The only victory the California Republican Party had this year was Donald Trump’s — a victory somewhat muted by the fact he lost California.
After the dust of the 2016 election had settled, California was one of the only states in the union where Republicans lost ground.
As California Republicans gathered in Sacramento for their 2017 organizing convention this past weekend, Trump’s name was everywhere. But in spite of his election, many GOP elected officials are keeping their distance.
Rep. Darrell Issa, an eight-term San Diego area congressman who barely won re-election in 2016 by a mere 1621 votes, told reporters that he was calling for an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged ties to the Trump’s campaign and administration, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Issa tried to straddle the fence, saying, “Donald Trump is not everybody’s Republican. He’s not everybody’s conservative. But he is our president, our president for everybody.”
Radio host Hugh Hewitt, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from early on, spoke at the conference and described “two parties” — one controlled by the old guard GOP establishment, and the other, a newer, highly-energetic movement of anti-establishment outsiders and conservatives.
Even California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte is being careful to cast the new Democratic supermajority in the legislature — and the failure of the GOP to capture a single statewide office in California — as an opportunity instead of an indictment of the state party.
“You break it, you own it,” Brulte said, offering a preview of a “just blame the Democrats” strategy in 2018 to Politico reporters.
The mood among California’s grassroots activists, however, was decidedly unambiguous in support of the president.
Tea Party California Caucus chairman Randall Jordan didn’t mince words with the Chronicle’s Joe Garafoli: “[O]ur party in this state is not truly conservative. Some of them are, in my opinion, part of the swamp that (Trump) is trying to drain … Every day is like Christmas so far. He’s doing everything he promised to do.”
The question on the minds of almost everyone in attendance was the same: is there any hope for California? Is there anyone who can make California Great Again?
Or has the local Republican Party gone the way of the dinosaurs?
Other than a lone Republican neophyte, Businessman John Cox, who was making the rounds of the sparsely populated hallways, there are no serious gubernatorial candidates on the GOP side.
At least not yet.
The talk in the press was nonstop about the California GOP having an existential crisis — just as it has been at every convention since 2010.
But in order to have an existential crisis, don’t you have to … exist?
Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.