In a rather stunning op-ed published — interestingly — in the Orange County Register, City Councilman Carl DeMaio wrote that the California Republican Party is facing a “major crisis” and its brand was a primary reason his campaign for mayor fell short.
He took no personal responsibility for helping create the bad reputation of the party — a brand he said was a “nonstarter” with Latinos, blacks and gays.
“In San Diego this was a huge liability for us, and we never really overcame it,” he wrote.
He wrote that the party needs to stop trying to eliminate government.
“Californians like government, and voters want government to work again. Too often, Republicans have taken an ‘end it, don’t mend it’ stance,”
So what do Republicans think? They on board with this point?
Hard to say. Tony Manolatos, who’s carving out a career working for fiscally conservative causes in town, tweeted this in response to my questions:
“I think Carl laid out direction party will take after a struggle [between] conservatives & moderates,” he wrote.
The problem with losing candidates is they always look to formulas to explain their loss. The GOP is a big tent party & belonging to it is easy (I’m conservative, Jewish, gay and a veteran so I know a little about belonging). Carl’s IDEAS were not the problem: Carl was. People didn’t reject his ideas as much as they rejected the notion that you can alienate entire groups of people & then pretend that you’ll work with them in the future.
Some of the younger Republicans seemed determined to follow a more libertarian route. There are civil liberties that are attractive to younger liberals that Republicans can embrace. Many of them shared this article about the “Rand Paul evolution.”
Ryan Clumpner, DeMaio’s campaign manager, wrote this in selling the article to his followers on Facebook.
“There is a brand of limited government that has wider appeal than the traditional Republican formula. Adapt or die,” he wrote.
Erica Holloway, a “Republican communications maven” and former journalist, tweeted to me that the Republican brand must “modernize.” And Barry Jantz offered a series of thoughts on why Republican ideas might bepopular but not the brand.
And then there was Jason Roe, a DeMaio strategist, who took a break from bashing his rival, to offer me this insight in an email:
My biggest takeaway is that the under-30 vote is here to stay and we need to get our arms around it or we have big problems over the long haul. They increased their share of the electorate nationally to 19% and it’s not an anomaly. In the past, we run TV ads and send mail and its noise to these otherwise unengaged voters. Now, they are surrounded by messages from their peers on social media and the noise of the consultants cannot compete with peer pressure and we are losing.
The other curious point was why DeMaio decided to publish his post-mortem in the Orange County Register. Is he planning a political future there, where he grew up? Is he trying to jump to a statewide stage? Did the OC Register simply ask him for the piece?
Or did U-T San Diego refuse it?
“I wish I had thought of asking him to write it for UT,” tweeted U-T editorial page editor Bill Osborne.
If the Republican Party has a crippling brand problem, DeMaio’s only recently discovered it. He and his team were giddy when they managed to get an early endorsement from the party, even with two other elected Republicans still in the mayor’s race. His campaign benefited from thousands in party donations.
When he won the primary, the Republican leadership survived a profound existential threat posed by an independent Nathan Fletcher. Had Fletcher succeeded, party politics would have been upended.
Perhaps that existential threat to the Republican Party was much bigger than Fletcher.
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