CA GOP’s ‘Enough is Enough’ is Not Good Enough


Nothing we saw at the California Republican Party convention last weekend suggested that either of the leading GOP candidates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, has a strategic message or distilled election theme that goes much beyond unrelenting negativity about government and their opponents.

“Enough is enough,” seemed to be the closest thing to an overarching slogan from any candidate and that’s not much to hang a campaign on. While “Yes we can” could be translated into “Si se puede” for Latino voters, don’t hold your breath waiting for the cries of “¡Basta Ya!”

Even if it worked linguistically, what does it mean? Who does it recommend? More importantly, where the Republican’s Reaganesque sunny optimism? Or even the Bushy saccharine positivism?

Instead, the California GOP of 2010 says, the hell with that stupid shining city on the hill: let’s tear down that derelict village in the valley, by God.

It’s telling that the most enthusiastic response of the convention came when  secretary of state candidate Damon Dunn kept yelling “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  When your best campaign theme is a line filched from “Network” —  a 1976 movie written by Paddy Chayefsky and delivered by Peter Finch — you know you’re struggling to come up with what communications professionals like to call a (quote-unquote) message.

Whitman (“A New California”) and Fiorina (“Protect the American Dream”) pay lip service to the great possibilities that lie in California’s future. Their most constant rhetoric, however,  is all about the sorry state of affairs in Sacramento and Washington and the horrible impact  Democratic foes Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have had and will have on civic life.

It is the Republican’s great good fortune that neither Brown nor Boxer has yet developed a concise and coherent theme, either. Brown’s slogan is a flaccid “Let’s get California working again” and Boxer’s is, er, well, she doesn’t seem to have one at all.

But just 10 weeks before the election, one would expect the GOP convention to serve as the venue for the candidates to roll out their meta-message for the fall campaign as a rallying cry for the party faithful. It didn’t happen.

Instead, Whitman tried to argue that she was running against the incumbent governor:  “After four years as attorney general, four years as secretary of state, eight years as mayor of Oakland and two terms as governor, we once and for all are going to say goodbye to Jerry Brown’s failed ideas and broken promises,” she told the delegates.

California can’t afford Brown’s “radical approach and failed philosophies” when the state is facing an unemployment crisis that is “tearing at the fabric of our very culture”  and “strangling” business with unnecessary rules and regulations.

Sheesh. Given that state of affairs, you’d think she’d be pissed at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – the actual incumbent.

Fiorina, at least, can rightly complain about a Democratic president and U.S. Senator whom she portrays as closet socialists who are weakening the social structure.

But man is she a downer:

I’ve crossed every region of California and I have found islands of despair. In our beautiful state, there is a steady, grinding injustice where the failed policies of Washington’s ruling class have smothered hopes in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people — losing jobs, losing homes, destroying businesses, and worse, sapping the life and the strength and the dreams out of working families in every corner and every county.

Guess we’ll just slit our throats right now and be done with it.

To their credit neither Whitman nor Fiorina appears ready to throw in with what columnist E.J. Dionne calls “the rise of angry, irrational extremism” of the Glenn Beck, Tea Party variety.

Of course, in California, that would not be smart political strategy, which explains why Whitman’s royalists killed a resolution to back Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law and why Fiorina had to be racked by reporters to acknowledge she thought the resolution might be “appropriate” before she was swept away by her handlers.

But neither do they advocate the optimistic conservatism of candidates like Marco Rubio of Florida who says, “Vote for us because you couldn’t possibly vote for them? That’s not enough. It may win some seats, but it won’t take you where you want to be.”

Fiorina’s negativity has a stronger rationale than eMeg’s: she is trying to oust an incumbent United States Senator and has to make the case both against Boxer and for herself. She’s doing a pretty good job of the former if not too well on the latter.

But Whitman is running mostly against Brown who, last we checked, is not the incumbent. Her campaign’s strategy is to make him look like the incumbent, but that has led to such a negative approach that Whitman has been unable to get above 40% favorable despite spending ungodly amounts of money.

