Reflections on the local GOP Convention

 

By  Richard Eber, California Political News and Views

Last Saturday I attended the Contra Costa County Republican “Excuses Don’t Win Elections” Convention in Pleasant Hill.  Three times prior to entering this event, I was told that the contents of what was to be discussed could not be divulged in The California Political News & Views or in any other blog which publishes my columns.

Agreeing to these terms allowed for me to be seated.  It was explained to me that County Chairman Matt Shupe and the other members of the Central Committee were concerned that if the Democratic Party learned of their plans, they could be foiled in next year’s elections.

After three hours of listening to speeches and eating the catered lunch provided by Subway, I left the convention never to return. Nothing that was witnessed had much to do with enhancing the chances of Republicans winning on a local level.

 It was my understanding that heavy duty intelligence would be gathered when small groups met for brain storming sessions in the afternoon. Apparently, not much of this transpired as not only did over half those in attendance depart, but a friend of mine who stayed wished he had bolted earlier.

For me and several others, highlight of the day was a brilliant speech made by former 16th Assembly member Catharine Baker (R-Dublin).  She discussed the reasons for her defeat and what the Party could do to make sure such an outcome could be avoided in the future.  None of this was confidential as Baker told the audience that I counted to be below 100 in attendance, that she had recently given a similar presentation to another group.

All of the posturing done by the County Republican Party to keep the meeting a secret was a complete waste of time.  In fact my Editor Steve Frank later told me of having a summary of what transpired from seven attendees by the end of the day.

For me it was an adult version of “hide and go seek.” Leaving the convention the thought occurred to me that there was more intrigue and suspense in viewing reruns of Keeping up with the Kardashians than what was revealed on May 18th.

Despite of this troubling reality, I have kept my word and have not leaked any possible proprietary information that might have been discussed at this convention.

What really bothers me about my local GOP and the state organizations is that with only 23% of registered voters calling them Republicans, why the hell are they cloistering themselves like a bunch of elitists who are above the fray?  This has manifested itself recently by:

  • Banning the media from attending the Contra Costa Convention.  If anything they should have been encouraging press coverage.  In order to have any chance to defeat the Democratic juggernaut in Sacramento, voters need to be educated on differences between conservative principles of sound government and leftist Progressive policies emanating from Sacramento.
  • Why are Republican groups, especially in my area, still meeting so much at Country Clubs? In fact one GOP group was upset because they were kicked out of the Orinda Country Club. This is especially galling considering just a few years ago, it was almost impossible for Jews and those of color to be admitted to this place.
  • Why does the Republican Party still have a policy of banning those who are not Party members from addressing their gatherings?  There are many good conservatives who are predominantly “decline to state” voters, who are excluded from talking at Republican meetings.  How can a political party whose ranks are diminishing each year, even contemplate such an exclusionary policy?

Talking about having a vanilla flavor at the convention, by my count there was but one Asian and one African-American present.  The closest sighting to participation from South of the Border came from a canned 3 minute taped welcoming speech from Hispanic California Republican Chairwomen Jessica Patterson.

How can these GOP leaders talk about influencing the electorate, registering young people, and convincing decline to state voters to rejoin their ranks with almost no ethnic diversity?

What makes this so frustrating is that conservative Republican principles are more in line with religious, social, and economic values these minorities possess than Democrats. It’s not as if these people are unobtainable.  Catharine Baker captured the Asian segment in all of her campaigns with her stands on merit based educational policies and strong support for law enforcement.

With exception of a group of Young Republicans from UC Berkeley led by their President Matthias Ronnau, it was mostly the usual suspects of curmudgeon retirees, who attended the GOP confab. After years of continual failure (with the exception of Catharine Baker) there is no indication that the Republican Party as it is constituted will ever be a force in local elections.

The other elephant in the closet is the constant in fighting between supporters of the President and “No Trump” Republicans who oppose him.  In California this is a big deal as a divided party allows virtually no chance of victory at any level.  

To their credit both Matt Shupe and Catharine Baker, who many hard core party members consider to be Republicans in Name Only (RINOS), went out of the way not to offend supporters of Donald Trump who were in attendance at the conference. Despite this, there was an underlying tension that existed and still pervades between these factions.

Such a divide was quite apparent at the Republican Convention last February where the vast majority of supporters for Chairwomen Jessica Patterson’s candidacy came from the ranks of “No Trumpers.”

One of the biggest challenges that Ms. Patterson faces in the immediate future is to get these two groups back together and work for the common good.  It won’t be easy because of the strong ideological beliefs of those remaining who still call themselves Republicans.

For years there have been intraparty disputes between those who have embraced conservative stands on social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and legalizing marijuana, versus those who tend to ignore them while concentrating more on economic matters such as taxes, public employee pensions, and over regulation.

Judging from what has transpired in California during the last quarter century, it looks like Republicans have been shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity. While Democrats have dominated legislative and social policies in the state, the GOP has resided in what can be charitably called a “Pup Tent” of toleration among themselves.

This is why it is so imperative that Republican leadership recognize what has happened to their failing brand and take remedial steps to relate to the greater body politic in California.


Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.


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