The California Republican Convention begins this weekend in Burlingame with the theme “rebuild, renew, reclaim.” With Democratic Governor Jerry Brown boasting high approval ratings, Republicans face a tough road in defeating Brown and retaking other statewide offices. We discuss the upcoming convention and challenges facing California Republicans in the coming year, and talk about the future of the national GOP five years after the Tea Party movement shook up U.S. politics.

Bill Whalen, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, contributor at Hoover's Advancing a Free Society blog, and a regular columnist for the Sacramento Bee
Duf Sundheim, former chair of the California Republican Party, 2003-07
Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair of the California Republican Party, chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, and attorney at Dhillon & Smith LLP
Scott Shafer, reporter and host of KQED's The California Report

  • Guest

    What does the future of the GOP matter, when the Democratic Party has become a corporatist, anti-environment party? Whether the corporate beast has one head or two, it does the same damage. If the GOP goes away, we’ll just be more like Mexico with its PRI. We already have Mexico’s level of corruption, with corporate executives running all of the regulatory agencies and corporate lawyers running the Supreme Court, and cops not caring about the rule of law. The USA now excels at giving power to scoundrels and crooks who “play the game”, while intimidating and marginalizing most decent people.

    • Ehkzu

      Granting that both parties are subject to the powerful influence of dark money–arguing that a President Gore would have had exactly the same results as a President Bush II is ludicrous.

      And one of the ways centrists act to counter one party rule by either party is by electing a governor of the opposite party. That’s many California Democrats did by helping elect Arnold Schwarzenneger who, even now in the genius of hindsight, was the lesser of two evils. Californians would elect another Republican governor to counterbalance a Democratic legislature if the national GOP wasn’t so profoundly morally and intellectually bankrupt.

      One of the Republican’s election strategies is to get liberal ideologues to not vote as a “pox upon both your houses” ploy.

      This is how Ralph Nader helped the GOP beat Gore.

      And saying both parties are identical serves that strategy. It’s a failure of idealism to throw up one’s hands and walk away just because there are no saints in the boxing ring.

    • Ben Rawner

      So true. The devil doesn’t stab u from the front, they stab u from the back.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As a former registered, active in the party, Republican ,I am so baffled at what the party has turned into.

    The fact that California has the lowest number of registered Republicans it has ever had, one wonders if their are any sane California Republicans who can sound the alarm for the rest of the country when it comes to the FACT that the older, white, conservative (often grumpy) Republican is sinking fast in numbers.

    Whereas the Spanish speaking,under age 30, Asian (India/China),gay/lesbian,female and the non religious are now the combined majority who WILL be calling the shots come election time.

    • Guest

      These various people you speak of are being courted by the corporate power structure to carry on the corporatist system.

      The corporate system assumes everyone can be seduced with money, that everyone is a sellout, regardless of skin color or gender.

      • Bob Fry

        So far their assumption is 99% correct.

        And even the occasional person who doesn’t sellout (Snowden) doesn’t change things.

      • Chemist150

        The Democrats are courted by corporations also. The fact that so many turn a blind eye to that is disturbing.


    The grand old Republican party is dead ,it died long time ago ,it was taken over by the Neocons ,Theocons ,Wall Street Military industrial Complex,big money, ,and multinational corporations, It is no longer party of the people for the people, and great number of it’s members fail to see that because of their own selfishness and greed….Together with similar actions by the Democratic party resulted in the destruction of the American middle class by creating great shift in wealth as well ruin the U S economy.

  • Bob Fry

    On the other hand, we (California and the US) NEED a decent conservative party, one that has credibility when it points out the folly of Jerry’s High-Cost Train to and from Nowhere or the folly of a 16 trillion dollar national debt. Now when they talk about this no one takes them seriously. The greatest harm the Republican craziness has caused is one-party rule, in California at least.

    • Another Mike

      You can lay a hundred miles of track in the Central Valley for what one mile will cost along the Peninsula or in LA. Starting where you can get the most miles for your money makes sense — it’s all part of the same line.

