On election day, many Californians are more concerned with jobs, the economy and healthcare than they are with gay marriage, abortion or immigration. Yet the perception of the Republican Party as the anti-Party is a burden Republican-identified candidates carry with them.
Many of California’s voters view Republicans as anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-environment and so on. Fair or not, perception becomes reality. Because of this overhanging burden, many Californians will simply not listen to a Republican candidate on any topic, no matter what the candidate actually stands for. It’s as if Republican candidates aren’t invited to a job interview, which, of course, precludes any hope of receiving a job offer.
In practice, the refusal to interview Republican candidates by so many voters in California means this: They do not consider voting for the Republican over the Democrat when reviewing a ballot that has two lesser-known candidates. They vote for the D by default. This is why, as Republicans, we lose more of California’s districts than we win, year after year, in favorable and unfavorable environments.
Altering Popular Views How can this perception be changed?
Consider the California Republican Party platform that will be adopted in advance of the 2016 election. Many Party leaders believe the platform serves little purpose because few people other than GOP convention delegates ever look at it. Party leaders treat the adoption of a platform as a process to be managed – to keep the current Party activists happy, while avoiding intra-party fights and bruised egos. The text of the platform itself is secondary. It is not written with the outside world in mind. Republican candidates never read the platform, never endorse the platform, and never run on the platform.
Yet the platform does surface from time to time. And invariably when it surfaces, the platform reinforces voters’ negative perception of the Republican Party and Republican identified candidates. Recently, the State GOP overwhelmingly recognized the LGBT Republican organization, Log Cabin Republicans, as an official affiliate of the Party. The next day, reporters throughout the State pointed out that recognition was in stark contrast to the official California GOP platform that denies the LGBT community equality on series of issues.
Even if the platform was invisible to the media, or shortened to a single page of feel-good platitudes, that wouldn’t change how Republican candidates are perceived in the eyes of voters. The perceptions exist. They must be transformed.
Rewrite the Platform I believe a well-crafted platform could serve as a pivotal document that promotes the California Republican Party. A fresh platform could serve as the resumé that leads voters to interview down-ticket Republicans rather than simply dismissing Republicans without an interview, without a hearing.
In that spirit, I have offered California Party leaders a draft platform. The purpose of the draft is to start a conversation and find consensus within the Party. Ultimately, the larger purpose is to connect the Republican message to voters. For example, in the plank entitled Equal Opportunity For All, the Republican philosophy of individual liberty and equality of opportunity is explained.
Simply stating that we support equal opportunity isn’t enough. An explanation is necessary because many voters have come to see our position of a color-blind society as code to hide racism. Overcoming this negative perception is a necessary precondition to earning Republican candidates an interview with these voters.
This draft also contains two noteworthy planks on which consensus is yet to be solidified in the Republican Party: The Family & Marriage plank and the The Right To Life/Abortion plank.
The Family & Marriage plank attempts to balance the rights of religious institutions and individuals to refrain from recognizing same-sex marriage, against the right of LGBT individuals to pursue happiness, and to have their marriages civilly recognized by the State.
The Right To Life/Abortion plank affirms the consensus Party position that there are too many abortions in the U.S. and calls for the reduction of abortions through pro-active means. Yet the plank also incorporates the majority view among California’s Republicans – whether they are personally pro-life or pro-choice – “that the difficult and painful decision to have an abortion in the first months of pregnancy is best left as a private personal and family matter.”
Other planks speak to the topics of immigration, education, healthcare, jobs, the environment, private property rights, collective bargaining and the right to bear arms. The entire draft platform can be found here. Please have a look, and let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the end, we need Californians to take a fresh look at the Party that stands for the ideals of personal freedom and wants to limit government intrusion in people’s daily lives. One way to do this is to draft a California Republican Party Platform meant to be read outside the halls of GOP conventions – our resumé – one that helps our candidates get invited to voters’ interviews – to be heard.
David Naggar is an attorney and investor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Naggar is the author of The Music Business (Explained in Plain English), Sharing the Middle East, and You, God & The Universe.