There is no such thing as a fusion candidate, no such thing as a bipartisan campaign or a non-partisan issue, and come election night,
there are just two parties, one at the GOP HQ and one at the Dem HQ. There’s a winners’ party and a losers’ party. Last night you were
speaking to the losers’ party.
I didn’t go. Why bother? The polls had shown for a few days that only Prop 75 had a chance (the measure to stop public employee unions from deducting political dues from their members’ paychecks without prior authroization), and besides, most of your people aren’t my friends and colleagues from nearly 30 years around California politics. They are fine folks, to be sure, and I have run into them in many of the seminar rooms of the state’s hundred universities, but you have now run into the reality of California politics. The folks who don’t care much about politics, well, they reallydon’t care much about politics. They certainly can’t get you wins on their own. There aren’t enough of them.
As Nixon often remarked: You can’t win with just the conservatives, but you cannot win without them.
Your team told you that if you put enough bait on the hook, you’d get the troops to marching. While those that showed up no doubt dutifully voted for your four initiatives –and Prop 73, which would have required notice to parents when their teen daughter sought an abortion– the base most certainly did not march. The collective yawn was hard to miss.
And they aren’t even that upset this morning. They didn’t lose a thing –you lost. Perhaps you will spend the next couple of weeks figuring out that you have exactly zero high profile GOP conservatives close to you, and that there are a whole bunch of lefties running around your offices busy advancing agendas with which the right cannot agree.
Name the conservative icon upon whom you depend and to whom you go for solid advice? There isn’t one.
Name the single conservative cause with which you are associated.
Spending restraint? Private property rights? Limits on abortion? Second Amendment advocacy? Judges?
You have picked fights with all the right people, but over what? Redistricting that might have cost the GOP crucial seats in D.C., a spending cap that wasn’t, teacher tenure tweaks? Again, mixing it up with the public employee unions was fine, but off-year elections aren’t exactly gladiator time, especially when a messed-up budget got passed because your advisors didn’t want a show-down in the summer.
Which is not to say that you won’t win in 2006. You probably will, because both of the would-be Democratic candidates are stiffs with big bucks, and California remembers Gray Davis. Sending all Democrats to Sacramento is a recipe for power shortages and same sex marriage, abandonment of the public schools to failure and endless traffic congestion. A Republican governor is sort of like a fail-safe on the doomsday machine of California government. This helps you, a lot.
Plus, charisma and the technique that will get a grin and a yes vote from relentlessly bored voters who care not a whit about anything are still much in demand.
(But you must know that Rob Reiner could change things. Not Beatty –who looks more and more like Nixon every day– but Reiner. Reiner’s smart, very funny, very savvy. That would be a debate for the ages. They could sell tickets. No bobo dolls named Arianna, but a real contest.)
So you’ve got to get serious about winning in ’06, and that means getting serious about the GOP base. Some suggestions:
1. Clear out the left from inside the “horseshoe,” the Governor’s offices inside the Capitol.
2. Bring in some senior advisors with pedigrees on the right and listen to them. Ask Bruce Herchensohn to spend a couple of days a week in the offices, as a “minsiter without portfolio.” You don’t have to do a thing he recommends, but there is no more respected figure on the California right than Bruce. Associated with Bruce, but also with Reagan, is Ken Khachigian. Ask Ken to take up a post somewhere on the battlements. And raid Hoover –get Peter Robinson to convene a three day idea-fest with the folks who haven’t spent their lives trading quarter percents with Sacramento’s lobbyists.
3. The press operation. Someone has persuaded you that the political press is like the Hollywood gang. But they can’t be wooed that way. They can’t be wooed at all. And they don’t matter. They don’t create the buzz anymore than they do majorities. Retool and figure out new media.
4. The 2006 slate. There are big, big problems forming here, and the downticket matters as much as the top. The initiatives in the pipeline haven’t been thought through. Get a marriage amendment qualified, period. And take another swing at the unions as well. Develop and qualify an initiative that protects churches/synagogues/other worship facilities from the local planning departments. Develop and qualify an anti-Kelo intiative.
Don’t just say “I’ll be back.” Live it.
5. Finally, don’t blow the California Supreme Court appointment or the rest of your judicial appointments. I sighed when I saw the latest round of your court picks in southern California. Look. If you are going to appoint Democrats to the bench –even one–don’t ask me to get excited about your re-election. I know you can’t do much with a legislature that makes the Swedish parliament look conservative, but you own your judicial picks. Ask around. There are great Republican lawyers who would make great Republican judges.
On the California Supreme Court vacancy, understand that this is the biggest decision you will make between now and next November. If you blow it, it will be a sure fire message to the base that the candle isn’t worth the fight. If Lockyer is against a nominee, that’s a great sign of that nominee’s qualifications.
I don’t doubt that you are more enrgized than ever and ready for a knock-down 12 months. Your spokeman on the tube last night wasn’t. (Enough of “rolling up our sleeves” already!)
It is going to be sweet to win re-election, especuially after all the doom-sayers on this Wednesday morning, but you can’t get there with the tactics or the team of 2005.
I know you made some lousy movies, and you must have known at some point that the team you had on the set just wasn’t cutting it.
Have you got that feeling now? You should. You’re the producer and the director. Change the script. Change everything. Or go back tp making movies in 15 months.