UC Berkeley: Are California Republicans Too Stupid To Win Elections Or Are They Just Losers?

Oh, look! It's another symposium of academics, retired politicos and campaign consultants meeting at a UC Berkeley symposium to decide the very important question of whether the California GOP is a "dead" brand. You'll never guess their conclusion:

The Republican Party, as a brand, is dead in California.

That's the eye-opening consensus of a crowd of political observers, lawmakers and strategists - Democrats and Republicans - gathered at a UC Berkeley symposium this weekend to mull over California's defiantly blue status in the wake of a conservative tide that swept the nation in November.

Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day Institute of Governmental Studies conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP's prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.

"Republicans, as a brand, are dead," Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday

You'll get no argument from me that the GOP has trouble winning elections lately, and that its uninspiring candidates and moribund campaign apparatus are at least partly to blame. But, some of the conclusions of symposiumees are a little too pat. Mostly, they seem to think that the GOP needs to do more minority outreach

"Republicans need to learn how to talk to non-traditional Republican voters," said Bettina Inclan, who worked on the communications team for losing California GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. Not just Latinos, she said, but African Americans and young people, too.

Republicans will remain dead in California until the party "decides it won't be hostile to people who aren't old and white," said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.

That's little more than a call for another round of Big Government Conservatism, and a continuation of the "when are you Republicans going to stop being racists?" line of attack that has done so much to inspire rational dialogue and racial healing in the state. No thanks. Symposium attendees also thought Meg Whitman ran a terrible campaign, and were then offended that she didn't come to Berkeley to "discuss" the matter. Yeah, I like to show up in some East Bay lecture hall to have my intelligence insulted when I could be counting my money, too

Just how much Meg Whitman, the defeated 2010 billionaire gubernatorial candidate, is to blame for the California GOP's sorry prospects was the subject of sharp debate.

Whitman's crushing 13-point defeat by Gov. Jerry Brown, despite spending more than $140 million of her own money, was roundly bashed by experts. But neither she, nor her team of highly paid consultants, was present to defend themselves.

The former eBay CEO's team declined to attend, becoming the first gubernatorial campaign in the history of the prestigious academic symposium to do so.

In the wake of her defeat, the outlook for Whitman's party is stark, said Kimberly Nalder, associate professor of government at Cal State Sacramento, who titled her talk "Are California Republicans Doomed?"

Again, no thanks.

Now, I didn't attend this little get together, but it sure seems like these guys left some issues on the table vis-a-vis the reasons for the GOP's precipitous decline.

For example, wouldn't it seem to be a problem for any Republican when you have a (sneer) "Republican" governor who ran on a platform of cutting taxes and shrinking government - "blowing up the boxes" was how he put it - and then presided over tax increases, expansive government and a fiscal crisis ?

And, isn't it a problem that the public schools are filled with teachers who learned their history from the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky?

Wouldn't it also seem to be a problem that the unions representing public employees, nurses, teachers, and prison guards are able to spend tens of millions of dollars running demagogic ads against Republican politicians without receiving 1/100th of the negative publicity of the "right wing noise machine?"

And speaking of unions, isn't it a problem not of Republicans making that, when Gloria Allred appeared out of nowhere with Meg Whitman's illegal alien maid, no one in the state media thought to ask how a Bay Area based Mexican immigrant hooked up with a high priced LA attorney? Oh wait, the newspapers managed to figure out that the nurses union made the introductions only, whoopsie, those stories didn't appear until after the election.

And, maybe there is a perception out there that Republicans are the "party of the rich," but if Meg Whitman is going to be dubbed a "billionaire" every time she walks out the door, shouldn't the same standard apply to billionaire Dems like Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein?

Most important, even if the GOP is "dead," what about conservatism? There are some strong conservatives in California politics, including Chuck DeVore, Darrel Issa, and Tom McClintock after all. And when "conservative" issues go before the voters on stand-alone ballots, they more often than not pass by large margins. Smug progressives should remember that 2008's Obama voters also passed Prop. 8. Not only that, just seven years ago state voters enthusiastically voted into office an insurgent Republican candidate who ran on an explicitly conservative message of limited government and pro-growth economic policy. People loved it. They only turned on the Governator when he failed to back up his rhetoric with conservative governance.

It's OK to sit around in Berkeley gassing about how the GOP are a bunch of out of touch old white guys, I guess. Happens all the time. But no one ever wants to consider that, on the rare occasions when California Republicans have run on conservative ideas, they have had just as much success as when they run as milquetoast moderates. Wouldn't want to discuss that!

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