When the history of the 2020 election in California is written, the prevailing question will be why didn’t the California Republican Party take advantage of one of the biggest populist movements in modern history, the ongoing campaign to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. The period this recall effort has been allocated for signature gathering overlaps neatly with the peak political season, hence there is a tremendous opportunity for CAGOP to capitalize on its momentum.
It’s easy enough to understand why, despite gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures, and being on track to gather more signed petitions than any volunteer effort, ever, there is virtually zero media coverage. California’s establishment radio, press, and television networks are determined to ignore the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign for the same reasons the CAGOP ought to embrace – it is a rebellion that has attracted millions of disillusioned Californian voters and it has the potential to fundamentally transform the political landscape of the state.
For California’s media, this blackout is merely malpractice. Their partisan bias – expressed in how they frame issues, what issues they choose to cover, what facts they choose to emphasize over others, and their many sins of omission – is well established and comes as no surprise. In the case of CAGOP, their lack of support is, to be charitable, due to an excess of caution.
To appreciate the weight of the populist uprising sweeping California, the media, and CAGOP, might choose to attend the next large event organized by the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, a rally to be held on the north steps of the State Capitol on Saturday 9/19 from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. They will witness not hundreds, but thousands of supporters, showing up in a “Rolling Thunder” vehicle caravan as well as congregating on the north lawn. Smaller crowds at the Capitol, often comprised mostly of people who were paid to attend, consistently manage to attract television cameras and reporters. But to be newsworthy, you have to further the Democrat narrative.
The ingenuity displayed by the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign could teach a lot to the CAGOP consultants and their donors, a tight-knit network that has displayed remarkable continuity while presiding over an unrelenting decline that has lasted for three decades. It comes down to this: If you support the people, the people will support you.
To support the people, CAGOP three choices: First, they can aggressively promote a visionary platform with a few revolutionary but very concrete objectives. Things have gotten so bad, this ought to be easy. Thin the forests. Round up the homeless and put them in supervised tent cities (saving billions). Permit expansion of suburbs on the perimeter of cities which is the only way home prices will ever come down. Keep Diablo Canyon open, along with clean natural gas power plants (saving billions). Widen the freeways. Fix the aqueducts. Build more reservoirs and underground water storage. Enact school choice, preferably by issuing vouchers (saving billions). Start prosecuting criminals and get drug addicts off the streets. Quit harassing businesses (adding billions).
To the naysayers: Stop relying on polling, which is merely a good way for legacy consulting firms to collect, say, $900,000 to compile increasingly unreliable data on voter sentiment. Voter sentiment changes. Leadership and vision change the minds of voters. Get out there, and listen to people. You will be astonished at how close California’s entire population is to embracing a completely new agenda. But not one powerful CAGOP politician or donor has the guts to not just promote a revolutionary agenda, but demand it.
Choice two for CAGOP is even easier. Fire a shot that will be heard around the world by supporting the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, unequivocally and without reservations. This will serve notice to voters that the party means business, and it’s gone onto offense. Have every CAGOP candidate express their support for the recall, and make it the centerpiece of a statewide slate declaring the CAGOP position on the many ballot initiatives facing voters in November.
Opposing Gavin Newsom gives much needed coherence and excitement to everything else CAGOP is fighting for in this state. For example, there is not one significant state ballot initiative Newsom is for, that CAGOP is not against, nor is there one that he is against, that CAGOP is not supporting. The votes on many of these initiatives will be close. Enlisting the support of the recall volunteers could make the difference.
Choice three is the strategy that CAGOP is currently pursuing. Their strategy is thus: “Vote for us because we are not Democrats, and therefore you should support us.” That strategy is adequate – not good, but adequate – with the 24 percent of voters who are still registered Republican in California. For the rest, not so much.
Reluctance on the part of CAGOP to support the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign is understandable only if you view grassroots activism as a zero sum game. There are literally tens of thousands of Californians currently circulating petitions to recall the governor. These are people who could be, to mention perhaps the most important variable, walking precincts to recapture battleground seats in the U.S. Congress. But it is not a zero sum game.
The field directors for those candidates in tight races should be delivering their campaign material to the volunteers who are coordinating the recall efforts in their counties. Supporters of the recall are not exclusively Republicans, in fact, in many counties they may not even be majority Republican. But Newsom personifies Democrats, and they’re already fighting Newsom. If CAGOP endorses the recall, these recall volunteers become ripe prospects for conversion.
This bears reflection. Consider this revealing map, prepared by the Public Policy Institute of California (below), that depicts the political geography of the state as if the number of voters in each county drove the size of the space in which they resided. See that tiny, tiny little red patch up in the great white north? That’s your base. Get real. Take a chance. Swing for the fences.
CAGOP strategists and donors have to ask themselves some tough questions: “Are the recall volunteers people who would have otherwise volunteered to help us?” Some of them would have, but the vast majority of them would not. With that in mind, the question then becomes “will these recall volunteers support our candidates?” And to that, one can only say why wouldn’t they? If they’ve had it with Newsom, they’ve had it with his party.
The final question to pose to CAGOP strategists and donors at this critical time is simply this: Why are you blasting out millions of emails deriding the governor, if we’re unwilling to support the recall effort? Emails with subject lines such as “King Newsom will stop at nothing” (9/17), “King Newsom’s Reign Must End” (9/16), or “King Newsom Has Gone Too Far,” (9/06)? Are you kidding? Or do you mean it?
When you stand up for what you believe in, people are attracted. When you say one thing, and do another, you don’t matter. This recall campaign was inevitable. It was unstoppable. From the beginning the opportunity for CAGOP was either to embrace the recall effort, which would unify the base and attract new followers, or ignore it, confirming their status as the residual irrelevancy exemplified by the PPIC political map.
The Recall Gavin 2020 campaign’s lead proponent, Orrin Heatlie, is a capable and determined campaigner who has, from scratch, mobilized an army. There is a path forward for this campaign to beat the odds and put this recall onto the ballot. As will be seen, they are likely to surpass any similar sort of volunteer signature gathering effort in the history of California. Should they come tantalizingly close to success, yet fail, CAGOP will have a lot of explaining to do. Or they can have the courage of their declared convictions, and join the fight.
This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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