Morton Blackwell, a long time leader of the conservative movement, observes that “the winner of a political contest, over time, is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists and leaders on each side.”
It is for this reason that the California Republican Party needs a strong California Republican Assembly.
During my decade on the Board of the California Republican Party I saw the CRA shrink from a dominant political force within the party to a shadow of its former self. Nature abhors a vacuum, and others who are less concerned about ideas moved in and filled the void.
There are some within the party who are no doubt cheering the CRA’s diminished numbers and influence. These are the people who think the party is bogged down by conservative activists, and if it could only free itself of these troglodytes, it would ascend to power.
This is a fantasy.
Every Republican candidate depends upon volunteers to contact, persuade, and mobilize voters. And those volunteers are overwhelmingly motivated by their commitment to ideas: lower taxes, limited government, personal responsibility, a strong national defense, etc. Our conservative party platform is important because it reminds these volunteers that they are in the right place.
The California Republican Assembly can and should be an important force to grow, train, and deploy a large Republican volunteer base that is committed to ideas. It should be singularly focused on recruiting volunteers, engaging them in worthwhile events that provide value, getting them training to maximize their effectiveness, and matching those volunteers up with conservative candidates for office.
As a movement conservative, this is why I want to see a strong CRA.
But I don’t see that today.
Instead, I see a group whose name was invoked to relentlessly attack a conservative candidate for CRP Vice Chairman, Harmeet Dhillon, even though the CRA Board voted specifically to not make an endorsement in the race.
This has to be one of the most ham handed maneuvers I have seen in CRP politics. By creating the (false) impression that Dhillon was opposed by the CRA, her subsequent overwhelming victory made the CRA appear even more irrelevant in CRP elections.
I’ve focused most of my activism as San Diego Republican Chairman, CRP Chairman, and now San Diego Vice Chairman, along with other endeavors for the conservative movement, so I am not weighing in concerning the CRA leadership struggle now under way.
However, it’s evident that for the sake of California conservatives, something needs to change. That can be leadership, or it can be with the adoption and implementation of a sound political plan that clearly defines the group’s vision, mission, strategies and tactics.
One thing is clear: unless the CRA is able to turn itself around, conservatives may be a diminishing force in state GOP politics. That will make some people happy: delegates not particularly concerned about ideas or policy are probably more willing to turn over their proxy to some operative being paid to collect them.
I support the CRA. The overwhelming majority of its members are deeply committed to advancing conservative ideas, and they are willing to sacrifice to see those ideas advance. This is an important group with an important role within the state party, and I hope to see it grow and succeed in the months and years ahead.