Whitman’s big problem is that, after pouring $104 million into her effort, her campaign has failed to craft, let alone sustain, a clear and consistent positive message that gives voters a reason to be for her instead of just being against Brown.

Bottom line: In the end, “Say Goodbye to Jerry” won’t be enough to get her over.

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There are 12 comments for this post

  1. avatar sqrjn says:

    How can anyone be positive? After decades of poor decisions and heavy drug use the State of California decided to shoot itself in the head, but we botched the job and just severed part of our frontal cortex. Now we stumble around drooling unable to care fore ourselves, shouting random gibberish from past memories, waiting for a superior force to intervene and put us out of our misery.

    Any politician who tried to put a sunny spin on this mess would run a serious risk of being seen as out of touch and unrealistic. Something that Whitman has a problem with anyway. Its the AG who could be putting out a more positive message, but he is far too honest.

    • avatar patwater says:

      “How can anyone be positive?”

      Think about what California has accomplished in the last 161 years. We’ve gone from an agrarian backwater to the eight largest economy in the world. Our information technology companies are reinventing the very fabric of society, and our aerospace companies are pushing that fabric to the outer limits. We have brought more people from more places together in a shorter time frame than any other place in human history. We are a microcosm of humanity, a collection of risk takers, adventurers, and bold thinkers firmly committed to getting beyond the old antagonisms of the past to fulfill the great human potential. In ancient times, the Argonauts were a band of Greek heros–the best the nation could offer–searching for the elusive Golden Fleece. What better metaphor for the future and promise of California than such globe bestriding group pushing the limits of human achievement?

      Yes, we are in hard times right now. Our political system is broken. Underemployment is through the roof (20% +). My generation is struggling to find its place in a changing society. But this defeatism proceeds from a thin view of history. A little over a decade ago, these same people were ranting and raving about California’s high tech “New Economy” taking over the world. This crisis affords us an incredible opportunity to take a step back and remember that we really are all in this together, to remember how blessed we still are to live in this Golden Land.

      I mean is California any less beautiful than it once was? Is Big Sur any less majestic? Is the sheer rock face of Half Dome any less than what John Muir saw in that formative summer in the Sierra? Are the people of California any less committed to the Dream of a better life? Are not the Kogi taco trucks circling LA testaments to the creativity of the California people and their Dream of a good life?

      Those–the people and the land that we love–are the true foundations of California. Not the failed political establishment in Sacramento. If anything the political failures you speak of should bring us more hope. If we have been able to be this successful with such a terrible state government, imagine what we could do with one that made a semblance of sense. Imagine what we could do if we took the creativity and dynamism of the California people to bear on our government as well as our private lives. Sure, the political status quo would never allow such a thing, but in a democracy the people are rulers of the their own destiny.

      So to answer your question, how can I be positive? Because my grandmother’s family decided to leave Nebraska and I didn’t have to grow up in cornfields. Because I was in Big Sur last weekend and Henry Miller is still right: that place is the face of God. But mostly because, for me at least, the Golden Era of California is today, this second, this very moment. Because right now, I’m still lucky enough to live in this Golden Land.

      And more broadly, I’m bullish on California because I believe in its people. I believe that a constitutional convention can serve as the foundation for a new consensus that will make the California Dream more of a reality for its people. I believe that we can and will come together to break the institutional shackles that bind us. And I believe that so unencumbered, California will be a shining light that leads humanity into a new day.

      Well at least that’s my California Dream.

    • avatar MCMLXXX says:

      You are one funny mofo

      Archimedes bathtub

  2. avatar Bob Mulholland says:

    I cannot recall a time in California elections when there were 3 Republicans (Fiorina, Whitman & Dunn) running statewide who rarely or never voted, even skipping presidential elections. This Gang of Three are clueless about California, its citizens and solutions to the economic mess brought on by their boy- President Bush Jr. And Fiorina has been jobless for 5 years since being fired as H-Ps CEO.

    • avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

      When you, Bob Mulholland, list political lies as your argument basis you destroy your credibility. For example, Fiorina was on the board of directors of several corporations since she left HP and her disclosure report shows earnings last year in excess of a million, your listing her as “jobless” is a pure political lie.