  • Ben Rawner

    The problem with these and other Cali republicans is that they are so focused on not being a democrat instead of being a republican. What do republicans stand for and not against. They are against big government, against pensions, against illegal immigrants, against prison reform, against gay marriage, against against against. Where is the we are “for”. They talk about “fissures”, at least the dems don’t have to parade their minorities around to try to gain legitimacy. The republicans are for nothing so they are unable to even have fissures.

  • Bob Fry

    To the woman guest: yes, voters are more sophisticated than bumper stickers, which is why Republican registration is at all-time lows. Really, Republicans concerned about poor schools? Where have you been for 40 years?? Oh, that’s right, you’ve been lowering taxes and making tax breaks for corporations for 40 years and ruining schools, among other things.

    • Robert Thomas

      When I was a kid, my parents, who had been Republicans, switched to the Democratic party because of

      1) their horror of Richard Nixon by 1960 and
      2) the California Master Plan for Higher Education.

      They believed that (coming during WWII from North Dakota and Mississippi) California had offered them an enormous opportunity and they thought (and instilled in me and my siblings) that they OWED CALIFORNIA their allegiance and their hard work. This is in contrast to those among us who take it for granted that CALIFORNIA OWES THEM.

      They also believed that public primary, secondary and post-secondary education had to have its goal in the best education for ALL of the kids in their community, not just for their kids. This was why childless people and people whose kids were out of school would vote to pay taxes to support schools. They understood that abandonment of the education of kids with distressed home lives and inattentive parents in favor of kids with attentive parents was utterly anathema to the national ethic and a harbinger of ruin for our society.

      What a lucky boy I was.

  • Ehkzu

    The worst problem of the GOP is that most of its public positions are based on facts that aren’t. This has nothing to do with a political philosphy. It has to do with the difficulty of supporting a party whose intellectual house is built on sand.

    There are many centrists who would vote Republican if not for this fact. It’s why the GOP has lost the people with college degrees. Even what passes for intellectuals in the GOP–David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, George F.Will–speak with the measured tones of an intellectual but say the same propagandistic messages as that party’s public meatheads, just dressed up in a nice-looking suit.

    • Robert Thomas

      I agree precisely with your assessment that these figures are “what pass for intellectuals”. Is George Will still alive?

      Both political parties have let know-nothing “journalists” become the creative movers of their platforms rather than just apologists and mouthpieces, as, say, Drew Pearson once was.. This is good for neither party but especially bad for the Republicans, who’ve actually begun to think that David Brooks is some kind of a right-of-center John Dewey. Good grief. But this is in line with the party’s Milton Friedman-esque distrust of thoughtfulness in favor of arthropod-like purity of purpose.

      Whether the fact that many Democrats have come to think of Tom Brokaw as a latter-day Edmund Wilson is more pathetic, I’m unsure.

  • Robert Thomas

    Proposition 13 has killed the Republican Party in California.

    Thirty-six years ago I never would have thought that this would be the consequence but that’s what happened.

    Republicans only care about money and they’re only willing to spend enough money to defend one third plus one of the assembly OR Senate districts, to guaranty no new revenue is raised. This means that they have abandoned ANY issue not associated with new revenue; it also means that their candidates are too far to the right to ever gain state offices again.

    I’ve begun urging friends in other states to offer Republicans the two-thirds requirement for new revenue. It’s brilliant! They can’t turn it down.

    It kills Republicans DEAD, like BLACk FLAG.


  • Robert Thomas

    What a sad portrait of dementia.

  • jurban

    If you re-branded the California Republican party as the Centrist Party and actually proposed a centrist platform you would get an enormous following. The hard-right is diminishing in popularity overall, yet stubborn and will never move to towards the center given how they are wired. But the center is disenfranchised and needs a home. Cut bait and let the Tea Party represent the right!

