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Another day brings another L.A. Times report of GOP anxiety. “GOP fears fallout from a Brown victory” forecasts statewide GOP losses if California Governor Jerry Brown wins a third term. Flashreport editor Jon Fleischman is quoted as saying that at least half a dozen Congressional seats could be determined by the race for governor.
As the article notes, the GOP front-runner had been Abel Maldonado, but he pulled out last week, leaving only Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly as the presumptive candidate. Donnelly is pro-life and pro-fracking, anti-gun control and anti-gay marriage, which means that he will not be the next governor of California. That might have been the end of the story, but there was a surprise in the article: a prospective GOP candidate with some potential to win. Neel Kashkari, who declared his candidacy Tuesday, is a Laguna Beach investment manager and former Treasury official who lead the TARP bank bailout under Bush and Obama. He also voted for Obama in 2008.
Those last facts, of course, do not give much encouragement that Kashkari can beat Brown. On the contrary, he will have to overcome that part of his resume. What makes Kashkari viable is this, per the L.A. Times piece: “[Kashkari ] is a fiscal conservative who supports gay marriage and abortion rights….”
This is more than enough to justify taking a second look at Kashkari. If he becomes the GOP candidate for governor, it will drive Democrats from Sacramento to Washington to reconsider their strategy. A 2013 poll suggests that 70% of Californians, and a whopping 79% of likely voters in the state, agree that “the government should not interfere with a woman’s access to abortion.” Only 27% say the Supreme Court should make abortion less accessible than it is now. The same poll reports over 60% of both likely voters and Californians overall in favor of gay marriage. This is part of an ongoing surge in support, and even the majority of those 55 and older are now in favor.
Any candidate for California governor of either party who opposes both, then, will lose. A large part of the Democratic strategy for continued success is its monopoly, so far, on acceptance of gay marriage. If the GOP could refashion itself to be more gay-friendly, the Party would be free of a major distraction from its message of limited government and respect for entrepreneurship.
Assuming the state party gets behind him, Kashkari should do the following:
- Add a forceful plank to his education platform opposing Obama’s Common Core Standards (CCS). Not only has Brown put the Governor’s office behind CCS—an untested $10 billion nationwide scheme devised to benefit publishers rather than public schools—he has arranged to pay the $2 billion cost to California from Prop. 30. In other words, he has taxed us to pay for standards California does not need, while teachers are being laid off. Kashkari worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which was notable for its lack of understanding of Common Core. Romney could have garnered tens of millions of votes by effectively opposing the scheme. Kashkari should not make the same mistake twice.
- Kashkari needs to reach out to Hispanic voters with concrete issues. Attempts to create solidarity through general sentiments of “limited government,” etc., will not do it. One way to interest Hispanic voters is to talk about their children’s education. I suggest bilingual education, a darling of Democrats, as an issue. If Mr. Kashkari is in favor of immigrant children fully learning English, which is overwhelmingly what parents of immigrant children want, then he should say so, and call “bilingual education” by its real name. In practice, it is closer to native-language-only instruction. If Party leaders fret over what Hispanic voters will think of opposing bilingual education, here’s my reassurance: in over 30 years of teaching, I have never met a Hispanic parent who wanted to prioritize Spanish over English instruction for his/her child. They all want their kids to learn English, not spend years segregated in Spanish-only programs.
- Kashkari needs to explain why he voted for Obama. In fact, I’d also like to know why it’s known that he voted for Obama. Did he release that information himself? If so, why? He should also explain his views as to why none of the people who caused the recession of 2008 are in jail, and why, instead, their companies were bailed out by the federal government. Of course the bailout is not a state issue, but Californians need to understand Kashkari’s past actions, including his role in giving Obama a free pass on Wall Street.
Assuming Kashkari can define himself adequately, and can master the strong arguments against Brown that will be necessary, he is already the most viable GOP candidate. The state Party could, in fact, make this a general strategy for selecting candidates for governor of California: find a candidate who is in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and take it from there.
Doug Lasken is a retired LA Unified teacher, recently returned to coach debate, a freelancer and education consultant. Read his blog at http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/ and write him at [email protected]
A version of this article was originally posted at www.flashreport.org.