Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon’s address at the California Republican Party convention on Friday in Anaheim was remarkable — not just for its content, but for the reaction it elicited from the audience.
“Steve Bannon’s speech was the one that really fired up this convention,” said State Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine). “It’s easy as a California Republican to lose heart when you consider the kind of policy-making coming out of Sacramento. Bannon was able to remind people that, nationally, we are making great strides and gave everyone here a reason to work harder than ever.”
California Republicans are often seen nowadays as a moderate bunch. But the party faithful warmed quickly to Bannon’s message of challenging the Washington establishment.
In fact, Bannon’s address caused more buzz at the convention than did speeches from more traditional conservative figures — House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and Fox News show host Judge Janine Pirro.
Stepping out from behind the podium, comfortably walking about the stage, Bannon gave a forty-minute-long extemporaneous speech covering a myriad of issues that began with effusive praise of President Donald Trump. He continued by emphasizing the importance of winning and how victories beget victories, and about the great challenge ahead in taking on the “corporatists, lobbyists, consultants, and the politicians they control.”
Bannon’s speech was equal parts praise for President Trump and his policies; a call to action against the GOP establishment; a strong critique of former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)’s recent speeches against Trump; and words of strong encouragement for the activists in the audience.
Sen. Cotton,, a favorite of conservatives, hammered the Democrats who run California’s government for making California a “sanctuary state” for those here in violation of federal immigration laws. He also focused on the massive gas tax recently passed by Democrats in Sacramento. “If you live in West L.A. or San Francisco and you have the money to afford a Tesla, maybe you’ll be OK,” Cotton told delegates. “What about the farmer in the Central Valley who has a pickup truck and needs to fill it up three times a week?”
Rep. McCarthy also praised President Trump — and also, like Cotton, blasted Democrats in Sacramento for their left-wing, progressive agenda. McCarthy also admonished those Republicans in the state legislature who have recently been voting with Democrats, warning that they will not win a majority by being Democrat-light.
While there was a lot of enthusiasm among the delegates present, the road ahead for California Republicans looks rocky. Delegates did pass a change in party rules that allows the party to endorse primary candidates at their next convention, ostensibly to ensure at least one candidate survives the “jungle” primary. However, the next scheduled convention is in early May, long after candidate filing is closed and ballots are printed. In 2016 two Democrats — then-Attorney General Kamala Harris and then-U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez — made the runoff for U.S. Senate, with no Republican on the general election ballot. There is a legitimate concern that this will happen again with the governor’s race and U.S. Senate race in 2018.
Moreover, Democrats nationally are targeting about a half-dozen GOP-held House seats in California that voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
In a somewhat controversial move, convention delegates approved a change in the party’s rules allowing for the party to set up a special account from which to pay the chairman an unspecified salary. Nothing was in that change to the rules that would require any disclosure about what persons or companies are making contributions into that special fund. Up until this point the chairmanship has always been a volunteer-held position.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. You can follow him on Twitter here.