    • Bob Fry

      Hear, hear. Ditch the crazies: the Christian ayatollahs, the worshipers of Grover Norquist (putting that pledge above allegiance to the Constitution), the science deniers, the racists and bigots and plain haters. Return to moderation and you’ll get the votes.

      • jurban

        Moderation = Flexible. Moderation = Willing to Re-think. Moderation = Rational. You highlighted the extremists and they always become the leaders in a movement (I like to say “Taliban with Ties”). Just like there are extremists on the left that are calcified in their positions. And, I think the parties become more polarized in order to survive. It’s like moving to the further ends of a see-saw in order to stay level.

      • Robert Thomas

        BF, the Whigs couldn’t do this in New York or Pennsylvania or Massachusetts or Ohio or Illinois or anywhere else the party tried to wrest control from crackpot Know-Nothings and Anti-Masonics and lesser axe grinders. It had to detonate a bomb and blow the party to bits in order to recover power for a comparatively sober platform (which it finally succeeded in doing). This may be the only thing that can save thoughtful Republicans, as much as such a thing can be said to exist.

      • Robert Thomas

        A few years ago, I saw Richard Dreyfus appear like a deer in headlights at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. He seemed shocked that any television broadcaster would want to put him on television or be interested in anything he said. He’s a notoriously prickly guy but he relaxed briefly to push the simple reason he bothered to employ his modest remaining celebrity: to promote the idea that members of the U.S. congress sign a “pledge”, merely endorsing the Preamble of the United States Constitution. He didn’t mention Norquist’s loathsome pledge, but I got the point.

        The cameraperson responded perplexedly, but respectfully.

    • Robert Thomas

      Even a reasonably right-of-center, socially and fiscally conservative party has a place in the state and in the country. The Republican Party is neither.

  • Ehkzu

    Note that Republicans spend much of their time attacking “Obamacare,” but not one second advancing Republicare. The nature of Republicare is defined precisely by the 46 healthcare bills the House passed since 2010. Their content is to repeal “Obamacare” 100%, with no other changes.

    Which means that Republicare is the old status quo before 2008–no more, no less. And that’s why Republicans never ever compare “Obamacare” with Republicare–they just try to get people to think about what they say is wroing with Obamacare without considering the economically and personally disastrous alternative.

    I can imagine better healthcare systems than Obamacare. Republicare is not one of them.

    • Chemist150

      You’re demanding the Republicans have the same platform as Democrats by suggesting they have Republicare.

      The fact of the matter is that Medicare is spending way more than it takes in. By way more, I mean a lot more. The system is broken and bankruptcy is looming for this country. Expanding such a troubled program seems a bit dangerous to some. By some, I mean those that actually look at income vs. spending.

  • Another Mike

    Boy, Harmeet Dhillon’s voice has changed.

    • Another Mike

      This may have been too subtle — let her answer the questions put to her.

  • Scott Hess

    Listening to Dhillon attack every diversity question is just annoying. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough diverse Republicans in the media spotlight – the problem is that there aren’t enough diverse members at the grass roots creating the future of the party. And from listening to her being defensive about it, my guess is it’s because anytime someone tries to do something about it the existing leadership piles on them about how it’s not a problem of reality, it’s a problem of perception.

  • Noah Hallett

    How can any Republican party advocate even bring up a “failing education system” when the only thing Republican state leaders have done in California is cut funding to education? That’s not fixing anything.

    • Chemist150

      The California Legislature has a Democratic Supermajority. Can you provide specifics about your assertion?

  • Another Mike

    What happened to Bill Jones? He was one of the last Republicans to win statewide office.

  • Robert Thomas

    Dave Iverson has really done a poor job, here. I don’t think I’ve heard a segment with such little listener participation invited in a long time.

    • Another Mike

      Hard to juggle four guests AND take calls. Usually each segment has only one guest.

      • Robert Thomas

        AM, maybe you’re right – it may just have been my perception.

