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Doug Haaland

The Looming California GOP Identity Crisis

Following the Assembly vote in July on the Governor’s bill extending the California Cap and Trade program, Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes participated in a “bipartisan” press conference with Governor Brown and Democrats. During his time at the podium, he announced his pleasure at being there since Republicans don’t get many chances to stand with the Governor in his press room.

In response to questions about why he and his fellow Republicans “jumped ship” to give the Governor his needed 2/3rds vote, thereby protecting Cap and Trade from further legal challenges, Leader Mayes reportedly said, “California Republicans are different than national Republicans.”

While Mr. Mayes may have had a point at that moment in time, it wasn’t long until Republicans in Washington proved that turning into useful idiots of the Democrats was far from just a “California thing.” A couple of weeks after Mayes serenaded a third of his caucus over the regulatory/taxation cliff in support of an unelected bureaucracy, Republicans in the U.S. Senate voting on Obamacare repeal also proved to be as feckless as the Mayes posse in California.

These events, though separated by thousands of miles of “flyover” country pose a set of unique problems for California Republicans. They proved that Republican candidates are more than willing to wrap themselves in the cloak of Regan conservatism while running for office, but are equally dedicated to being “progressive” thinkers or moderate when desiderated by Democrats and the media.

Interestingly, each of the political collaborators seemed to have been staunchly opposed to expanded government, higher taxes and bloated bureaucracy. In fact, Assemblyman Heath Flora who replaced current CRP Vice-Chair Kristen Olsen in the Assembly and voted in favor of the Governor’s bill claims on his present-day campaign website, “I will also lead the fight to prevent the 76 cents per gallon “hidden” gas tax hike that the bureaucrats want to impose on us.” (Emphasis added.)

The Cap and Trade debacle comes on the heels of a gas tax and vehicle license fee measure just months before when Governor Brown broke his own campaign promise to let voters decide tax increases, aided by another turncoat Republican in the California Senate.

The primary difference between the gas tax betrayal and the cap and trade duplicity was that at least the Republican defector, Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) got a promise of funding for projects in his district. Mr. Mayes and his compatriots, on the other hand, settled for Democrat support of the temporary suspension of a likely unconstitutional “fire fee” and a poorly constructed constitutional amendment to be placed on the 2018 ballot.

How does California Republicans leadership whose platform calls upon “…our government officials to join a pledge to stand together against any new taxes…” (Emphasis added.) deal with elected officials of their party who collaborate with Democrats on new fees? The immediate question for GOP leaders to answer as they face dwindling registration figures seems straightforward.

If Republicans in California are transforming from a party opposing policies that grow government power and enact tax policies that burden the middle class into supporting these policies so long as they are deemed “less bad policies,” why would any voter, conservatives or otherwise consider supporting the Republican party and its evolving “philosophy” in California?

CA GOP leaders may wish to ponder an amazingly prescient Ronald Reagan quote offered during a similarly depressing time for Republicans. “Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people.” (Emphasis added.)

Politicians wanting to invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan should be careful to wrap themselves in the whole cloak of The Gipper and not the Technicolor Dreamcoat they fashion to hide their treachery from the people who elected them.

It will also be interesting to watch political leaders faced with choosing political revival or revolution decide if the time has come to abandon officials concerned with “less bad” and become the party that can once again give voice to the “forgot man” and his family.

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