Opinion

A Newspaper Frets Over Fletcher and the GOP Brand

A Newspaper Frets Over Fletcher and the GOP Brand

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher and his wife Mindy have sparked a conversation on party and principles since leaving the Republican Party in March.

 

On Sunday, U-T San Diego implied in an editorial that Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s integrity as a Marine was in question after he abandoned the Republican Party in the middle of his run for mayor.

While that point seemed to get the most attention in the discussion the editorial provoked, it was the part right before that I found most intriguing (emphasis added):

And in leaving the Republican Party as he did, criticizing it as equally to blame for political dysfunction, he essentially left his colleagues behind, harming Republicans running for office. Does this demonstrate a Marine’s loyalty?

I asked U-T editorial page editor Bill Osborne, over Twitter, how Fletcher was hurting other local Republican candidates. His answer: “… the editorial was saying he damaged the GOP brand.”

The paper also says he’s got some questions to answer.

Fletcher has decided to hit the U-T back, saying he already answered them in an interview shortly after leaving the party.

His campaign released the audio and a transcript of a March 29 on-the-record interview he did with the editorial board. Here’s a link to the transcript of it, produced by Fletcher’s campaign team. And here’s audio (mp3).

The conversation opens a window into the newspaper’s worry about the Republican Party and a broader confusion in the community between party and principle.

As people discuss Fletcher’s defection from the party, these two concepts seem to have become interchangeable. They are not.

And if we can understand them better, we might be able to understand what’s going on.

Take this question from U-T editor Jeff Light to Fletcher during the interview:

I think this whole thing is interesting. Let me ask you this. I think you’ve put us sort of in a tough position. We as an editorial board do not want to see Bob Filner get through to the general election, because the environment around the general election is much more favorable to Bob Filner. So we certainly want to keep that from happening. On the other hand, some of the things you said, it was a little more than just ‘hey I just want to be an independent voice.’ And I think this was what Pete Wilson was reacting to. It was sort of that message that ‘well, the Republican Party is bad.’ How can we get behind you given that we’ve got a lot of Republican backing and Republican tradition? I think that puts us in a tough position.

Fletcher’s response:

Well I think you’ve got to go and look at what I actually said. And what I said is that I’m rejecting the partisan environment of today. People say ‘well did you ever consider becoming a Democrat.’ I didn’t. Because I think there’s unwillingness on that side as well to step out and solve problems, whether we’re talking about pensions or managed competition or some of these other types of issues.

And the other thing is that there’s not one position of mine that’s changed. There’s not one issue that’s changed. There’s not one principle that’s changed. The only thing that’s changed is the party label. And folks that have a tremendous amount of consternation in the move, it’s more of an adherence to that label than to what I represent and what I’ve been. I’m the exact same person today as I was yesterday as I was the day before.

Many folks have struggled with this point and say things like “But he’s still a Republican! His wife worked for George W. Bush!” Even Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, put it this way in a recent U-T story: “This is somebody who was a partisan Republican and is trying to sell himself as something different.”

Actually, a partisan, with its strict definition, is exactly what he no longer is.

A party in this country is a collection of individuals and interests who organize together in order to gain power. Here, our parties are not ideologically pure.

What Fletcher was doing was not saying he was becoming more liberal or more like the Democratic Party. What he was just saying was that he was sick of working with the Republican Party and trying to please them.

And what the U-T appears to be saying, in many, many words, is that it is now partisan above other considerations. I know, it’s not exactly news that the U-T prefers Republicans. But it wasn’t that long ago that the paper endorsed a Democrat named Mike Aguirre for city attorney. It has endorsed others.

Fealty to the GOP would be a new litmus test for support from the paper.

Liberals who are suspicious that Fletcher has not actually become more progressive in the last two months should be. He insists time and time again, in this extraordinary discussion with the U-T, that he has not changed his positions.

We often use “Republican” and “Democrat” as shorthand to explain someone’s views and principles. And that means that when someone leaves the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, we assume they’re trying to communicate that they’ve changed their minds.

But when you think of parties as just teams — coalitions of people trying to support each other to gain power and influence — this all makes a lot more sense.

Understanding that should help ease the U-T’s worries. Instead, though, they are saying this one lone wolf is able to harm the GOP and its candidates. Ostensibly, that means he’s hurting San Diego in their view.

That would also mean, though, that they don’t think the party is very strong. After all, the GOP has millions of critics. Why would a new one cripple it?

