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We Must Hang Together, Or Surely We Shall Hang Separately

What happened over the past year was a triumph of teamwork, shared purpose over endemic rivalries and turf wars

By Edward Ring, May 12, 2021 6:20 am

The special election to recall Gavin Newsom is coming up this Fall, and the two questions on the ballot might serve as a metaphor for the dilemma confronting Republicans in California. Question one is binary: Do you want to recall the governor, or don’t you? On this question, California’s Republicans have come together. They all would like to see Newsom go.

Question two, however, presents fundamental challenges to Republican unity. It is a multiple choice question, “who do you want to replace Newsom?,” with candidates galore to choose from. So far, all of them are Republicans. Inevitably and increasingly, these candidates are choosing not only to disparage their common foe, Governor Newsom, but also to disparage each other.

In a broader sense, this typifies what Republicans have been doing for years in California. They cohere fairly well on what they oppose. Taxes are too high, there are too many regulations, and public schools are failing, especially in low income communities. Poverty rates lead the nation, as does homelessness. The forests are burning, crime is rising, and the state remains on partial mass lockdown. But what are California’s Republicans for?

The unanimity of California’s Republicans against the failed policies of Governor Newsom, and by extension the party he represents, deserves recognition even if it isn’t enough to merely come together to oppose a candidate and his party. What happened over the past year was a triumph of teamwork. It was a triumph of shared purpose over endemic rivalries and turf wars. It was a merging of grassroots passion and institutional power that may be unprecedented in its scale.

Republicans need to hold onto the chemistry that achieved this breakthrough. The grassroots army, Recall Gavin 2020, gathered 1.3 million recall signatures by recruiting and training thousands of volunteers. These volunteer upstarts were able to successfully collaborate with committees ran by experienced professionals, most notable among them the Rescue California PAC which got the recall effort across the finish line by gathering an additional 800,000 signatures. Even the California Republican Party got involved, contributing $125,000 to the recall effort.

Chemistry can be volatile, however. It would not take much to blow up the combustible mix of forces that joined together to recall the governor. Such an attempt was made recently in an article published by the Voice of San Diego, entitled “‘It’s a Promote-Carl Organization’: The Rise of Reform California.” On the surface, the intent of the article is to question the spending of Carl DeMaio’s four year old PAC, Reform California. But the larger purpose is to fracture the fragile alliances that have formed among Republicans over the past year.

The writer of this hit piece, Andrew Keatts, contacted Republican political consultants up and down California, coming up with a series of quotes that cast Reform California in a questionable light. The point here isn’t to defend or to attack DeMaio, who some will argue is a controversial figure. DeMaio, who was one of the first politicians, anywhere, to stand up to public employee unions and fight for pension reform, has paid his dues. And DeMaio is also one of the pioneers of what during 2020 moved closer to realization than ever – a merging of grassroots activism with professional political campaigning.

In Keatts’ article, this was acknowledged by one of DeMaio’s own former colleagues, who said, “I’ll agree that was about him being an asshole and bullying people into forming a coalition between the grassroots and the establishment. The structural model of how we did campaigns — the candidate does their thing, the Lincoln Club, the Chamber and affiliated groups do their thing, party does its thing — for the time we were doing well, we were more effective and efficient than the left. We were snipers, and they had shotguns. That model… it was the San Diego model. There was a reputation that San Diego Republicans were doing something different, and Carl could credibly take credit.”

“For a time we were more effective and efficient than the left.”

History repeats itself. That time came again, in 2020, and as a result, Gavin Newsom is fighting for his political life.

One of the biggest deceptions that Democrats still get away with is the idea that Republicans have all the big donors on their side and can outspend Democrats. This is so far from the truth it’s laughable. In California, public employee unions, which collect and spend nearly $1.0 billion per year, donate almost exclusively to Democrats. And then there are California’s billionaires, from Tom Steyer to Reed Hastings to Mark Zuckerberg and many others, who have thrown around millions, and at times hundreds of millions, to support Democrats. The Republicans in California are so outgunned it is a miracle they win any races, anywhere.

This is why attempts to divide Republicans must be seen in a larger context. Mistakes are made. Money isn’t always spent as efficiently as it should be spent. Committees are formed and donors are solicited, and political consultants vie for jobs and patrons in ruthless, unending struggle. That is normal hardball politics in America. But Democrats can afford these inefficiencies. They can wash away any serious conflict with rivers of money. The Republicans have no such luxury.