    • avatar SezMe says:

      You keep repeating this (il)logic and I’ll keep refuting it. Being on a BOD is not a job and neither are earnings – which could be investment income, deferred payments, etc.

      When you, Ernie Konnyu, distort evidence you destroy your credibility.

  3. avatar tegrat says:

    Honestly, Meg, is this the best line you can come up with?

    “After four years as attorney general, four years as secretary of state, eight years as mayor of Oakland and two terms as governor, we once and for all are going to say goodbye to Jerry Brown’s failed ideas and broken promises”

    So, after a life of public service, in which quite obviously his ideas neither failed nor were his promises broken since he seems to get elected over and over again, we are to dump him for someone who doesn’t even bother to vote. Puhleeze….

  4. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    Look boys! It is real simple. And sure it’s negative, it is tough to take for you if you are a “D” but it is what it is this year.

    As Charlie Cook explained it for all us. 2010 is a wave election and if you are a Reep you go with the flow and many will be swept IN. Yes! It’s the economy stupid! And this time it is “R” time more or less.

    And Boxer has a further problem dooming her despite Carly holding the wrong end of the ideology stick. Voters are simply down on her and, therefore, are thinking, “Anybody but Boxer”. In fact I have started to worry that Carly will be too far to the right to be reelected in 2016 when the Boxer negative will be missing.

    That’s the way this former Congressman sees it.

    • avatar Lord Schmoo says:

      Dream on, pal. You seriously overestimate the Boxer disaffection. Remember: the unemployment rate is 12.3 percent. Carly ran a beloved company into the ground and axed tens of thousands of jobs in the process. Oh, and collected $22 million when she was finally canned. Nobody’s gonna forget that. Nobody.

  5. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    You old coots go ahead and argue about who is the worst candidate of the lot. I’m going to keep reading patwater’s vision for the future of the state over and over. If that’s what’s in store for us, then I have some hope. If people his age can still dream big, then I have hope.

    I’m sorry, fellows, but we’re the past. Listen to patwater. He’s on to something. It’s called the future. And, with any luck, it’s coming to a state near you.

  6. avatar Divebomber says:

    You’re kidding me, right? You’re giving credence to Dionne – “with what columnist E.J. Dionne calls ‘the rise of angry, irrational extremism'”?
    Hmmmm… so what did he call the “Bush Lied, They Died” crew? Or the authors of the Assassinate the President book (in 2004) or Michael and his Fahrenheit 911 farce? The rise of angry, rational extremism? I guess those guys were “ok and right on” bomb-throwers. And frankly, the more rational arguments – when viewed unemotionally and constitutionally – come from Beck and most of the Tea Party folks. But then that’s the trick, isn’t it? Peel back the emotion and view through a constitutional prism, and you may find yourself in the category of modern heretic – a situation that the modern progressive just can’t bear.

    And as much as I want to share Mr. Patwater’s rosy view of the future of California, the elements that catapulted us to stardom no longer exist, i.e. a product and manufacturing boom that revolutionized the world in the mid to late 1990’s (telecommunications – cell phones and internet). And before that, a relatively friendly business environment that welcomed innovation and wealth-producing industry and innovation – something that huge social programs, tax burdens, and ever-constricting big brother government policies have completely erased.

    I’d share Pat’s optimism if there was the political will to do what was necessary to restart real prosperity in this state. Frankly, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Schwarzenegger tried and failed. It appears to me that until a majority of politicians decide to do the correct yet unpopular things necessary to reverse our societal free-fall, we won’t start upward until we tumble much further.

    Because we are firmly in the control of the “Me” generation, whose main interest is in the good of the one and not the good of the many, my bet is on a long term economic malaise similar to that of the 1970’s.

    • avatar CA 93010 says:

      ” And frankly, the more rational arguments – when viewed unemotionally and constitutionally – come from Beck and most of the Tea Party folks.”

      Now THAT’s a hoot! An infotainer and bigots, and you say that’s “rational”?

      Your “Me” generation analogy is just another way of describing Republicans perfectly.

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