R.J. Matson

Getting Back to Our Grassroots

Elect Locally

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
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When I spoke to the Santa Maria Valley Republican Club in February, I tried to share my thoughts on the rifts I saw forming in the Republican Party between the establishment old guard and the incoming Tea Party freshmen. It is becoming progressively apparent that the “Grand Old Party” is becoming an unsustainable model, and it’s going to need a conservative ground-up overhaul if it is to remain a viable entity in the future of our state and nation.

The problem with Washington is that most people go there for two reasons: to lobby or get lobbied. As Washington’s power grows, lobbying becomes more important, and it has become the nation’s biggest business. Six of the 10 richest counties in the nation now surround Washington, D.C., and every restaurant teems with politicians and lobbyists plying their trades. Because of this, the grassroots is barely acknowledged in the Capitol – by Democrats or Republicans, as reflected by “establishment class” Republicans like Speaker Boehner, and Senators McCain and Graham. They are more interested in keeping the status quo, and their dinner parties, than fighting for “Republican” principles and risking upsetting the D.C. applecart. In fact, they are willing to join their Democrat colleagues to try and stop conservatives who would try act on their party’s platform.

Robert Jeffers
Click to enlarge photo

Robert Jeffers

“Lobbying back” is almost impossible for grassroots-level activists – the amounts of money spent to win Washington’s favor are just too massive to compete with. And challenges to incumbents at election time are not tolerated by the Republican Party at large. Such challenges are left frustrated, and even punished, by the party bosses.

There are problems ahead for the California Republican Party, as well. While the new class of officers elected to CRP leadership offer promises, they still face significant uphill battles. Beyond digging the party out of financial insolvency, they face a recruitment-deficit that one election cycle alone will not be able to remedy.

But that is hardly the biggest problem facing Republican candidates for statewide office. The brand itself has become badly tarnished. For more than two generations, the Democratic Party has been highly successful in permanently staining the word “Republican” for a majority of California voters – so much so that in a growing number of neighborhoods, regardless of how much the voter agrees with a candidate, being known as a Republican can lose them almost 10 points – instantly – to their Democratic opponent. It’s a problem that will keep the party a super-minority unless one of two things happens: either the Democrats manage to make themselves so unpopular that Republicans become “the lesser of two evils,” or there’s a conservative revival that completely shifts the balance of power within the two parties.

Some think the fix is to gut the Republican Party of most of its policies, and evolve the brand into a “less extreme” Democratic Party, but such a thought is abhorrent to conservatives who understand that our policies work if and when they are tried. The trick is winning the hearts of the voters. But how do we get in the door? We need to get local.

First, it has be acknowledged, that for all the screaming conservatives do about how much we want small and local government, we spend a pitiful amount of time participating in it. As important as the goings-on of the Beltway are, more so are the meetings of your City Council – and the need for good civic leadership grows stronger as poor past administrations leave many cities and counties on the brink of total budget collapse.

Keeping our schools open, streets paved, and fire and police services available and promoting a thriving local economy are issues that most everyone can agree on, and good administration of these issues is inherently conservative. Campaigning on these essentials is a winner for candidates. And entering this foray is relatively easy for principled, yet inexperienced, political upstarts. The task is made simpler by the complete elimination of party labels – it’s just you, the voter, and the common challenges facing your community. You would think conservatives would be all over the issue just for that fact alone!

It’s not a concession of the national or statewide debate, but you can’t keep throwing amateurs, no matter how principled, at the best and most powerful political machines in history and expect to come out on top. Tea Party groups across the nation are actively working to engage and train a new class of candidates for all areas of local government. Our goal is to continue expanding those efforts – electing a new generation of leaders who will get to be known and trusted by their communities on the tough issues of our day and preparing them for future higher office.

We need to rebuild from the ground up. The path forward and upward for a new conservative movement is one city, one county, one state at a time.

Robert Jeffers is a coordinator with the Central Coast Freedom Rallies and co-founder of NF-Watch, a project to help local government find and eliminate waste.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Good luck with that; you will need it. A lot.

Again it's not the branding or the messaging that is the Teapublican problem, it's the policies and positions.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 8:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Anyone who thinks that the staining of the word “Republican” in California is due to anything but the party putting its conservative ideology into practice is hardly in a reliable position to advise that the way to remove the stain is to intensify its conservative ideology.

