GOING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK AND TELLING THE TRUTH
Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, Chairman of Americans for Prosperity, California
November 30, 2010
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy. Foy also heads up the California efforts for Americans for Prosperity - Flash]
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This election year held real promise for Republicans and conservatives, and delivered historic wins all across America. But after the dust settled and the smoke cleared in California, we could only savor victory from afar.
Like a sort of transplanted fan base, we’re obliged to invest our rooting interest in states we don’t live in and a Congress that, try as it might, can only make our lives somewhat better.
While I disagree with the dire sentiments (and downright melancholy) many of my friends are feeling, there is no denying that for California Republicans, this is the winter of our discontent.
So where do we go from here? It’s a simple question, with no easy answer. But I know where we should not
go, and that is away from our paramount principles and deepest convictions. Instead, let’s think honestly about why we did not succeed this year. Let’s tell the truth and accept its judgment. Take it From the Top
While not every axiom of politics is true, some are reliable. I’ve come to believe that the top of the ticket has an even greater
impact on party success than many assume. This year, our nominee for governor held great promise, but didn’t deliver. The effects were devastating.
In 2010, I campaigned all across the state and met thousands of voters. While I didn’t sense open hostility towards Meg Whitman, her campaign generated a sort of hard-to-describe unease. Republican activists were detached from her candidacy.
While Whitman pledged to do many right and necessary things as governor, many felt her to be a stranger, despite seeing hundreds (if not more) of her campaign commercials. Paradoxically, the more ads they saw, the more ambiguous Whitman became. Try as she might, she appeared analytical and calculating, rather than heartfelt and energized.
There’s a lesson. If content is king, than message is even more meaningful. The mechanics of a campaign simply slow down and then grind down when they are not made fluid by the passion of belief and driven by the energy of ideas.Communication, But No Connection
With apologies to Cool Hand Luke, what we do not
have here is a failure to communicate. What we have here is a failure to connect.
We all know the Republican Party is in a difficult political environment in California. Which makes it all the more puzzling that so many are recommending a “branding” campaign and blaming our plight on an amorphous “communication problem.”
This year, the Whitman campaign executed a corporate-style branding strategy with the most extensive communications effort in memory backed by more money than any state campaign in history. It utterly failed.
I believe it lacked any consequential connection to the public’s view of our state. It tried to entice voters, rather than engage them. And it tried to sell them on a product rather than persuade them in an ideal.Our Environment is Not Toxic
It would be one thing if liberal notions and big government solutions were popular in California. But they aren’t. In fact, there is today a strong anti-Sacramento sentiment up and down this state, and it isn’t because taxes are too low and regulations too few.
In this past election – supposedly a liberal triumph – a strong majority of voters made it more difficult for the Legislature to ratchet up spending, stopped the raiding of local government funds, rolled back pet projects passed last year, crushed the California Teacher’s Association’s multimillion-dollar campaign to raise taxes, expanded citizen control of the reapportionment process and soundly rejected the Democratic Party’s high-profile campaign to put this power back in the hands of their politicians. This is an electorate we can’t win?
We have the opportunity for a fresh start and a new beginning. We should set aside the pretenses of the last campaign and instead focus on the basics: Uniting behind winning policies consistent with our conservative values and identifying new leaders who can inspire a new generation of California voters.
There are millions of Californians who are desperate for something new in our politics. They are suspicious of Sacramento, they believe they are taxed too much, they know now that big government at every level is bankrupting us and every day the proof becomes more positive. With the right message – and the right messengers – we can reconnect with them.
We cannot go forward until we fully understand where we’ve been. So let that conversation begin in earnest.
Peter Foy is California Chairman of Americans for Prosperity, a Ventura County Supervisor and a successful business owner.