The recall election will pit Republican gubernatorial candidates in bitter conflict with each other, and dragged into it will be their donors and their consultants and their volunteers. And when the bloody showdown ends, there is at least an even chance Gavin Newsom will emerge battered but still in possession of his office.

To save their party, to build their party, and possibly for one of them to even prevail in the showdown against Gavin Newsom this fall, California’s gubernatorial hopefuls need to use the opportunity of this election to explain what Republicans are for, not just what they’re against. The list is long and some of the items are obvious:

  • School choice
  • Responsible forest management
  • Investment in water infrastructure to increase the supply
  • CEQA reform
  • Kill the bullet train and widen the freeways
  • Help the homeless by getting immediate, inexpensive shelters constructed and use the savings to give them drug counseling and job training
  • Take away the barriers to new home construction
  • End the regressive, endless, pointless wars on cars, on police, on suburbs, on small businesses.

Practical solutions abound. Talk about them. Pick a half-dozen and agree on them. Fight each other, fight Newsom, but agree and jointly proclaim an agenda for California that Republicans can deliver, and Democrats cannot. Work together, even in the fight that’s coming.

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12 thoughts on “We Must Hang Together, Or Surely We Shall Hang Separately

    1. Raymond, does this mean that a Tulsi Gabbard “type” is supposed a guideline of sorts for who the people want for CA governor? Maybe so, because as far as I know, she doesn’t even live in CA. And the OAN poll numbers are quite different for all other candidates as compared to the Berkeley IGS poll cited elsewhere, which I haven’t yet had a chance to study but heard about in passing. (E.g., 30-some% for Cox and 6% for Jenner.) Thus I’m wondering about the legitimacy of the poll that highlights Gabbard. As you know, polls can very often be red herrings.

      1. Showandtell, I think your skepticism is justified. Gabbard got a lot of support, imo, from the Democrat primary debates where she destroyed Kamala Harris. Gabbard is more center-left so would appeal to the middle so-called moderate Democrats.

        1. Thanks very much, Raymond —- I get it now. Dems love Gabbard, who I agree is more moderate than the rest, because of how she hammered Harris, and flooded in with Twitter write-ins for her.

  1. Mr. Ring, what you have written here is invaluable advice. The only way Newsom succeeds is by fracturing the recall candidates messaging and resolve. The Democrats have clearly begun as evidenced in LA Times articles, Firefighters Unions and now the attack from within.

    As Pelosi has demonstrated at the Federal level she demands unity from the Congressional Democrats. The city in which I live in has taken a cue from her and is doing the same. When a controversial issue comes up and the residents come out, the Mayor and council unite and vote unanimously each time! It is as if they discussed and decided at the beginning of their term they will vote together or punt it for the future when things come down. I know there are representatives in both Congress and my city council that vote against their conscious! In order to beat down the public they stand together and do not waiver!

    We must unite if we are to succeed. The reason the MAGA movement was and is a populace movement it conveyed positivity and straight forward ideas, i.e. we are a great nation, we believe in our liberty, our freedom to bear arms and freely practice our religion. Simple and effective.

    This state is in dire need of strong leadership to solve the issues that are worsening as each day passes. I am not sure why Tulsi Gabbard was selected for the OAN poll. What I can only surmise is the residents want an independent, strong voice for the people, NOT unions, NOT Silicon Valley, NOT Hollywood, NOT lobbyists!

    1. Cali Girl, in the OANN Twitter poll, my guess is that Gabbard was the “Other” category write-in candidate. To me this indicates that Democrat voters want another Democrat in the recall and would vote to oust Newsom. They want a CHOICE. This is a possible opening for Republican candidates if they can appeal to those moderate Democrats.

  2. Great advice! Position and Policy are necessary to those that listen. However so many voters do not take the time to listen and understand the details of policy and position. Many voters buy with their eyes and listen only to sound bites. I would add CHARISMA and visual appeal as a prerequisite for a candidate to unify behind.

    1. Great additions Tomorrow. Sadly most do vote with their eyes. If the only news they intake is local news with 8 second sound bites then yes they will keep Newsom.

  3. Appreciate that Edward Ring checks in when needed to shepherd a focus on the important checklist.
    The wayward sheep in me likes backbone most in a Gov candidate-to-be but count me in to fully support whatever viable candidate emerges from the free-for-all. Hope and pray the candidates themselves will fall behind that person, too.

  4. Take a lesson from the DNC playbook. Promise all the other candidates cushy jobs if they drop out of the race and let the “nice and most likeable” run unopposed! Getting the independent minded thinkers of the GOP to do something like that though is like herding cats!

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