    • Bob Fry

      I don’t think it’s Dave’s fault. He might as well have talked to the Flat Earth Society for a group equally relevant.

  • Chemist150

    As a libertarian, I have a few things to say. Why do you chose awful presidential candidates?

    Second. I actually agree with the latest Obama initiative to redefine “executive” but I don’t see raising minimum wage as fixing the underlying problem which is not education.

    Despite agreeing with Obama’s current effort, things like that should be tied to inflation along with minimum wage. This way, it cannot be used as a political tool and the economic outcome can be better predicted and thus actually identify the underlying problem which I’d point to being creation of huge debt payments sucking the money supply from the US and distributing it elsewhere.

    If you say in a “healthy” economy, there will be X number of people needing food stamps and fund 90% of that to put pressure on the system to resist going on food stamps and adjust distributions on inflation. Set minimum wage for a “healthy” period and adjust for inflation. Set welfare in the same vain as food stamps and adjust for inflation,… etc. When you do all of this and the economy tanks, you have less variables to look at like debt. But by doing this, you can also avoid huge debts through major overhauls or “fixes”.

    Also, look for the greater good exampled by my email to the Whitehouse years ago suggesting that the “stimulus” be used for infrastructure like watershed and reclamation projects instead of roads. Now, here, in South San Francisco, we have a commuter lane 3 cars length that forces and immediate lane change followed by two more lane changes to stay on the highway. It’s covered in gravel from disuse. They destroyed more jobs than it created and wasted money on something never to be used.

  • timholton

    Since the “Republicans” seem to think their problem attracting members has to do not with substance but with messaging and marketing, why don’t they start with dropping a name that means the opposite of all they stand for and adopting one more descriptive?

    Actual republicans believe in public things (the literal meaning of the word), that is, in a commonwealth—something the current party equates with socialism. The “Republican Party” has been viciously opposed to the very idea of common wealth, to public things, including education, medicine, physical infrastructure—even a national postal system, for crying out loud. If they think this is what people want, why don’t they advertise themselves that way?

    While they’re at it, why don’t they stop calling themselves “conservative”? Conservatives are people who believe in conserving. And claiming you want to conserve an inherently unstable, fractious and anti-conservative laissez-faire economic “system” (the word implies a degree of stability that doesn’t apply in this case) doesn’t count. Most actual conservatives—which the party actually once included—have long ago left it. It’s now the neo-liberal party, the party of Hayek, an outspoken and self-described anti-conservative.

    So why not change names? The “Republican” and “conservative” labels are now mere ruses to lure bodies into a party that primarily serves economic plutocrats in order to gain the party the numbers it needs to be politically viable (the strategy of “fusionism”). So being truthful would probably defeat their cause. Still, at least they’d go down with honor. “The Neo-Liberal Party” would make a good, more truthful name. Or, I don’t know — the Privateer Party?

    Or maybe something with a dignified Greek root… What’s the Greek word for “one’s own”—the opposite of all the public things the “Republicans” in fact despise? Idios! The Idiotic Party! OK, not likely to attract voters. But at least it’s truthful.

    • Chemist150

      Republican does not mean “public” it’s from “republic”. Should we now address your “idios” commment or the “Idiotic party” name calling at this point?

      Two different concepts. i.e. Romney could be for the healthcare system because it was chosen by the state which fits into a Republic model.

      Also in a Republic model is if other states liked the healthcare Mass. did, then they could adopt similar programs but they could have variants. If the system worked well, then eventually the nation could adopt the best model. However, one state cannot lead the way for a country. If by example most other states adopt similar laws and it works, then it can be adopted by a whole.

      • timholton

        You’re mistaken. Both “Republic” and “Republican” are from “public.” The root is evident. And the “re” is from “res,” which means “things.” So “republic” literally means “public things.” Scholars of Plato recognize that Plato’s _Republic_ might just as well be called _Commonwealth_. It’s the same idea. But I’m not surprised so-called “Republicans” and their defenders have trouble grasping, or admitting, the true meaning of the name they’ve erroneously claimed.

