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Doug Lasken

GOP merry-go-round in San Francisco

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Doug Lasken

The GOP merry-go-round in San Francisco

I registered for the California state GOP convention in San Francisco this weekend, March 14-16, even though I don’t know what I’ve registered for.

I had the same feeling when I took my five-year-old granddaughter, Vera, on the merry-go-round at the Topanga Plaza Mall in Woodland Hills. Some of the animals went up and down; some stood still. Some seemed to leap forward in frozen passion; some were just frozen in time. When the merry-go-round turned, the world seemed to spin around it, oblivious to its mythic themes and intrepid explorers. Vera and I were both dizzy after the ride; the difference- she enjoyed the sensation.

Just so, when I set foot in the Hyatt Regency next Friday night, I’ll face a mysterious array of horses, some perhaps riding somewhere, some only seeming to, some not even trying- it will be difficult to tell which is which. I did not have this problem at the October convention in Anaheim because, based on my opposition to the Common Core Standards, I had been invited to the Tea Party Caucus, one of the rowdiest and most interesting political gatherings I’ve ever witnessed. Unfortunately, it expressed, in addition to the highly popular opposition to Common Core and Obamacare, all the opinions that have made it the political dead-end everyone knows it to be: fanatical opposition to gun control, birth control, abortion, separation of church and state, laws to curb industry’s uglification of the planet, violation of our sacred right to free plastic bags at the supermarket, and on and on into a rag-tag collection of positions that excite about 30% of the electorate and repel the rest.

The Tea Party ponies will prance again at the San Francisco merry-go-round, but I’m done checking them out. I want to see the future of the GOP, not its wasted past. Yet it seems that outside the joie de vivre of the doomed Tea Party Caucus there are only bland and stationary horses. The convention agenda tells the sad story. I had wanted exciting workshops with titles like:

– Radical changes so that the party will survive the next two years
– Towards a new platform for GOP candidates who want to win
– Can traditional Republicanism support gay-marriage, gun control, rescheduling recreational drugs to Schedule II so they can be studied, and (a real long-shot) public education divorced from special interest money (i.e. Common Core)?

Instead, the convention’s “engaging and interactive” workshops include:

-Hands on training for the new CRP Voter File
-The wonderful world of data
-Everything you wanted to know about the CRP but were afraid to ask

There is also the option of following the saga of the resolutions, which contains such gripping language as:

“No proposed resolution shall be considered by the Committee or the Executive Committee at any meeting unless and until a favorable report is submitted on the resolution by the Initiatives Committee; provided, however, the Committee or the Executive Committee, by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the voting delegates present, may take up such a proposed resolution without such a favorable report of the Initiatives Committee.”

Or, if the resolutions don’t do it, one can shell out hundreds of bucks to watch keynote speakers like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, but the odds that their speeches will touch on the realities of the current GOP struggle are…well…zero.

Thus it is that I will enter the hotel lobby next weekend with no clear idea where to head. My wife and I will walk around the lobby, peek into a room here and there, and, if it gets too depressing we’ll take the shuttle into San Francisco, always a delight.

I must say that after years of writing about the lack of a true opposition party in American, and the potential for the GOP, both state and national, to take on that role (and ward off its own untimely demise in the process), I’m starting to wonder if I should move on. Not that I despair of substantive developments. Something has to give. Either the party will demote and/or expel the Tea Party activists and candidates who have thrust it into a moribund state, and come forth as a resurgent and re-defined GOP, or it will muddle bureaucratically into some twilight state. That will be interesting to watch, but time is short and movement must be evident soon to be in time for the California governors race next November and the presidential race in 2016. Those deadlines are upon us. If there are no signs of life at this week’s convention, it may time to move on.