Where do we go from here? That is the question many Republicans are asking each other as they prepare to gather in Sacramento this weekend for the first state GOP convention since the party suffered serious losses in the November elections.
It’s not just Republicans who have a stake in how that question is answered. All Californians, regardless of party, benefit if we have a healthy and vibrant two-party system in the Golden State. Electoral competition forces greater accountability as the elected officials of both parties are forced to recognize they can’t afford to take the voters for granted when deciding important policy decisions.
Clearly, the Republican Party has much work to do nationally and in California before it is prepared to come back into its own and provide that vital political competition so badly needed across this state.
Inevitably, the media attending the state Republican convention will write stories questioning the party’s long-term future. Some GOP activists will join in and wring their hands while they fret about that future.
I am not one of them.
I believe strongly that the 2010 elections present a historic opportunity for the Republican Party and for the state of California. It is a chance to rebuild both.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m under no illusion about the challenges facing Republicans nationally and here in California.
The recent Republican track record in Washington, D.C. Offered little to be proud of and demonstrated that neither party has a monopoly on virtue. Both political parties have been guilty of runaway spending, skyrocketing deficits and ethical lapses. The national Republicans lost their way and deservedly ended up losing their offices. They abandoned principle in pursuit of power and ultimately were left with neither. It is a lesson that California Republicans must study closely as we begin to prepare for the 2010 elections.
Some have suggested the party move away from its core beliefs in order to succeed. I couldn’t disagree more.
Others have suggested that better marketing is key to a GOP revival. That isn’t the answer either.
Instead, I would argue that the road back for Republicans is one that is based on substance rather than style, on refocusing on the party’s core principles rather than rebranding the party’s image.
Those Republican principles are based on individual freedom, smaller government, lower taxes and economic policies that promote job creation and reward investment. We must return to these values. Indeed, the future of both the GOP and California depends on whether we choose to embrace these principles.
California stands on the edge of an abyss. We are stuck in a deep recession which many believe will get worse before it gets better. We have an unemployment rate that is two points higher than the national average and exceeds that of all but two other states. We are losing jobs and employers not only to neighboring states but to China and India – also our direct competitors in this modern global economy.
Yet the Sacramento politicians believe the solution is to try to tax us out of our current economic crisis. We already have the nation’s highest state income tax and its highest state sales tax. Under the budget deal that is being debated as I write this, the politicians want to make those taxes even higher. What’s more, they want to also increase the state gas tax to make it the highest in the nation. They are trying to nearly double the state’s car tax – an insult to Californians who believed the 2003 Recall Election had permanently decided the fate of that much hated tax in favor of taxpayers.
This massive and unfair tax increase will hurt our economy, small businesses and the working families of California. Meanwhile, there is no serious effort to reform or restructure our wildly wasteful, inefficient and antiquated state and local systems of government.
At a time when the Legislature is trying to hike income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes and the car tax you’d think they could at least eliminate the Integrated Waste Management Board, a monument to political patronage and bloated bureaucracy.
The battle over California’s fiscal and economic crisis – and its very future – is one that Republicans must be prepared to fight. We must aggressively explain, articulate, advocate and educate. We must reach as wide array of Californians as possible about why Republican principles offer the right solutions for improving our economy and ending the state budget crisis.
The time has come to fight on those principles over the future of not just the Republican Party but for California as well. Out of crisis comes opportunity and 2010 is the year of opportunity for the Golden State GOP. Let us seize it by returning to being a party of principle.