There is an ongoing national struggle for leadership in the Republican Party: business establishment vs. populist conservatives.
Populist conservatives led the Republican House victory in 2010, infighting between the two factions produced a national loss in 2012, and an aggressive establishment victory snared the Senate just last month. In California, that struggle was highlighted by the Tim Donnelly v. Neel Kashkari gubernatorial primary last June. Republican volunteers loved Donnelly but the establishment, big-money donors backed Kashkari (then abandoned him in the race against Brown).
Locally, we saw similar struggles in the past three election cycles: the 2008 and 2012 San Diego Mayor’s races, the 2012 Assembly races, and — most recently — the 2014 52nd Congressional race. The local party endorsement matters because registered Republicans look to the voter guide for guidance. Consultants increasingly play oversized roles in those endorsements because they can deliver money to the Republican Part of San Diego County. The donors’ influence has dwarfed volunteers’ influence, in endorsements, because more than half of our voting Central Committee members rely on income from the political establishment.
Fewer and fewer Central Commitee members represent the grass roots volunteers, but we need those volunteers if we’re going to start winning more elections. Before we try to solve the problem of representation and endorsements, let’s see who those volunteers are.
Who identifies with the Republican brand? This is tricky. A lot of voters support national Republican candidates but vote for local Democrats (the opposite is true, too). Nonetheless, we want to find the most active Republican voters to become volunteers so let’s see who is most likely to join our coalition:
Stated simply, if you meet a lady who opened a gun store after she retired from the Navy, she’s probably a high-propensity Republican voter and potentially a likely precinct captain. The easiest way to find these potential volunteers though is right in our voter database. We already identify high-propensity Republican voters by precinct. An off-year effort to contact four to five high-propensity Republicans in each precinct can produce amazing results for us next year.
Look at that list — they don’t all think alike. I would venture to say that not one of them is in total agreement with the California Republican Party platform. Each will have a vote-moving issue and sometimes those vote moving issues will conflict — conflicting issues are what fractures the coalition. The big challenge then is to convince a precinct captain to support Republican candidates who won’t protect their vote moving issues. That’s hard to do.
In the prior installment, “Where did our voters go?,” one commenter suggested that a bottom up platform at the local, county level is a better approach than subscribing to the national or state platform. I don’t know that I want to gut those documents; I think they are quite good but perhaps there are three to five non-negotiables which our local party would adopt.
Let’s try to discuss that prior to the the holidays. What would you say is a “non-negotiable”?
Read the prior part in the Series — Part 3: Where did our voters go?