on a variety of major policy issues has created a situation where the California Republican Party could potentially seize a natural strategic advantage on a whole host of emerging issues.
The California Democratic Party and its policies have ruined the financial condition of the State of California and most California local governments. Moreover, Moody’s Investor Services say California has the worst policies for fiscal stability and Stanford University pegs the state’s total debt from public employee compensation issues at $1.2 trillion.
Republicans have a natural policy advantage on fiscal issues because they believe in fiscal responsibility and limited government. California Democrats, on the other hand, are part of the problem and show no inclination or ability for averting the impending financial disaster that California is headed for under the current Democratic regime.
California’s regulatory climate has also become a complete nightmare due to the exploitation of the majority party for electoral gain. Democrat lawmakers continue to conjure up any number of “regulatory” bills that are commonly sold as “pro-environment” or “pro-consumer” but the real purpose of these bills is to promote themselves in their district. Unfortunately, all these regulatory bills hurt California businesses and the combined result is a nightmarish thicket of impossible and onerous regulation that continues to increase the cost of doing business in California.
Republicans could seize an advantage on regulatory issues, but they must realize that sometimes you can’t just say no. Regulation will happen, one way or another in many areas, and the key is to be smart about it and pass the best-constructed, least burdensome regulation possible to minimize the economic burden.
It’s similar to the welfare state, you can’t just say no, and the more credible partners can be on welfare programs the better because with the huge increase in the voting block at or below the poverty line—it is not possible to run in the other direction when an honest look at the politics shows another conclusion.
The Republican Party can rebuild but it first needs to undertake a major housekeeping inventory of its current politics and the prospects for change. Without a doubt, the Republican Party needs to look at reinventing itself on key populist policy issues that are hurting it the most with the California electorate, which likely include immigration, safety net programs, and environmental policy.
The poll numbers are clear on the median position of most California voters on some of these key populist issues and it is clear that the Republican Party has continued to stake out an extreme position with great electoral cost.
On other issues, such as fiscal responsibility and the overall need to reduce the size of government, I believe the California Republican Party is well positioned for where the rest of California politics is heading in the future.
Lastly, the California GOP could also seize a huge advantage on the tax issue because it is strongly connected to the state’s dismal set of fiscal circumstances. The status quo for both parties has been to largely ignore the issue at the macro level, and instead just focus on doling out special tax breaks to special interests. This is terrible public policy and serves to do nobody any good except for the special interests and the elected officials who do their bidding.
California Republicans should also look at proactively reducing the overall tax rates and burden in California through general tax cuts, limitations, and loophole closures. This could have a very populist message and if done right could position them very well to compete with the tax and spend Democrats who want nothing more than to raise your taxes as high as possible and then spend all the money.
Can the California GOP finally get its act together? I sure hope so, but it may take another 20 years.