In addition, the results of the last election show that a majority of voters don't think that "Keeping our schools open, streets paved, and fire and police services available and promoting a thriving local economy" are inherently things that only conservatives can be entrusted to enact.

As for the notion that conservative "policies work if and when they are tried," it would be interesting to know which policies these are supposed to be. George Bush collapsed the economy and engineered a disastrous invasion of Iraq based on claims and policies that conservatives cheered on.

pk (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's not the same Party as Eisenhower or even Nixon. Reagan marked the complete take over by the corporatists (Bill Clinton did same for Dems). The GOP will be less and less relevant in CA. The contemporary Tea Party protests began under Bush as a protest of that administrations policies then got hijacked by the very forces it was protesting, big money lobbyists, corporations, warmongers..

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Note that according to this honest and upright citizen one important key to reforming the Republican brand is not letting voters know that you're a Republican.

pk (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Second all the above. Why do you guys so often have to invoke the word "freedom" in your organizations and campaigns? Seriously, think about it.

zappa (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 2:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The party will be back. (Without Scharzenegger this time). The party of Gray Davis will continue to show it's ineptitude.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 2:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Bush Administration purposefully sabotaged CA's economy, well documented. You can start with energy policy and Enron.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 3:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If the Republican party ever wants to regain power in California, they need to get back to where they once belonged.

During the 1950-1960's they were the pro-choice party supporting abortion rights in the name of less govt. interference into citizens lives. Today the evangelicals have taken over the republican party and have abandoned pro-choice rights for women. Perhaps Mr. Jeffers could offer his strategy as to how the GOP will get back to being the pro-choice party it once was. That would help the republicans because a majority of Californians don't want the Govt telling them what to do with their bodies.

The republicans have abandoned their balanced budget policies for "no new taxes" rhetoric. Today, when you elect republicans, they spend $$$$$$$$ like drunken sailors on "foriegn entanglements" and are the main supporters of the "military industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned us about. However, when it comes to paying the tab, the republicans try to steal money from programs that benefit Americans, like social security and Medi-care.

Essentially the republican party has become the party of corrupt special interests. They continually try to cut taxes for the corporations that suck up most of the tax money the poor and middle-class people end up paying.

That said, the democrats are only a few steps behind the republicans. They're becoming nearly as corrupt as the republicans with their $68 billion dollar bullet trains through farmland and bloated salaries and pensions for govt. administrators at UC campuses at the expense of college students on student loans.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2013 at 5:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sounds like there is room for a 3rd party to come up and take someone's place. Good cop, bad cop, you're still going to jail America.

spacey (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 12:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This article details who the real freeloaders are:

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 22, 2013 at 12:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am in favor of the Republican Party's positions on abortion, immigration, not taxing the rich, denial about climate change, etc., etc., etc. The party is already almost dead in California. If only the rest of the country could be as wise as we are, we could bury this Grand Old Party once and for all!

buckwheat (anonymous profile)
March 23, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Some think the fix is to gut the Republican Party of most of its policies, and evolve the brand into a “less extreme” Democratic Party, but such a thought is abhorrent to conservatives who understand that our policies work if and when they are tried."

I'm curious to learn examples the author might name of the GOP brand's polices working.

The Bush/Cheney administration was the last time they were tried. "Deficits don't matter," Cheney declared, even as the nation was plunged into two wars, when taxes were cut so they could not be paid for. Halliburton was the oil field services company Cheney left to return to politics. Much of the war profits were channeled to that company, though others help "privatize" the war effort. The multinational oil companies never got the "oil law" they wanted to guarantee their division of the Iraqi oil fields, the real purpose of the war -- but they gained control of those oil field under contracts nevertheless and run them today.

Meanwhile, the financial corporations ran the economy off the rails with the bursting of the real estate bubble, leaving the huge GOP war debt with even fewer taxes to meet payments. Never letting one of their self-generated crises go to waste, the GOP policy is now to retire that debt by cutting all entitlement (now a bad word) programs, leaving the military/industrial complex untouched and cutting still more taxes -- and, surely, never raising any taxes, ever.

How can it be said those policies work? Perhaps the question is: For whom do they work?

zauche (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2013 at 4:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"... conservatives who understand that our policies work if and when they are tried."