In fact, openly fretting that Fletcher is able to hurt the party this much demonstrates far more contempt for the GOP brand and its resilience from the U-T than anything I’ve seen Fletcher say.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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42 comments
Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Most old-school conservative republicans will not give Fletcher a serious look, precisely, because he jumped ship in the manner that he did. It was done sloppily, poorly timed, and appeared to lack significant deliberation.They question his judgment, his political skills, his timing, and his willingness to stand firm in his convictions on any given issue. That is the mountain he now must climb if he truly wants to win back or hold onto any of his former party's faithful voters. I myself don't much like shopping for a toothbrush in a big rush after being served a sh!t sandwich. That is why I won't be giving him a serious look. Kevin Faulconer has worked with his colleagues on the City Council for nine years. He has listened to others and amended his position at times when given good facts and logic to support the change. AND, Kevin hasn't had to compromise his principles or change his party affiliation to be heard.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Most old-school conservative republicans will not give Fletcher a serious look, precisely, because he jumped ship in the manner that he did. It was done sloppily, poorly timed, and appeared to lack significant deliberation.They question his judgment, his political skills, his timing, and his willingness to stand firm in his convictions on any given issue. That is the mountain he now must climb if he truly wants to win back or hold onto any of his former party's faithful voters. I myself don't much like shopping for a toothbrush in a big rush after being served a sh!t sandwich. That is why I won't be giving him a serious look. Kevin Faulconer has worked with his colleagues on the City Council for nine years. He has listened to others and amended his position at times when given good facts and logic to support the change. AND, Kevin hasn't had to compromise his principles or change his party affiliation to be heard.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The only thing that remains to be seen is if enough people will actually look at Fletcher before the election, or if they will continue to ignore the real Fletcher and focus instead on what they want to see.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The only thing that remains to be seen is if enough people will actually look at Fletcher before the election, or if they will continue to ignore the real Fletcher and focus instead on what they want to see.

Paul Girard
Paul Girard subscribermember

The other disturbing statement was when Light expressed concern that the U-T was being put in a bad position because they have so much Republican backing. They're more concerned with that than reporting the news and doing the right thing. But we already knew that.

FriendOfArtsTix
FriendOfArtsTix

The other disturbing statement was when Light expressed concern that the U-T was being put in a bad position because they have so much Republican backing. They're more concerned with that than reporting the news and doing the right thing. But we already knew that.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

My wife and I will watch the polling carefully and hold off on sending in our permanent "absentee" ballots until very close to Election Day. We will use our two votes as we judge most effective in contributing to a Fletcher--Filner runoff. They are the two candidates we consider acceptable.

fryefan
fryefan

My wife and I will watch the polling carefully and hold off on sending in our permanent "absentee" ballots until very close to Election Day. We will use our two votes as we judge most effective in contributing to a Fletcher--Filner runoff. They are the two candidates we consider acceptable.

Dagny Salas
Dagny Salas memberadministrator

--Dagny Salas, web editor.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Fletcher is betting he can fool most of people some of the time,

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Fletcher is betting he can fool most of people some of the time,

joe vargo
joe vargo subscriber

Fletcher puts the UT in a tough position. Yes, the possibility that no Republican mayoral candidate in the election. What are they gonna do?

joev
joev

Fletcher puts the UT in a tough position. Yes, the possibility that no Republican mayoral candidate in the election. What are they gonna do?

Mike Fornes
Mike Fornes subscriber

Thats the problem today. The Parties are supposed to represent the people but today people are expected to represent the Parties. Makes you wonder who's running the place.

Mahoot
Mahoot

Thats the problem today. The Parties are supposed to represent the people but today people are expected to represent the Parties. Makes you wonder who's running the place.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn subscriber

Nice one, sdguy. "No integrity" DeMaio vs. "questionable integrity" Fletcher seems like an easy choice.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn

Nice one, sdguy. "No integrity" DeMaio vs. "questionable integrity" Fletcher seems like an easy choice.

Robert Parkinson
Robert Parkinson subscriber

Nathan Fletcher will stand or fall on how he's judged by the voters as an individual, not his absence of party affiliation.

Ben Shaton
Ben Shaton

Nathan Fletcher will stand or fall on how he's judged by the voters as an individual, not his absence of party affiliation.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Fletcher is a Sanders clone. If your happy with Sanders tenure then you will be happy with Fletcher.

mgland
mgland

Fletcher is a Sanders clone. If your happy with Sanders tenure then you will be happy with Fletcher.

