Time to Grow: Building a Common Sense Coalition in California

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Time to Grow: Building a Common Sense Coalition in California

Guest Commentary
by Corey Uhden

“You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win.” – Morton Blackwell

Before working full-time in politics and public service, I worked in the winery business. If you know anything about making wine, you might know grape vines don’t naturally produce fruit on their own. The vines have to be pruned and starved of water, what vintner’s call “stressed,” for the vines to take root and produce fruit that can be turned into an enjoyable wine.

So it is with any grassroots movement. I always thought that was a misnomer, “grassroots.” Grass isn’t rooted. It can be easily uprooted, tread upon, and mowed down. If a lawn is not properly watered, it will turn yellow or brown, eventually die and return to empty dirt.

No, like a grape vine, for a “grassroots” movement to grow, it has to be rooted, trained, and routinely stressed and tested. California holds tremendous promise for a nascent conservative movement to grow, and thrive, but only if it is properly cultivated.

As the next election cycle approaches, well-trained activists and leaders are in high demand all over California. That is why the Leadership Institute is investing in the Golden State to provide common sense Californians with the practical training to make a difference at all levels of government.

The Leadership Institute was founded by legendary grassroots activist Morton Blackwell in 1979 with the mission of growing the number of effective conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process. For the past 40-plus years, the Leadership Institute has accumulated vast institutional knowledge that has produced successful campaign leadership, volunteers, pundits, and candidates across the political and media landscape not only in the United States, but around the world.

And now, the Leadership Institute is bringing their expertise to the Golden State to help conservatives build a coalition far stronger and more resilient than your typical grassroots movement.

The first trainings were held just before the 2022 midterm elections with upcoming trainings scheduled for March 23 in Torrance and March 25 in San Diego. Registration is still open for those events where attendees will learn how to Create a professional and organized campaign plan and strategy, define goals and a pathway to victory, create a budget, and effectively use campaign funds for voter contact.These are the first of many grassroots and professional training sessions planned for California so be sure to follow this link for more opportunities throughout the state.

Under the Leadership Institute’s guidance, conservative leaders, writers, operatives, and former and current elected officials, will help equip activists with an appetite for meaningful action with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to become effective leaders in their community, on their campuses, and beyond.

And not a moment too soon.

Eleven years ago, after the reelection of President Barack Obama, liberals were convinced that Florida, a perennial swing state, would start to trend more in their favor and Texas, a red state, would soon become a battleground state. Under this theory of an “emerging permanent majority,” Republicans would be locked out of the electoral college forever.

Instead, the opposite has happened. This was no accident. It was the direct result of conservatives in those states seizing on the opportunity to deliver results and win converts to the conservative cause, learning from their losses and building on their victories. The Leadership Institute was among those conservative organizations that helped make it possible.

The instructors at the Leadership Institute don’t view political history as the accumulated results of elections with different candidates, campaigns, messages, and tools all competing in their own unique contests on thousands of different battlefields every two and four years. No, the Leadership Institute teaches that political movements shape history and the movements, or causes, that win multiple elections over multiple years are the movements that are growing, that add and multiply their numbers, by projecting a vision of shared values so that each election is a contest between competing visions voters can embrace as their own.

Movements move votes.

Thanks to the work of diligent state party leadership and the interest and resources of the national Republican Party, the conservative movement in California is growing. At the same time, the progressive movement is slowing.

It should come as no surprise as the majority party and the Governor continue to mail-in the bare minimum and have done nothing to improve the broken status quo crushing Californians under price increases, the prohibitive cost of living, and crisis after unending crisis.

Democrats have controlled every arm of the California government for 56 of the last 62 years, and the devastating results speak for themselves.

Disaffected Californians only have two places to go: they could form an entirely new movement of independents, a new party, but that is unlikely, because there are no leaders waiting to welcome them with the promise of a broader vision.

Those voters will start looking for new solutions, and they might not know it yet, but they’ll be in search of new leaders to deliver them.

Whether it’s homelessness, housing, crime, addiction, education, water policy, or highway repairs. On all these issues and more, current leadership is failing California. Reform around the edges will not suffice. The state needs a fundamentally different approach.

To their credit, Republican legislators in California have offered solutions, in the form of a substantive legislative package called the “California Promise,” a sharp contrast between our common sense vision for a state that is affordable, safe, and full of opportunity with the thoroughly failed approach of current leadership – an alternative instead of echo.

Ours is a California where no one is forced to live in fetid waste.

Where the drug addicted and mentally ill aren’t condemned to slowly die in the streets but taken to shelters and given proper treatment.

It’s a state that protects the environment but not at the expense of reliable and affordable fuel, electricity, and water.