This is singularly asinine. Asinine, and self-indulgent. As long as the GOP continues to believe that your policies "work" and that it's just a matter of perception, it will continue to lose votes, lose clout, and lose relevance.

The GOP's policies are increasingly out of step with the beliefs of the electorate, and voters are indicating very clearly how they feel.

Best o' luck to you, neocons!


verve825 (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2013 at 7:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Republican name stained? Good grief! The word liberal has been drowned in staining vitriol from the likes of billionaire Rush Limbaugh and hundreds of right-wing stations across the country for several decades.. No, the Republicans have done it to themselves - which is what their investigative report showed. And please check the record, the economy always does better under Democrats than under Republicans. It was Reagan's policies that turned the US from a creditor to a debtor nation. And all during the Bush fiasco when Wall Street ran amok, the right-wing was saying deficits do not matter, which suddenly changed when Obama got into office. The Republican party would help itself by listening to the wants of the electorate, and not be so hell-bent on implementing their ideology, which has never been proven to be successful at any time.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
April 1, 2013 at 6:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I see what Jeffers is getting at, e.g. "Keeping our schools open, streets paved, and fire and police services available and promoting a thriving local economy are issues that most everyone can agree" --
But what we need are GREAT schools (not simply "open")... and J. seems to think just paving roads, having cops and fire services available...dude, good governance is about MUCH more than that! Jeffers position is the ultra-libertarian "watchman state" position, which simply has minimal public schools to warehouse the kids of the middle class and poor [wealthier kids can attend expensive private schools, unavailable to the other 92% of American schoolchildren].
Tabatha is correct, writing "the economy always does better under Democrats than under Republicans." In a powerful book, WHY SOME POLITICIANS ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN OTHERS by James Gilligan (2011) he presents irrefutable statistical data proving that for 107 years (1900 -- 2007, last year of full data) — under the Republican Presidential administrations the lethal death rates (suicide & homicide rates) rose to the level of "epidemics"; the rates of income INequality increased dramatically; the incarceration of Americans (usually black and Latino males) rose by 7x dwarfing the imprisonment percentage in countries like Iran and the old USSR... it goes on and on.
Individual Republicans often are fine folks, e.g. my own parents, but their Party's policies and their Presidents have hurt our country terribly....Ike was somewhat of an exception.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 1, 2013 at 7:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The GOP needs to pay close attention to the Endangered Species Act. Because soon they will be on that list.

Riceman (anonymous profile)
April 2, 2013 at 10:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I was once a proud Republican. I believed whole-heartedly in the need for smaller government, personal freedom with responsibility, and all that came with it. Unfortunately over the years I have cringed when I see who the party stands behind. I will never be a Democrat because my beliefs are not shared by that party either. When I say less governemnt involvement I mean across the board, not just where it is easy or convenient. When I say personal freedoms that automatically includes the responsibility to to stand behind my actions and pay for any mistakes I make. I believe in hard work and that nobody should have a free ride but the scale should not be so horribly skewed that the people who work hard have no chance of having a comfortable life. I know there is a happy medium somewhere in the middle of the two extreme parties that we have in place. I hope I live long enough to see both of them scrapped and some fresh ideas formed that are not beholden to catch phrases or antiquated ideas that were born from strict religious teachings or uninformed rants. One day it is my sincere hope that we will actually get some grown ups to run our government and we as a nation realize that as long as we allow lobbying by those with the funds to pay top dollar to control everything nothing will get better.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
April 2, 2013 at 1:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think a lot of us share your thoughts and hopes MSSB.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 2, 2013 at 1:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The following may be relevant:

I haven't verified the numbers, but if they're close to true...

hodgmo (anonymous profile)
April 2, 2013 at 1:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

GOP stands for Selfishness, it doesn't matter what the issue is the GOP stand for selfishness, arrogance, lying to get what you want, bait and switch truths as in don't look at the issue look at this wedge issue over here. The real Republicans which I am still a registered Republican have long since gone away only to lament this Business School takeover by Wall Street and the "Selfish ones" who all are from the same crowd of carpetbagger liars ala Romney, Ryan, McConnel, Rubio and especially Bush, (Lord forbid one of those demon Bush ever wins again).

contactjohn (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 1:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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