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Column: Why the GOP won’t learn from a failed recall

Was this the most frivolous waste of time in California election history?

He was a serious contender, that’s for sure.

“I would say it was first of all a waste of time because it never got into the big issues California is facing,” said Rob Stutzman.

“Much ado about nothing,” said Mike Madrid.

And who are Stutzman and Madrid? They aren’t leftist apologists, if that’s what you thought. They are longtime Republican consultants. And the recall, of course, was a GOP-inspired pullout attempt, with marginal support from Democrats and independent voters.

The problem is, the GOP in California and the rest of the country is not so much a political party as it is a support group for cranky rattlesnakes.

“No one can tell you anymore what republicanism means, or what it stands for,” Madrid told me when the recall began this spring. “They can only tell you what they’re against … And you can’t build a movement based on what you’re against.”

In that recall, they were against Gov. Gavin Newsom, so much so that they thought we needed to hold a recall election a year before Newsom’s term ended. Madrid said it was clear to him from the start that Newsom would survive because dismissing him from office would have required “a massive Democratic defection”.

It was a distant but conceivable possibility, and a poll in August made it sound like a tossup. But the missing ingredient was a serious contender that might take some Democrats across the line.

The challengers cast included clownish suitors and tired retreads. The only one who had an influence – radio show host Larry Elder – was so out of touch with the California mainstream that Newsom’s camp must have thought it was Christmas in September.

I mean, think about it. The leading GOP candidate was a Donald Trump cheerleader who opposes minimum wage, likes to blame victims, has been skeptical of climate change, once said women are not as knowledgeable as men men and pledged to end the mask and vaccine warrants.

You can wave these flags as much as you want, and a small part of the electorate will stand up and salute. Except that passing for a candidate for governor of Texas doesn’t get you very far in California.

But will the state GOP get the message? Don’t bet on it. They can tear Democratic leaders out of the state whatever they want, with just cause in many cases, as state woes and leadership failures are endless, as I explained in my column. of Sunday.

But guess what. There is a reason Democrats are in charge. It is because the GOP has not had any winning ideas or viable candidates for years, and this recall campaign can only set the party back even further.

” I do not see [the state] advance a moderate [Republican] in a run-off general election next year, ”Stutzman said. “I don’t know who it would be.”

It could have been former San Diego mayor and recall candidate Kevin Faulconer. But “he decided not to accept that kind of candidacy and didn’t have the funding to break through even if he did,” Stutzman said.

The only blow in a future election could be for a self-funded GOP candidate, Stutzman said. But it didn’t work for Silicon Valley mogul Meg Whitman, who spent $ 144 million of her own money on a 2010 gubernatorial race but lost to Jerry Brown.

The winning ideas just weren’t there on the GOP side, Madrid said. He recalled conversations with a state GOP leader who would say, “California has the worst homelessness problem in America, the worst housing crisis in America, the worst income divide, with human excrement. and hypodermic needles on the streets. And my answer to that is, yes, and people still don’t see the Republican Party as a viable alternative, and people would rather live with it all than vote for a Republican. And that’s a Republican problem.

Madrid, born in Ventura County and raised by Mexican-American parents, still considers himself a proud old-school Republican. But he’s frustrated with what he called the white identity politics that dominates the GOP and alienates millions of people of color as the country becomes increasingly diverse.

Madrid are also frustrated that the California GOP is not inspired by Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont, all of which are blue states ruled by Republican governors.

“A thing [those governors] have in common is that they spoke out against Trump and the ethno-nationalism that devoured the Republican Party, ”said Madrid, who accused Faulconer of cowardice because he was“ anti-Trump for three years. years as mayor of San Diego before climbing into his knees to run in the encore.

Madrid said he believed Newsom had mismanaged the pandemic in some ways and that deep-seated issues such as income inequality and unaffordable housing have not improved or worsened over the past three years, leaving a huge opening for honest conversations about solutions.

“But this is no longer a debate that we have. The debate we have now is whether we should demolish everything or protect it and persevere, however imperfect it may be, ”said Madrid. “Is this American experience still worth living?” The Republican Party says no, if this is not our way the elections are rigged and let’s destroy them… Let’s destroy the institutions because this is not our America.

At the right time, on the eve of the election, Trump resuscitated his blame game.

“Does anyone really believe the California recall election is fair?” Trump asked, saying we were in a “scam” like the one that stole his reelection last fall.

After several months of wasting time, it was the perfect exclamation point.