Where the forests are managed properly and not allowed to burn uncontrollably.

Where people aren’t robbed or raped and the criminals get off scot free.

Where justice is meted out fairly and equally and where neighborhoods and law enforcement communicate and place their trust in one another to build communities of hope, together.

Where those in prison for lesser offenses have a chance at genuine remorse, redemption and rehabilitation, where reform saves lives on both sides of the badge, and bad faith is met with unrelenting accountability.

It’s where every Californian, regardless of race, nationality, background, or belief system will be able to afford a home or apartment close to where they work so they won’t have to wait in traffic for hours each day to make a living.

Where every parent can be confident that their children are safe in the school of their choice and we aren’t reducing standards in pursuit of equity; we’re raising expectations in pursuit of excellence!

In our California, opportunity awaits around every corner for anyone who has the drive, determination, and diligence to pursue their dreams.

Because California is the land of immigrants, innovation, and ingenuity, there is nothing we can’t invent or improve if we’re given the independence to experiment.

Our California will be a model of integration, and not a monument to inequality. We will prove multiculturalism isn’t the absence of assimilation; it is its most balanced form.

Where everyone is welcome and every right protected, with a predictable, principled regulatory and court system under flexible, responsive servant agencies.

And where representatives of both parties work to advance their ideas to improve our quality of life and always, always make the people’s priorities their own priorities.

Where the people are in control, not the government. Control of our own lives and local communities.

IF this is a vision you share, then it’s time to unite, to strengthen and grow a movement to achieve it. The best defense is a good offense so it’s time to get out of a defensive posture and go on offense, relentlessly, but effectively.

Conservatives must not be discouraged by the challenge.

Everyone deserves to be represented by lawmakers who are looking out for them, who care about their everyday costs and concerns, who make the people’s priorities their priorities and offer solutions to their everyday problems. We don’t have to let the special interests and lobbyists dictate our choices. We can’t always rely on the business groups to help us out. If we want real representation, and real solutions, we’ll have to work for it.

We will be outnumbered and outspent. They have the money, the media, and in many cases the business community, on their side. All we can do is outwork and outvote them. And if we want legislators with common sense to represent us, we’ll have to do just that.

It CAN be done.

Despite having the deck stacked against them, Republicans Josh Hoover and Greg Wallis won close, competitive races for State Assembly seats, the latter by only 85 votes! Theirs is a case study in how Republican candidates can win despite facing a money and registration disadvantage by building effective field campaigns and staying focused on positive messaging. As Hoover himself puts it, “we invested in talking to voters directly, and made sure we had a message that speaks to voters with kitchen table issues rather than a partisan message.”

Every district is different. What works in one community may not necessarily work in another, but these lessons can be learned, these tools can be taught. And the Leadership Institute is here to teach them, and to help figure out which tools and messages will work best.

It will take us some time. After all, how can we expect to undo the damage of the last 56 years of Democratic control in mere days, weeks, or months?

But with confidence in the right principles, the right tools, and the right leadership, we can build on this progress and begin to make a difference, not just noise. We’ve got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate that we have the solutions a majority of Californians are waiting for. It’s time to plant the seeds and get to work rooting our movement in a positive vision for victory.

“Let us go forward from here not in some faint hope that our cause is not yet lost. Let us go forward confident that the people share our values and together we will be victorious.” – Ronald Reagan

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Corey Uhden is a campaign strategist for Persuade Strategies LLC. You can follow him on Twitter @CACoreyU.


Comments 1

  1. The only common sense is Social AND Fiscal Conservatism. California used to be a deep red state until the RINOs took over and then immediately after that the liberals. When you only advocate for fiscal conservatism, but stay silent on social conservatism we lose.
    The best example is the 2008 election when Obama won handedly over John McCain, but so did traditional marriage. Latinos are Democrat, but they are Conservative.
    Political consultants & political staffers think they know it all, and I can guarantee you, the Republican Party will continue to lose unless we have candidates who have the courage to stand out as social conservatives, meaning, they will:
    1. Defend the sanctity of life always,
    2. Define traditional marriage as a holy union between one man & one woman, 3. Stand against the drag queen story hour perverts
    4. No critical race theory in the schools, 5. No sexualizing education,
    6. Pro Second Amendment
    7. Tough on Homelessness
    8. Tougher vs Criminals.

    There’s lots of ‘fiscal conservative’ leaders who are good at messaging about fiscal issues and organizing but that is not enough, the winning coalition is BOTH Fiscal & Social, and we will never win without being Social Conservatives. Latinos like me are either Catholic or Christian just like the Majority of nationwide Republicans.

    Reagan also talked about bright colors and not pale pastels. Don’t be a democrat light!

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