Irving Levine
Irving Levine subscriber

There is one fact no can ever dispute, the UT is like fox news, a pimp for the republican party

IRL
IRL

There is one fact no can ever dispute, the UT is like fox news, a pimp for the republican party

Desmond Morton
Desmond Morton subscriber

The SDGOP is supposed to represent all Republicans in the County, and nominally, it is elected by them. But the reality is that the SDGOP abandoned its connection to any ideology years ago, and its elections are manipulated. At this point, it exists strictly to leverage its ability to raise unlimited amounts of soft money for member communications (blame Prop 34 for this) to influence local politics for the benefit of party insiders (which seemingly now includes the U-T). This makes it very difficult for any right-of-center political participants, whose interests deviate from party insiders, to exist within the local party. That Fletcher is willing to disassociate himself with the SDGOP's insider interests is a good thing.

DMorton
DMorton

The SDGOP is supposed to represent all Republicans in the County, and nominally, it is elected by them. But the reality is that the SDGOP abandoned its connection to any ideology years ago, and its elections are manipulated. At this point, it exists strictly to leverage its ability to raise unlimited amounts of soft money for member communications (blame Prop 34 for this) to influence local politics for the benefit of party insiders (which seemingly now includes the U-T). This makes it very difficult for any right-of-center political participants, whose interests deviate from party insiders, to exist within the local party. That Fletcher is willing to disassociate himself with the SDGOP's insider interests is a good thing.

David Hall
David Hall subscriber

The best result of the primary I can see is Fletcher and Filner running against each other.

sdguy
sdguy

The best result of the primary I can see is Fletcher and Filner running against each other.

Steve Mehlman
Steve Mehlman subscriber

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be different. For whatever reason, Nathan Fletcher is trying to stop the madness. Good for him.

stevefromsacto
stevefromsacto

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be different. For whatever reason, Nathan Fletcher is trying to stop the madness. Good for him.

Mike Aiken
Mike Aiken subscriber

The more I learn about Nathan Fletcher the more I like him. The more I hear about Tony Krvaric and other so called Republican leaders the more I dislike them. Nathan has San Diego's best interest in mind and Krvaric and his crew are only worried about the party. Shame on them and Kudos to Nathan. I will be following Nathan's lead and making a stop by the registars office to change my party affiliation.

Fact Checker
Fact Checker

The more I learn about Nathan Fletcher the more I like him. The more I hear about Tony Krvaric and other so called Republican leaders the more I dislike them. Nathan has San Diego's best interest in mind and Krvaric and his crew are only worried about the party. Shame on them and Kudos to Nathan. I will be following Nathan's lead and making a stop by the registars office to change my party affiliation.

Ian Trowbridge
Ian Trowbridge subscribermember

Its editorial board of white middle-aged men need to grow a backbone or appoint a woman as long as they remind the owner he is a good Catholic.

iantrowbridge
iantrowbridge

Its editorial board of white middle-aged men need to grow a backbone or appoint a woman as long as they remind the owner he is a good Catholic.

Walter Chambers
Walter Chambers subscribermember

I'm a life long Dem, but this type of partisan politics just proves Fletcher's point even more. He's starting to look like the good guy in all this.

WaltSDCA
WaltSDCA

I'm a life long Dem, but this type of partisan politics just proves Fletcher's point even more. He's starting to look like the good guy in all this.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Unfortunately a LOT of 202 C Street does. Nathan needs to acknowledge that his biggest challege is changing that dynamic because a bunch of San Diego is DESIGNED to elevate the importance of those sort of "small ball" politics. I bet Sanders didn't wake up thinking about the top story of an office building near Montgomery Field and we see how that worked out ;-)

ErikBruvold
ErikBruvold

Unfortunately a LOT of 202 C Street does. Nathan needs to acknowledge that his biggest challege is changing that dynamic because a bunch of San Diego is DESIGNED to elevate the importance of those sort of "small ball" politics. I bet Sanders didn't wake up thinking about the top story of an office building near Montgomery Field and we see how that worked out ;-)

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Bummed he doesn't get that Glaeser is essentially a criticism of Florida and his fuzzy thinking ;-)

ErikBruvold
ErikBruvold

Bummed he doesn't get that Glaeser is essentially a criticism of Florida and his fuzzy thinking ;-)