Deeply determined to provide world-class political coverage for our readers while piling up vast mounds of paid overtime for ourselves, the Calbuzz National Affairs desk embarks to the alluring and bewitching burg of Burlingame this weekend to check in on the state Republican Party convention. After all, who could pass up a chance to hear Newt Gingrich explain California to Californians?
At a time when the state GOP is desperately seeking ways and means to regain some influence in the state, the event will offer an intriguing look at how Republican leaders and activists plan to try to navigate their future, assuming they’re all that interested in having one. Here is a look at five key questions as the party prepares to gather at the fabulous San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency:
Will Carla Marinucci be forced to wear a burqa? With national Republicans waging a full-bore war on women, from their effort to ban insurance coverage of contraceptives to their push for transvaginal pre-natal exams and unrelenting attacks on Planned Parenthood, it will interesting to see whether or how much the California GOP piles on.
From Friday night’s convention dinner, headlined by anti-condom clown-show congressman Darrell Issa, who recently convened a panel to testify about contraception that included zero women, to Sunday’s breakfast, featuring the Biblical literalist stylings of the ossified Rev. Lou Sheldon, we’ll be alert to see if the Marinucci/Williams/Van Oot female faction, whose aggressive reporting often leads the way for the press corps, gets shunted off to single gender separate seating behind a brocaded screen.
Change or more of the same? It was the late actor Strother Martin, portraying a prison guard officer in the 1967 Paul Newman vehicle “Cool Hand Luke,” who first uttered the immortal line, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
Sadly for state Republicans, their party leaders seem to have adopted his words as an operational strategy.
Convention after convention, we hear GOP honchos insist that their ideas and policies are breathtakingly superior to the Democrats, and that the only reason they’re circling the drain is their difficulty in “communicating” their brilliance to voters. Most recently, our friend Jeff Randle, one of the sharper strategists among California Republicans, took to the pages of the SacBee to make this case. Randle got the diagnosis right:
The Republican Party may be the only significant entity in California that is experiencing a severe contraction of its diversity. Or, more simply stated, the Republican Party is getting smaller, older and whiter.
Registration has declined even though the state added more than 2 million voters since 2000. We represent only 30 percent of voters, and those under 40 are not registering GOP. Decline-to-state registration is rising, and we are collapsing into a narrowly defined ideological corner that alienates moderate and independent voters.
As for his prescription, however, it was more of the same old same old claim that the GOP problem is message, not substance:
The GOP is not the incredible shrinking party because it’s wrong on the issues fundamental to California’s plight. The sad irony is that we are right, and perhaps because of that, we have stopped delivering the message Californians need to hear.
Back in November 2010, just days after the Republicans suffered another total skunking at the polls, Calbuzz offered a clear-eyes full-hearts five-point program and way forward for the GOP to regain relevance. On the remote chance it’s been forgotten in the GOP councils of power, it still resides in our incomparable archive here. We can hardly wait for the big platform debate to see how it plays at the convention.
Adios hombres y mujeres? Stop us if you’ve heard this, but the number one reason Republicans in California are swiftly headed in the direction of the Whigs and Free Soilers is their refusal to deal with the crucial pathway to citizenship issue for undocumented workers.
GOP chairman Tom Del Baccaro, bless his earnest heart, once again is ballyhooing a “Latino Town Hall” event at the convention to highlight his, no doubt well-intentioned, effort to win at least a smidgen of support among the fastest growing segment of the electorate in the state and nation (he’s also hosting similar events for Asian-Americans and what you call your Young Voters – pretty soon he’ll have his own Rainbow Coalition, just like the Democrats!).
But without an intelligent and respectful policy answer to the intractable illegal immigration issue, all the tired old talk about low taxes, less regulation, traditional family values, blah, blah, is just that. Just ask Republican Senator Mario Rubio of Florida, who seems somewhat appalled at the spectacle of immigrant bashing by the GOP presidential wannabes:
What’s the Republican legal-immigration plan? And that’s a problem, when all they hear from you is what you’re against and not what you’re for. The Republican Party has to become the pro–legal immigration party. It has to be a party that puts out two things: a commonsense, compassionate yet law-based response to people that are here without documents, and a robust legal-immigration system that emphasizes border security, worker security and an workable visa program. We have to have a proactive policy in that regard, and we haven’t.
Who is the anti-Dianne? Republicans are down to the fourth string in trying to come up with a plausible
sacrificial lamb challenger to Senator Dianne Feinstein. But then again so were the Knicks when they finally gave Jeremy Lin a shot.
Autism research advocate Elizabeth Emken, whose greatest political claim to fame is coming in 13th or 14th in the 2010 GOP primary for a Bay Area congressional seat, has been working hard to boost her profile, with a major assist from Friend of Calbuzz Mark Standriff. And over at Flashreport, our pal Jon Fleischman delivered a big wet sloppy kiss this week to Dan Hughes, an Oceanside small business owner, to get his long, long, long, long, long shot bid launched.
We’ll let you know if we bump into either of the wannabes at the bar.
Will Flash buy Newt’s drinks? Speaking of the bar, we’ll be watching to see if Fleischman ponies up for a couple rounds for Gingrich, the big star of the weekend. Callista too, if she’s in the mood for knocking back a couple of Cosmos.
The Flash makes no secret of his, um, complicated feelings about the Grinch, but we know that won’t get in the way of him playing the good host and showing Newt a wild and crazy time amid the bright lights of downtown Burlingame.
Let’s get this party started.
Meanwhile back on Planet Earth: Not that it matters to the anti-tax purists who will be gathered in Burlingame, but to the rest of California that may struggle this November to decide how to fund California, we note that the Field Poll on Friday became the second survey in the last few days to report that Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase initiative is less popular than the so-called millionaire’s tax, proposed by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign.
According to the Field Poll, the CFT/Courage Campaign tax measure – which would add 3% on earnings over $1 million a year and 5% on earnings over $2 million – has the support of 63% of voters. Brown’s measure — a temporary increase on earnings over $250,000 and a temporary ½-cent sales tax increase – pulls 58% from voters.
A third measure, sponsored by philanthropist Molly Munger – increasing income taxes for everyone on a sliding scale – trails with just 45% among voters.
The Field Poll findings echoed polling done by J. Moore Methods and released by Gov. Brown’s political team showing the CFT/Courage Campaign tax with 55%, compared to 53% for Brown’s measure and 31% for Munger’s.
Brown’s poll took a step that Field did not, asking voters how they’d choose if all three measures were on the ballot, finding Brown’s at 43%, CFT/Courage at 42% and Munger at 17% — leading Brown’s adviser to say that if all three make the ballot it becomes a “circular firing squad.”
Brown is hoping to convince the others to defer to him and pull their proposals, but thus far, supporters of the other initiatives are refusing to back down.
Here are the Field Poll findings: CFT/Courage Campaign, 63-31%; Brown, 58-36%; Munger 45-48%.
Calbuzz obtains Field Poll results from other sources because Field Research Corp. refuses – at the insistence of one of its major clients – to allow Calbuzz to become a paid subscriber.
Now, off to the lobby bar.