Toward a “California Reform Republican League?”
A few weeks ago I was scheming with some friends and contacts on the usual “how to save the state” topics, and something hit me. The California GOP “establishment” moderate types don’t really have much in the way of formal organization, grassroots or otherwise. Their numbers are clearly on the decline- evidenced most vividly by the Chad Mayes ouster a few weeks ago- and aside from fundraising networks, they don’t really appear to work together on many things.
Meanwhile, the conservative side of the California GOP is very, very well-organized at the grassroots level. I don’t know enough to be able to speak about the formal level or even most of the grassroots, but if the statewide network of Republican Assemblies hosted by the very conservative California Republican Assembly is any indicator, there are many more conservative Republican footsoldiers than there are establishmentarians ready to be mobilized.
I’ve interacted with the California Republican Assembly a few times- I went to their statewide convention in 2016 with my then-boss, Duf Sundheim (who, being the perceived moderate he is perceived to be, was not well-favored in the nomination votes for the CRA endorsement…) I’ve informally attended a bunch of events with the South Los Angeles-Inglewood Republican Assembly, the CRA’s lone outpost in heavily-Democratic South Central Los Angeles. SLAIRA even recruited me to run for the California State Assembly in the 59th District, and I believe I recall registering as a member of the CRA (however uncomfortably) for some institutional reason or other. My impression, generally, is that the CRA is very well-organized, very committed to a Goldwater-Reagan conception of conservative Republicanism, and if perhaps not influential in a voter mobilization sense, certainly influential in a checkmating, narrative-directing sort of sense. I don’t know how much it’s an organization politicians pay attention to versus how much it is a conduit for activism. But it’s there and it’s big.
Nothing similar exists on the moderate side of the Republican spectrum. Apparently there have been multiple attempts- the abandoned WordPress blog for one “Republican Leadership Council of California,” a defunct Facebook page for the “California Republican Reformers,” a no-longer-used Facebook page for the “California Republican League” – but nothing current. There is, perhaps, the fundraising organization New Majority; but that has a pretty steep entry fee, as I understand, and is not particularly wide-based or widespread. Nothing to complement and counter the CRA on the ground, and to help out Neel Kashkari, Pete Peterson, and Duf Sundheim in the endorsement pages and the precincts.
So, in my newfound tradition of writing wildly implausible proposals that just might work– what about filling that space with a moderate Republican grassroots organization, aimed at doing the same things the CRA does, but for Republican mainstreamers? And good heavens give it a good name, not the boring and undefined acronyms the others ones have had. (Nonetheless, I’ll use a boring and undefined acronym as a placeholder name here.)
The “California Reform Republican League” could be a statewide big-tent association and network of moderate, mainstream, and reformist Republican operatives and policy entrepreneurs, committed to a few primary goals:
-Reestablishing and reforming the Republican mainstream in California politics.
-Actively courting moderate Democrats and Independents/Decline-to-States into the CAGOP field.
-Supporting moderate, mainstream, and reformist Republican party officials and elected officials, both in their runs for party or elected office, and in maintaining their positions against Democrats and more conservative Republicans challengers.
It could serve a smattering of potential practical functions, similar in practice to what CRA types do:
-Maintain a statewide network of political operatives and policy entrepreneurs- legislative aides, campaign staff, consultants, journalists, policy researchers, etc.- that can be mobilized for particular short-term goals and achieve the CRRL’s three aforementioned long-term goals.
-Train new political operatives and policy entrepreneurs for specific and general purposes.
-Host a weekly CRRL newsletter and blog.
-Host an annual CRRL convention.
-Form a moderate caucus in State Legislature.
-Articulate particular strategic ends in terms of elections, ballot initiatives, changes to the CAGOP platform and bylaws, voter registration targets, fundraising, campaign messaging, etc.
I wrote up a prospective mission statement as well, highlighting these purposes and aims, and also highlighting the unique conditions that make California a potential place to tap into centrist discontent-
The California Republican Party has created great moderate public servants over the course of the last century, including two Presidents of the United States and numerous Governors and Senators. But in the last few decades, this moderate Republican tradition has faced significant decline statewide.
The mission of the California Reform Republican League is to reestablish, reform, and rebuild the moderate, mainstream, and reformist wings of the California Republican Party, in the interests of greater ideological diversity and policy dynamism within the CAGOP, and party expansion to moderate Democrats, Independents, Decline-to-States, and ethnic and geographic groups presently outside of the GOP fold. In the interests of building a California GOP more capable of challenging the ascendant, dominant, and increasingly liberal California Democratic Party, we believe it is important for California Republicans to look to new ways to rebuild and reform, and for moderate and reformist Republicans to organize themselves for political effectiveness.
So yeah. Perhaps not the most practical idea at the moment, given that the number of “fiery moderates” still working in GOP politics these days is probably much lower than would be needed to start a statewide effort of this magnitude.
But, best to keep your powder dry and your plans in your back pocket…