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Perception Vs. Reality: If Only CA's GOP Could Tell the Difference

Neel Kashkari made a big speech this weekend at the California Republican Party's convention. It was meant to do two things: shore up his base and project a vision of a moderate party that could face California's future challenges. In many ways, these goals are diametrically opposed to each other.

It may have accomplished the base aspect, with convention goers seeming to be happy. Or at least they told the media that they were happy. Of course, it still wasn't enough for Controller candidate Ashley Swearingen to be convinced:

Delegate Matt Kauble of Cerritos said he voted for Kashkari's tea party rival, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), in the June primary but was impressed by Kashkari's passion about relieving poverty and his desire to appeal to a multiracial audience.

Ashley Swearengin, running for controller, told reporters Friday that she hadn't made up her mind between Kashkari and Brown because she hadn't yet had a chance to meet with the Republican. State party chairman Jim Brulte labeled her strategy "Felony stupid" in an email exchange with other party members. (LA Times)

I must say, "felony stupid" is really an underused term. I think I'll add it to my daily conversational repertoire. At any rate, base consolidation is a question best answered by FlashReport and the similar outlets. But the question of whether he, and the CRP, can speak to the broader California electorate is a different beast. So that's where he comes up with this:

"When they said we don't care about the poor, we don't care about minorities, they have no idea what they're talking about," Kashkari said.(LA Times)

He backed all that up with historical connections, including the GOP's support of the Civil Rights Act. And that is partially true. The civil rights legislation of the 60s and 70s wouldn't have occured without the support of Northern Republicans. Except that most of those Republicans (see Chaffee, Lincoln) have left the GOP for the Democratic Party. And then there is the small matter of the now widely acknowledged Southern strategy.

Wouldn't it be great if Kashkari's vision were actually true? I would love to live in a world where there was robust debate between two parties focused on how to best ensure that no American went to bed hungry or homeless. But that world is not this one. No matter how you try to dress up the Republican party, especially the California Republican party, it is still a right-wing organization with signed contracts of inflexibility.

Maybe in another generation or so we could see two (or, preferably, more!) parties that can speak to the California electorate giving voters real options. But the CRP that Kashkari hopes to lead is not that one.

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