If you want to successfully deal with a problem, you have to start by admitting there is a problem in the first place!
The Republican Party’s influence in California has spent the last few decades continuing to decline, notably in Sacramento.
Statewide races almost seem lost before they have started, with Gov. Gavin Newsom not even bothering to write a ballot statement in his last election; and in presidential years, once the ballot boxes are closed, the state is called for the Democrat candidate.
In the state Legislature, Democrats hold a supermajority, and now can govern alone, able to move legislation without any Republican support.
From 1968 through 1988, California voted to elect a Republican president, but has since sided with the Democrat candidate.
So, what happened?
Numerous factors come into play, but there are three that have stood out to me, including demographic changes, shifting political priorities, and a lack of effective leadership in regards to long-term planning.
California has become increasingly diverse over the past few decades, with a growing population of Latino, Asian American, and other minority groups throughout the state. These groups tend to lean more Democrat in their political affiliations and voter registration, but I would argue it’s not because of political allegiance, but because of the Republican Party’s lackluster approach to embracing, welcoming and most of all, speaking to these communities!
When a political party gets relegated to just responding to the actions of the controlling party, the ability to lead is lost, and people looking for strength don’t find it in a group that can’t advocate, be positive, or produce results in the current environment.
One of the phrases often uttered is, “Our door is always open,” but if people don’t know what to expect or see when they walk through the door, history suggests they will not go through it, open or not.
The Republican Party’s stance on big national issues, such as immigration or health care, has been a major factor in its declining influence in California. The state has a large population of immigrants, and many Californians support policies that provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But instead defining and defending policy that protect our sovereignty while recognizing and demonstrating humanity to those seeking the American dream, we lose sight of a message that can be both strong and welcoming and have allowed opposing political influencers to control the narrative to say Republican policy categorizes all immigrants into a group that threatens America’s foundation.
When you fail to define and market your love and respect for all seeking a better life and focus on criticizing another political party’s actions instead of championing your own, you leave the very people you wish to represent, and legislate for, looking for leadership elsewhere.
Effective leadership and long-term political planning has been sorely missing.
Any successful company is always working on the next product, the next marketing campaign, or the next big effort while producing their current ones, in order to maintain relevance as time passes.
In politics, egos and self-preservation masking as stability and consistency in elected office can be the rationale for stagnation and misguided support of new potential leaders.
Former President Donald Trump is a great example of how personality and actions can completely overshadow good potential policy, and trickles down to state and local candidates. Young and fresh political influence must rely on policy and message that is relatable, charismatic and positive. Rhetoric, controversy and the lowest common denominator can appeal to the short term and short-sighted, but it will only solidify a fervent base, not grow it.
Despite these challenges, there are still opportunities for the Republican Party to rebuild its presence in California.
Focusing on issues that resonate with California voters, such as job creation, local-centric housing policies, basic living affordability challenges, and tangible infrastructure investment, all from a conservative and sustainable mindset, can start to win a voting bloc long thought lost.
Learning to engage directly with California’s growing minority communities, understanding their concerns, personally and professionally, and offering solutions from a conservative viewpoint, will expand the Republican Party’s reach and influence.
When conservative values are relatable to caring for and feeding a family, supporting religious freedom for all, and seeing the American Dream to be an obtainable reality, success politically will come.
I have personally been blessed to have the support of federal, state and local elected officials who have dedicated to their lives to serving our community, and it is incumbent on all of us to support leaders, find leaders, and sometimes be the leaders we want to shape the world for all who live in it.
Jason Gibbs is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.