California GOP will not learn from recall failure

Was this the most frivolous waste of time in California election history?

He was a serious competitor, that’s for sure.

“I would say it was first of all a waste of time because it never got into the big issues California is facing,” said Rob Stutzman.

“Much ado about nothing,” said Mike Madrid.

Stutzman and Madrid are longtime Republican consultants. And the recall, of course, was a GOP-inspired pullout attempt, with marginal support from Democrats and independent voters.

Problem is, the GOP in California and the rest of the country is not so much a political party as it is a support group for cranky rattlesnakes.

“No one can tell you what republicanism means, or what it stands for anymore,” Madrid told me when the recall began this spring. “They can only tell you what they are against. … And you can’t build a movement based on what you’re up against.

In that recall, they were against Gov. Gavin Newsom, so much so that they thought we needed to hold a recall election a year before Newsom’s term ended. Madrid said it was clear to him from the start that Newsom would survive because dismissing him from office would have required “a massive Democratic defection”.

It was a distant but conceivable possibility, and a poll in August made it sound like a tossup. But the missing ingredient was a serious contender that might take some Democrats across the line.

The challengers cast included clownish suitors and tired retreads. The only one who had an influence – radio show host Larry Elder – was so out of touch with the California mainstream that Newsom’s camp must have thought it was Christmas in September.

Think about it: The main GOP candidate was a Donald Trump cheerleader who opposes minimum wage, likes to blame victims, was skeptical of climate change, once said women aren’t so knowledgeable than men and pledged to end the mask and vaccine. mandates.

You can wave these flags as much as you want, and a small part of the electorate will stand up and salute. Except that passing for a candidate for governor of Texas doesn’t get you very far in California.

But will the state GOP get the message? Don’t bet on it. They can tear up Democratic leaders of the state whatever they want, often with a just cause because state woes and leadership failures are endless.

But the reason Democrats are in charge is that the GOP hasn’t had any winning ideas or viable candidates in years, and this recall campaign can only set the party back even further.

“I don’t see (the state) advancing a moderate (Republican) to a second round of the general election next year,” Stutzman said. “I don’t know who it would be.”

It could have been former San Diego mayor and recall candidate Kevin Faulconer. But “he decided not to accept that kind of candidacy and didn’t have the funding to break through even if he did,” Stutzman said.

The only blow in a future election could be for a self-funded GOP candidate, Stutzman said. But it didn’t work for Silicon Valley mogul Meg Whitman, who spent $ 144 million of her own money in a 2010 gubernatorial race but lost to Jerry Brown.

The winning ideas just weren’t there on the GOP side, Madrid said. He recalled conversations with a GOP head of state who would say, “California has the worst homelessness problem in America, the worst housing crisis in America, the worst income divide, with human feces and needles. hypodermic in the streets. And my answer to that is, yes, and people still don’t see the Republican Party as a viable alternative, and people would rather live with it all than vote for a Republican. And that’s a Republican problem.

Madrid still considers himself a proud old school Republican. But he’s frustrated with what he called the white identity politics that dominates the GOP and alienates millions of people of color as the country becomes increasingly diverse.

Madrid are also frustrated that the California GOP is not inspired by Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont, all of which are blue states ruled by Republican governors.

“One thing (these governors) have in common is that they spoke out against Trump and the ethno-nationalism that consumed the Republican Party,” said Madrid, who accused Faulconer of cowardice because he was “anti-Trump for three years as mayor of San Diego before getting on his knees to run in the encore.

Madrid said he believed Newsom had mismanaged the pandemic in some ways and that deep-rooted issues such as income inequality and unaffordable housing have not improved or worsened over the past three years, leaving a huge opening for honest conversations about fixes.

“But this is no longer a debate that we have. The debate we have now is whether we should demolish everything or protect and preserve it, however imperfect it may be, ”said Madrid. “Is this American experience still worth living?” The Republican Party says no, if it’s not our way the elections are rigged and let’s tear them down. … Let’s destroy the institutions because this is not our America.

At the right time, on the eve of the election, Trump resuscitated his blame game.

“Does anyone really believe the California recall election is fair?” Trump asked, saying we were in a “scam” like the one that stole his reelection.

After several months of wasting time, it was the perfect exclamation point.

Steve Lopez is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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