As someone who stuck his political neck out to write op-eds warning California Republicans about Tim Donnelly six months ago, I am not surprised that events have caught up with me. The GOP heavies are weighing in now that Donnelly has—predictably—embarrassed the party.
But if powerful congressmen and former CRP chairs are cringing about Donnelly’s attacks on Kashkari for “supporting sharia”, they should be equally embarrassed by Kashkari. Kashkari had no business running. The base knows this if the brass doesn’t.
Kashkari’s political resume is thin to none. He is a semi-rich dilettante who represents nobody but himself, the political equivalent of a Hollywood Squares celebrity, famous because he was once famous, well known for being well known, only most of us had forgotten what it was he did because it wasn’t important enough to remember.
Kashkari ran TARP. Any one of a hundred bright, ambitious, well-educated, well-connected young Treasury bureaucrats could have done the same job. Kashkari was in the right place at the right time. He didn’t totally screw up the job assigned by powerful superiors. That’s a legitimate resume page but not qualification for Governor of a huge, complex and diverse state with massive political, economic and social challenges.
Kashkari and Donnelly are ambitious, self-serving men who by virtue of ego and little else have managed to get to the “top of the ticket” of a fractured California party. The “smart” politicians declined a sacrificial run against the formidable Jerry Brown whose huge lead in the polls and millions in the bank make him unbeatable. So the B Team—or is it the D-Team?—took the field. If I’ve been wishfully hoping we could ignore both candidates, I will try another tactic.
Let’s examine them more closely and do damage control.
The most important task is to limit the damage both can cause. With less than four weeks to the primary, they can cause tremendous harm to our party. We are a party on the mend, building a strong bench in local races, a party that—sooner than many expect— will be capable of taking power and governing California. We’ve got to make sure the fight between two weak candidates who will both lose doesn’t become a barroom brawl that leads to broken teeth, wired jaws and black eyes for all of us.
If Donnelly’s sharia attack backfired because his opposition research & political hard ball team is incompetent—that’s not surprising. They’re amateurs. But we shouldn’t give Donnelly a pass for stepping over the line, even if the line is blurry.
But likewise, the Team Kashkari’s internet attack site is over the line. Donnelly is savaged for taking per diems every Assembly and Senate member gets as part of his/her pay package. Donnelly is attacked for accepting the free car he’s not wealthy enough to refuse. Donnelly is beat up for closing his two businesses, having tax problems, etc. Bottom line: the Kashkari attacks on Donnelly are hogwash. As is Donnelly’s blundering counterattack on the sharia question.
We should ask Tim to tone down the rhetoric and run a principled campaign. Tim Donnelly has a passionate following and—if he doesn’t self-destruct—potentially a long career. Donnelly may prove one of the heirs to McClintock, drawing from the same demographic and ideological base in the High Desert that McClintock taps in the Sierras, especially as he gains political sophistication and experience.
Because Tim Donnelly probably does have a future in the CRP, the party has leverage. Someone of the congressman’s stature needs to take Donnelly to the woodshed… privately. Whoever does this, the carrots and sticks need to be convincing.
Kashkari on the other hand appears to have little to lose. Emboldened by the backlash against Donnelly, Kashkari may open the floodgates of dirty messaging and use what remains of his cash to do so much damage to Donnelly that he also destroys himself, sullies the party and makes Donnelly an impossible candidate if the Tea Party and the base give Tim the nod on June 3. That’s a frightening prospect. Internecine fights are always damaging. But potentially much more deadly given the weakness of the CRP at this particular moment in time.
With less than four weeks to go, we can only hope that Donnelly and Kashkari won’t take all of us down with them in their smoldering, listing ships before both are swept away by the Brown tsunami. If we have no positive appeal but party loyalty and no negative appeal except the threat of shunning them, perhaps we still need to make it.
So here it is.
Tim… Neel… don’t screw the party, that’s not right. And if you do, we won’t forget.
Elephants have long memories.