Like many Republican activists, I’ve read just about every opinion piece and news article published on the web since November 6, 2012 about how the California Republican Party or the political Center-Right can become “relevant” in California.
Many of those pieces were useless or insulting, but apparently they were effective in convincing some Republican politicians that people need to give more of their money to the government in the form of taxes. (These tax increases are referred to as “investing.”)
In contrast, the most valuable piece I read was How Conservatives Can Win in Blue-State America: Lessons from South Africa’s Opposition. It lists ten strategies that have allowed the Democratic Alliance opposition party to build a diverse coalition of supporters and win elections without compromising Center-Right principles. The first strategy: Do not compromise basic principles; instead, show how they are relevant to all.
The commentary within California that has probably generated the most debate among Republican activists was in the November 16 Orange County Register: Building ‘New’ Republican Party in California by San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who narrowly lost the race for Mayor of San Diego on November 6. Regrettably, activists seem to be more concerned about whether or not this piece indicates DeMaio is going to run for statewide office than about whether or not his proposed five-point approach is correct:
- Become the party of reform (focus on fiscal responsibility)
- Commit to making government work again (better performance of existing programs)
- Move beyond “no” and offer real solutions (offer credible alternatives for governance)
- Become a party of inclusion (specifically address diverse groups beyond the typical older white voter base)
- Court the next generation (adopt to new methods of communication)
I have developed my own ideas, which generally match DeMaio’s proposals and the proposals in the South Africa article.
1. Promote a Specific Alternative Program of Governance
As of November 26, 2012, the California State Assembly Republican Caucus has issued two press releases since the day after November 6 election: (1) Connie Conway was unanimously re-elected as Assembly Minority Leader on November 8; and (2) Connie Conway issued a statement on November 20 about the Israel-Hamas conflict.
This is not a promising start toward ending the era of legislative irrelevance. Many California Republicans are wondering if the party remnant in the state legislature is ever going to explain its vision for governing the state differently than the Democrats. Why is this so difficult? Is it a lack of principles, a lack of leadership, or a lack of cooperation?
Here’s a sample alternative program I developed without help from professional consultants:
How Republicans Would Govern California Differently Than Democrats
Reform the workings of the state legislature so it serves the People of California and not special interest groups
1. Put the Legislature under the same employment laws, contracting laws, and public records access laws as apply to the rest of the people of California.
2. End the disorder and lack of accountability at the Legislature by allowing the people of California to adequately review proposed laws, end the notorious “gut-and-amend” process, end vote switching after votes are closed, require legislators to be present in committee for votes to count, and alternate annual legislative sessions between budget sessions and general sessions.
3. Strictly limit the ability of special interest groups, including lobbyist employers, to give gifts to members of the Legislature.
Slow the growing debt burden on future generations
4. Require the ballot language of bond measures to indicate the current bond debt of the government entity, estimate the total debt from the proposed bond measure (including financial transaction fees and interest), and explain that selling a bond means borrowing money and paying it back with interest through tax increases.
5. Pass a Taxpayer Information Act – similar to the Social Security annual reports, annual reports would be provided by the state in early October to households, corporations, vehicle owners, and property owners indicating the total amount paid for the past five years in taxes and fees to the State of California and California local governments.
6. Require the executive branch to report annually to the Legislature and the People of California about the state’s financial liabilities, require the executive branch to provide proposed budgets for the upcoming two fiscal years that honestly establish the amount to be collected from taxes and fees and amount to be saved by spending reductions, and ensure that revenues equal expenditures in proposed and enacted budgets.
Encourage economic growth and job creation by stopping schemes that impose excessive and unnecessary costs when doing business in California
7. Reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the pure intent of Governor Ronald Reagan by ensuring public involvement is strictly confined to legitimate environmental impacts.
8. Freeze all new regulations for six months and enact a package of reforms that allow a reasonable amount of time for regulatory compliance, properly evaluate regulatory costs to businesses and taxpayers, and end regulations that are ineffective or show an absurd disparity between costs and benefits.
9. Discourage foolish, frivolous, and harassing lawsuits by enacting a measured and reasonable “loser pays” rule for the courts.
Bring more accountability to powerful government entities with appointed boards
10. Restrict the number and power of joint powers agencies and other regional government entities to which board members are appointed.
11. Reduce the number of state boards and commissions and establish a system for greater legislative oversight of regulations enacted by these boards and commissions.
12. Set reasonable minimum standards for joint powers agencies and other regional government entities concerning meeting notices and public information on the web.
2. Establish or Cultivate a California Intellectual Policy Center (Think Tank)
At this time, the most visible and influential free market-oriented policy institute for California governance is based in Manhattan. As long as California lacks a homegrown, aggressive, relevant policy institute to develop and promote Center-Right principles and applications for the state, professional political campaign consultants will fill the vacuum and set the policy agenda for the California Republican Party.
3. Expand Republican Speech – Overhaul the Use of Web and Social Media
Why did the California Republican Party web site focus on the shortcomings of President Obama, when California was never expected to be a competitive state in the presidential election? Why is there virtually no presence of state and county Republican Party officials on Twitter? Why are many county Republican Party web sites so amateurish?
Many activists in the California Republican Party are traditionalists who are wary of the triviality and foolishness posted on the web and circulated through trendy social media. But earlier generations recoiled against radio and then television, and then they adopted to the new ways of communication.
The Republican Party of San Diego County is going in the right direction in effectively using the web and social media as a communications tool. Someone needs to establish web sites for all of the state and local Republican Party organizations, keep them updated regularly with relevant and factual state and local content, and inform the public through social media when there is fresh content. And impose a moratorium on bashing President Obama – even Republicans are tired of it.
4. Focus on Federalism: Local Government Should Serve as the Base of Opposition
The California Republican Party should encourage Republicans in local government to develop, propose, and implement standards and models of governance that provide the best quality public services to citizens at the best price for taxpayers. This will create a dramatic contrast with local governments run by Democrats that will file for bankruptcy in 2013 and 2014.
In addition, Republicans should encourage cities to seek or exercise their constitutional right to govern their own municipal affairs through a charter, thus freeing themselves from the costly mandates of the state legislature. There should be 30 proposed city charters on the June 2014 ballot for California voters to consider. Republicans in California’s current 121 charter cities should use their local governing authority in innovative and creative ways.