In a little-noticed move this week, California State Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, completed a purge of “conservative” policy staffers. The dramatic reversal—in both function and ideology of the Assembly Republican Caucus—mirrors the California GOP’s leftward shift, which has eschewed social conservatives as a “fringe” element.
By softening the party’s stances on issues like illegal immigration, traditional marriage, Common Core, and ObamaCare, the GOP establishment both nationally and here in California believes the party will attract more voters from the center than the party loses from the right.
Time will tell, but I believe that that entire premise is flawed. When was the last time the country got excited about a “mushy moderate”?
Voters are extremists when it comes to issues that affect them personally. Self-interest is one of the most powerful human forces because it stems from our own survival instinct.
Every election the “consultant class” has some complicated explanation about why you should vote for someone who doesn’t represent your views on virtually any issue. And every election, it fails.
Just watch when Jeb Bush comes to California. The only enthusiasm he’s likely to inspire is among the mega-donors who want to be part of the coronation, the consultants vying for his fat wallet, and the politicians hoping to help themselves by helping his campaign.
Americans love underdogs, not overlords. And the Assembly Republican Caucus minority leader might be wise to heed that simple truth.
This tectonic shift, which was portrayed by Olsen as “modernization” in a recent speech at the Sacramento Press Club, is the final purge of movement conservatives from caucus staff. (By the way, the Sacramento Press Club only invites liberals, leftists and “caged conservatives”, who talk a big game, but don’t believe in anything.)
“With Republicans firmly in the minority, and unable to advance many of their policy priorities, the reorganization is an acknowledgment that no amount of internal budget or policy work is likely to help the party disseminate its message and grow its ranks,” noted the Bee‘s Christopher Cadelago.
By dismissing some of the most veteran and most conservative policy staffers, Minority Leader Olsen has done a U-turn, altering the fundamental direction and purpose of the caucus. Rather than proposing real policy alternatives, the GOP will spend taxpayer dollars trying to “be liked.” Call it the Sally Field strategy.
Instead of receiving substantive analysis from seasoned, principled conservatives, who cut their teeth as activists and scholars, Republican Assembly members will likely receive watered-down analyses that reek of political correctness rather than correct principles. Principles have the power to unite when properly articulated, but no amount of public relations can overcome a lack of legitimate purpose.
While Olsen’s move may seem strategic and expedient to some, like the ever-pragmatic California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, it is nothing less than the surrender of the loyal opposition party. Instead of engaging Democrats in battle, the California GOP and Assembly Republican Caucus have given in. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Now, there really will only be one political class instead of two distinct political philosophies in conflict.
Instead of fighting public sector unions, and the never-ending tax increases they’ve forced on working Californians, the state party has invited the unions to buy off the GOP just as they have the Democrats. And now, the caucus staffers, whose analysis is the strongest indicator of how most Republican Assembly members will vote, will be written by the same consultants who brought us Neel Kashkari, Meg Whitman and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And how’d that work out?