Last night, the Republican Party of San Diego County endorsed three people for three different elections: Hector Gastelum for State Senate in District 40, Sandy Spackman for City Council in San Diego’s 4th District, and Harmeet Dhillon for Vice Chairman of the California Republican Party. While local media could trumpet that each of those candidates might not look like the “traditional Republican base,” I’m less interested in their ethnicity than I am enthused about their ideas, outreach, and endorsements.
Hector Gastelum is endorsed by the Latino GOP, a group of registered Republicans championing Hispanic outreach in San Diego County. Born in San Diego but educated in Tijuana, it is not surprising that Latino GOP thought Gastelum might better articulate the Republican message to Latino voters than the other candidates in the race. More interesting though is Gastelum’s endorsement from individual board members of the Imperial Valley chapter of the NAACP. Hector visited the reorganized local chapter of the NAACP on Martin Luther King Day and said his top two priorities would be jobs and education. He articulated that reduced business regulation would create more jobs and the education vouchers would provide better access for low-income children to better schools.
Sandy Spackman has done an admirable job as founder and President of the Lao-American Coalition, a group dedicated to civic organization and public policy advocacy. More importantly, she forged alliances with other civic groups to build a formidable coalition in the growing Asian-American community. As District 4 changes, Spackman’s civic work will reflect Republicans’ commitment to citizen solutions rather than government programs. That commitment will result in electoral success.
Harmeet Dhillon is well known as the conservative Dartmouth student on the 60 Minutes program. As the editor of the Dartmouth Review, she along with the American Civil Liberties Union defended three expelled Dartmouth students. Those students spoke out against a music professor who opted to teach liberation theology, social justice, and progressive politics instead of how to read sheet music and the history of jazz in America. Later in life Dhillon, a conservative Sikh, partnered with the ACLU immediately after 9/11; individual citizens and local law enforcement were mistaking Sikhs for radical Muslim terror suspects because of their dress. Because of that work, she was invited to and served as a member of the Northern California ACLU board.
The NAACP and the ACLU? Clearly these candidates must be “RINOs.”
Hardly. All three candidates talked about the factors which influenced their decision to register Republican early in their lives. Each candidate talked about how their strong religious faith, conservative parents, and life outside of this country compelled them to work within the GOP. Each reaffirmed that they believe the GOP is the party which better champions the freedom message
What excites me is that each of these candidates is bringing the traditionally Republican message of free markets, constitutional fidelity, and individual responsibility to people who are atypical recipients of that message — and they’re winning the intellectual debate if the endorsements are any evidence. Marxist Antonio Gramsci called for “a long march through the institutions” and progressive/socialist ideas have hijacked the narrative of many institutions. That hijacking has caused some conservatives to be critical of Republicans who “swim in the progressive pond.” That’s the wrong approach.
The Republican Party has an extraordinary opportunity to restore this country to its constitutional roots but it won’t happen solely in the echo-chamber of party meetings and blogs like this. Changing citizens’ attitudes about the proper role of government will happen at local meetings of the ACLU and NAACP. It will happen at the Rotary Club, the Toastmasters, the Children’s Hospital fundraising gala committee, and in union halls. Today, what may be more important than getting Republicans elected to public office is getting Republicans to volunteer for “seemingly hostile” groups. When registered Republicans sit on the boards of these organizations, we will start the “long march home,” through the very institutions we allowed to be co-opted.
I often say that the “three C’s of culture,” commerce, charity and community offer better solutions than government for society’s challenges. Until Republicans are willing to reclaim cultural leadership, we will increasingly cede our influence in government. Count me among the optimistic because of last night’s endorsements.
DISCLOSURE: The author financially supported Hector Gastelum for State Senate prior to writing this article.