When California Republicans meet in an airport hotel in Burlingame for their Spring Convention this weekend there will be (presumably, hopefully) a lot of discussion on how to reverse the fortunes of the past several years.
That wasn’t the case a year ago. After being the only state in the union to actually lose legislative seats in 2010’s historic GOP wave election, party leaders were debating something else: Whether or not to pass a resolution that would label GOP legislators who supported the Governor’s budget “traitorous Republicans in name only.”
That’s not a joke—on the heels of an election where the only statewide victory was to something called the “Board of Equalization” my party was focused on WHETHER OR NOT TO CALL EACH OTHER NAMES.
While polling generally shows that Californians agree with the Republicans on a number of issues like taxes and limited government, the party can’t seem to translate that support into wins.
Registration continues to plummet (7 in 10 Californians are registered as something other than Republican) and fundraising (at year’s end $2.3 million vs. $9.3 million for Democrats) has been squandered on a failed attempt to block redistricting maps drawn by a citizen’s commission. With the Governor going straight to the voters for his tax hike, Republicans have very little leverage in Sacramento.
That’s why today’s decision by Legislative Republicans to support the Governor’s pension proposal is so promising. Instead of demanding stronger reforms or trying to horse trade for other priorities, they are supporting the plan as written, no strings attached. Who can argue with that? It may not be as much as they’d like but, and this is new for them, they understand that getting a lot of what they want is better than getting nothing at all. Until they start winning elections, that’s the best they can expect.
It’s also a really smart political move by pitting Republicans and the Governor against Democrats and their union benefactors on an issue that Californians of all stripes (including Democrats and union members) overwhelmingly support.
Republicans are speaking directly to Californians who are exhausted by partisan rancor and deadlock in the Capitol and just want their elected officials to solve problems. It’s something California Republicans should do more often. I bet they’d find a sympathetic audience among the state’s voters.
And it’s a good omen this week for Republicans. Instead of swinging for home runs and missing, they should focus on base hits to steadily earn back the trust of Californians.