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I’ve written plenty about the evolving Republican Party of San Diego. There was the nasty run-up to the GOP endorsement vote for the mayor’s race and what the choice meant.

Now, my colleagues have collected an excellent reading list about what’s behind Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s startling decision to leave the party completely.

The news has been hashed out on Twitter. And I’m not going to pretend to know how it affects the race. Based on the U-T’s recent poll, it would seem Fletcher has a long way to go and this is clearly an attempt to go there.

But back to the party. Two local pundits got me thinking. Chris Reed, the libertarian-leaning editorial writer for U-T San Diego wrote this:

The problem for Fletcher is it looks like this was driven by expedience, polls and focus groups, not principle.

— Chris Reed (@chrisreed99) March 28, 2012

And Erica Holloway, the conservative consultant and blogger, went right for the gut, basically calling Fletcher a quitter and weakling, even hitting him with a nod to his service as a Marine: “Semper Quitus,” she wrote.

Ouch. But he quit? Quit what? Quit not getting support?

And on Reed’s point: It’s as though an insincere and tactical decision to drop the party would be less effective in the horse race than a truly passionate defection.

It doesn’t seem like an either/or situation. He obviously left the party now in a risky move to somehow shake things up and help his campaign and he couldn’t have done that if he didn’t also feel deeply disillusioned. After all, he was a rising star of the GOP and he’s likely dealing with a torrent of angry phone calls and messages.

What I asked Reed and Holloway was this: The Republican Party went out of its way to endorse Fletcher’s rival, DeMaio, lock up the resources for him and then communicate to Republican voters that Fletcher’s campaign was hopeless. The party overtly was trying to sink him.

What is Fletcher supposed to do with that? Be sad? If a group did that to me, I would reconsider being a part of it too.

As I’ve described, the Republican Party has gone through a fantastically effective effort to enforce conformity around its principles.

That means consensus-building with sworn enemies isn’t something to champion. The activists who control the actual party are tired of existing platform principles being compromised away. At the same time, a newly rising coalition of interests, led by the local building industry and restaurants, are financing this shift.

The thing is, when a group enforces conformity, it sends off outcasts. In some species, like lobsters, those outcasts likely die. But sometimes they become leaders of their own groups.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of voiceofsandiego.org. 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 oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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