With liberal Democrats busy trying to turn California into some kind of progressive utopia, conservatives can often be heard talking about our state in dire terms, deriding it and openly discussing either leaving or rationalizing those who do.
At the same time, literally hundreds of Republican candidates are running or preparing to seek state and federal office in California in 2018.
“California is terrible, elect us to lead it” is an awful message for our team.
Spend any time traveling around the country or around the world and one very quickly realizes that California has a tremendous global brand. Most people with an opinion of California have a very positive one: they either want to visit, live in, or at least have something from here.
There’s a good reason all Apple are products specifically labeled “designed in California.”
California has a powerful brand because it is in fact one of the most amazing places on Earth. We need to recognize that, and let voters know that we know it.
Sure, California state government is a complete mess. But that doesn’t mean California is a mess. And conservatives more than anyone should have the ability to draw a distinction between the state, its people, and its government.
A state is more than the sum of its politicians.
Indeed it has become way too fashionable for some conservatives to paint with an extremely broad brush, allowing our frustration with a state government dominated by liberals from Los Angeles and San Francisco to infect how we talk this place we all call home.
Voters outside of the few solidly Republican regions of the state that are left cannot be expected to embrace a Republican Party whose representatives talk down our state because they have spent too much time inside of a self-reinforcing rhetorical bubble.
California has a tremendous history, landscape, and climate. We produce innovations that improve the human condition around the world, just as our agricultural products are sought by people on every continent. We live in a great state, and as Republicans we need to offer a problem solving alternative to the regime in Sacramento that can make our state even better.
As the party in opposition we carry the burden of making the case for change, but too often poorly trained candidates and elected officials allow this to turn into what sounds like a bitter indictment of the place millions of people have chosen as their home.
Strategically, this is like deliberately throwing one interception after another to the Democrats, who are more than happy to take up the mantle of defending the California brand knowing full well how strong that brand is among state voters.
Any party is defined by its candidates, and it is vital that ours lead with a positive, forward looking vision for the future of our state that focuses on solutions to today’s challenges while making clear their pride in being Californians.
We have all witnessed the effects social media has had on how people receive news. Every day more Americans get information through social media sources where differing viewpoints and ideas that don’t fit our preconceived worldview have often been unfollowed and unfriended out, and opinions are sold as news. In California, this adds to the tendency of too many would-be leaders to echo the constant complaints about California that float around online, and we neglect to let people know what we love about California, or that we are even committed to it at all.
As a candidate for Governor, Ronald Reagan succeeded in denying a third term to Pat Brown. He didn’t do it by saying the state was on track, but at the same time no one doubted Ronald Reagan loved the state and believed in its future.
Today’s Republicans should share a common belief in our state and its future as well. For this reason we should be clear in forcefully opposing initiatives that would either break it up, or attempt to break it from the union. Both of these ideas are inherently negative, giving up on California as an integral and leading state within the greatest nation on Earth.
The foundation of future Republican success here lies in an unswerving belief in and commitment to this wonderful state called California. Every solution we offer to the long list of challenges facing our state government must be laid upon this solid foundation, and every message should be rooted in the theme that we love this state, and are willing to fight to make it even better.
Ron Nehring served as Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 2011. He was the 2014 Republican nominee for Lt. Governor.