        The governing principle of the party isn’t that public or civic spirit can guide governance but that markets, self-regulated by the vigorous exercise of self-interest, will take care of everything. Why pretend that’s not the key idea? It’s widely argued by party representatives. My point is that they should just be honest about it.

        • Chemist150

          To say that X is a subset of Y and insist that X=Y is bad math.

          X being Republican derived from Y “public matter”.

          You might as well say that since Democrats make up part of the United States, they’re they only ones in the United States.

          If you cannot see this, the discussion is over which I suspect it is. Democrat math is often way off base.

          • Robert Thomas

            Sexagesimal-base math was enforced by historical Babylonian dictators. What conclusions may we draw?

      • timholton

        Again, you’re debasing your terms. Both “republican” and “republic” come from the root publica, as is clearly evident. The “re” comes from “res,” meaning “things”. So republic means literally “public things.” Scholars agree that the title of Plato’s _Republic_ translates equally well to _Commonwealth_. They’re the same idea. But I suppose to the current neo-liberals running the GOP, Plato was a commie.

        As for Romney, his lack of appeal with GOP members was precisely because in reforming the health insurance system in Mass. he’d demonstrated too much concern for the public good, not enough faith in markets. It didn’t help him that his state is actually officially named The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    • Chemist150

      To add, conservative refers to conserving the rights and liberties of “Englishmen” as they departed from the King.

      i.e. they realize where it leads when you centralize power.

      • timholton

        Well, that’s shear revisionism and a debasing of terms. Conservatism has been rooted in Toryism, not the Whiggism that you’re citing. If you’re a neo-liberal, just say so.

        • Chemist150

          I’m a libertarian and you’re a person who will teach their children to spread hate and vitriol toward those that disagree with you. I understand that.

          You did start with name calling.

          You seem to ignore current history and how it revises definitions and that definitions differ between people, societies and location.

          X does not equal Y because X is a derivative of Y. Using your argument, you’re a microbe with the intellect of an amoeba. I don’t believe that but using the same logic you use in your argument, it’s true because you came from a lower life form.

          The structure of your argument is inherently flawed.

          Logic is elusive to you because you’ve made up your mind to spread vitriol and hate instead finding the best solution for the whole.

  • MattCA12

    It’s easy to point to how pathetic Republicans are. Much harder for Dems to look themselves in the mirror and ask why they aren’t doing a better job governing and why the state isn’t more prosperous.

  • Dennis Lange

    Why would the Republicans have a chance? They were obstructionist, and contributed mightily to the dysfunction of state government. It wasn’t until their numbers became so small, that they were powerless that California has started to improve and advance.

  • Chris OConnell

    As noted by some, it is quite ridiculous for Republicans to say they have a message, or communication problem, as if they are not getting their message out. That is obviously an insult to the voters but it is false and ridiculous to boot as there are effectively 2 parties and anyone with a pulse, and anyone in a voting booth, understands the distinction between the parties, to the extent there are distinctions anyway.

    I found Dhillon to be quite incoherent. The words are good, the sentences are complete but I can’t make any sense of what she is saying. A perfect example is the term limits issue. She says she is for them, that they are good, and then goes on to explain that Sacramento is full of legislators that don’t know what’s going on.Huh? So her reason for supporting term limits is the argument against term limits!! And so it went.

  • red_donn

    At around the 39-40 mark, my eyebrows were considerably raised. Taking the minimum wage question, avoiding a clear statement on whether or not it should shift (either up or down) and instead using it to peg the education system, by which the real target is surely teacher’s unions, is not a promising maneuver. One cannot resign a great chunk of the populace, ages ranging from those currently in their teens up through the increasingly middle-aged minimum wage earners, to the sidelines while chasing after teacher tenure.

    If only Ayn Rand had taken a course in real-world labor markets, we might have been spared so much pain and pablum.

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