Political Animal


January 18, 2013 3:11 PM No “Struggle For the Soul of GOP” in the States, Either

By Ed Kilgore

One of the themes I’ve been talking about since November 6 is the frantic search of Republicans in Washington for something, anything to change other than its ideology in order to improve its political standing. There’s endless talk of technology, tactics, outreach efforts, and minor tweaks in selected policy positions involving non-core issues like immigration (where the “change” Republicans are timidly considering actually just involves a partial return to policies championed by the George W. Bush). But none of the real stuff on taxes, entitlements, education, the environment, labor policy, anti-discrimination laws, abortion, foreign policy—or for that matter, the belief that “socialists” are taking the country straight to hell.

Well, maybe they think Democratic errors and a much more congenial midterm electorate in 2014 will save their bacon. But that’s a less compelling excuse in states where the GOP is not only losing ground but has become virtually irrelevant—most notably the largest state, Ronald Reagan’s state, California.

With that in mind I was interested to read an assessment from the veteran reporters at Calbuzz of the most promising and ambitious of candidates to become the new California GOP chairman, a former legislator named Jim Brulte. It’s generally a very positive account of his tripartite strategy for party renewal that includes rebuilding its fundraising infrastructure, focusing on grassroots organization in parts of the state where Republicans are under-performing, and recruiting candidates for local offices now going to Democrats by default. But then there’s this:

[T]he California GOP’s problem isn’t just a failure to communicate - it’s the underlying message that’s being communicated that’s a problem. The GOP brand is poison - among most white voters but especially among Latinos, Asians and black voters. Oh, and women. This is because as long as the Republican federal and state officeholders and candidates espouse misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, no-tax-ever ideology, no amount of lipstick will gussie up that pig.
It will be endlessly entertaining to watch Chairman Brulte handle the screwball California Republican Assembly members who want to introduce resolutions for the CRP to adopt at its conventions, declaring that any candidate who votes for any tax increase or any candidate who supports choice or a pathway to citizenship cannot have GOP backing.
Brulte can fix the operational flaws in the California GOP — and his election as chairman would mark a huge leap forward for the state party. But until the Republicans in California — especially those seeking to represent legislative districts at all levels — moderate their politics to more closely align with the mainstream of political thought in the state, The California Republican Party will remain a pariah. No matter who’s chairman.

In other words, if the steak is tough and unappetizing to the taste, all the sizzle in the world won’t make people buy it. If Republicans haven’t figured that out in California, where they are on life support, I’m not sure if they’ll figure it out anywhere absent a few more electoral beatings.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2013 3:28 PM:

    The Republican Party is like an old racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and/or misogynist person drowning in the sea, and when a Black, Hispanic, Gay person, or single woman swims up and offers to help, the old fool says, "NO! I only want to be with my own kind. And if I have to drown, at least I'll drown without having asked for help from the likes of YOU!"


  • John Sully on January 18, 2013 3:35 PM:

    Brulte, rhymes with cruelty. I wouldn't count on him to fix the republican brand; when he was in the lege he was one of the most far right members, IIRC.

  • Citizen Alan on January 18, 2013 3:52 PM:

    Well, duh! Why do you think they're trying to rig the Electoral College to ensure that they can continually
    win the White House even if they never win the popular vote again.

  • Josef K on January 18, 2013 3:53 PM:

    One of the themes Iíve been talking about since November 6 is the frantic search of Republicans in Washington for something, anything to change other than its ideology in order to improve its political standing.

    Thankfully for the rest of us, they haven't happened upon one of the most obvious ways of accomplishing this: plain old-fashioned mass murder. I'm talking full-on, Old Testament progroms and ethnic cleansing campaigns!

  • Doug on January 18, 2013 5:36 PM:

    "I'm not sure if they'll figure it out anywhere absent a few more electoral beatings." Ed Kilgore

    Sorta puts the ball in OUR court, doesn't it?

  • emjayay on January 18, 2013 7:33 PM:

    I think nominating Mitt Romney was an even worse idea than it seemed. What the Republicans had going with them was God-given conviction. None of that aetheistical situation ethics for them. No, just good old eternal God-given ten commandments and Father Knows Best. Plus pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

    Then they ran a guy for president who rather obviously was willing to claim anything that he thought would get him elected, turning from sort of liberal a few years ago to severely conservative. And willing to lie about just about anything, even continuing whatever lies that were refuted. Lyin Ryan didn't help.

    And also a guy who was superrich and paying half the income tax rate as everyone else is. And grew up the priveleged son of a captain of industry besides. Occupy Wall Street gave those who don't actually know anything about income distribution etc. a simple handle to understand: the One Percent. And just in case anyone thought he wasn't really the guy he seemed to be, along came the 47% video.

    Romney lost decisively, but not by a landslide. Not that bad really, except for the huge and I hope long lasting damage to the Republican brand.

  • Ron714 on January 19, 2013 2:25 AM:

    By all accounts, Brulte is very smart. But he has consistently said he's going to stick to operations, not policy.

    That's too bad for anybody who likes a healthy two-party system, something California has lacked for a long time. Improving the GOP's operations may yield a few legislative seats, maybe even a congressional seat, but that's about it. Until they make their peace with Latinos, immigrants and social moderates, they are doomed to be a permanent second (and maybe eventually third to independents) party in California.

    And again, for anyone who treasures the two-party system and a healthy competition of ideas, that's a bad thing.

  • esaud on January 19, 2013 9:16 AM:

    This is the best news I have seen in a long time. As the GOP was growing crazier, crueler and more ignorant, the big question I had was, what is the endgame? Would they wither and die, or would they bring the entire country (and perhaps the whole world) with them.

    I hope California will once again be a bell weather for what is to come to states other than the deep south.

    And all of those high paid media stars should start wising up. Pretty soon, no one other than Fox fanatics will believe their stupid fale equivilence between the left and the right.