The November general election marked the biggest Republican sweep in Congress in 60 years. More than 60 seats in the House and 6 seats in the Senate were reclaimed by the GOP, resulting in Nancy Pelosi being unseated as Speaker of the House. Unfortunately the wave missed certain coasts of the country, and in particular California where every partisan office I voted for went to Democrats. Why did this happen? Some may say that it’s because California is so damn liberal and the voters are some of the stupidest people in the country. I think this is a cop out excuse (albeit partly true). The real issue is that the candidates representing the party have failed to identify with the voters. The California GOP needs to come to terms with this disconnect and realize it’s failure to have any cross party appeal. If they keep running hardcore social conservative candidates in a liberal state, what do they expect is going to happen?
The California GOP needs to realize that the majority of California voters are independent minded and tired of the same old candidates who are clones Bush and McCain. California is not Alaska or middle America where people cling to their guns and bibles. People here care about issues such as gay rights, drug decriminalization, and ending the foreign wars. All of these issue can naturally be found in the Republican platform, and not in the social conservative side, but the libertarian side. A candidate that was a perfect example of this was John Dennis, who ran for the Congress in California’s 8th district of San Francisco on the GOP ticket against Pelosi. John was a strong supporter of civil rights and staunchly against our wars in the middle east, and this appealed to many of San Francisco’s independent voters who feel betrayed by Nancy Pelosi. Because of John’s stances, he gained the endorsements of Matt Gonzalez, former member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisor’s, and Cindy Sheehan, prominent anti-war activist. In other words, he had cross party appeal.
To break things out in simple terms, a social conservative Republican candidate is typically conservative on social issues and economic issues. For example, they are typically against gay marriage, abortion, and legalizing drugs and are against higher taxes and government spending. A libertarian candidate will tend to be more liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues. They will agree with the social conservative that the government needs to stay out of people’s pocket books, but they will disagree with the social conservative that the government needs to tell people how to live. Therefore a social conservative Republican candidate will typically have no common ground with a liberal, whereas a libertarian Republican candidate will at least have some on the social issues. Social Conservative likes Sarah Palin and John McCain are examples of why some liberals view our party as backwards, behind the times, and hypocritical. Why would a Republican, a champion of freedom and personal responsibility, be in favor of having the government telling people how to live their lives? This inconsistency baffles me, as a libertarian, as well. When I believe in freedom, I believe it applies on all levels.
California also has a history with libertarian leaning Republican candidates from Ronald Reagan all the way up to Arnold Swarzenagger. Both candidates had cross party appeal and were able to convince voters that they were not the typical establishment politician. Obviously, these aren’t the best examples of libertarian leaning GOP candidates by how they behaved once elected, but the fact remains that they were able to get elected in a liberal leaning state. Let me note that by having cross party appeal I don’t equate this with reaching across the aisle and compromising with liberals. A true libertarian candidate will always stick to their principles, even if it means going against both parties. The California GOP needs to realize that there’s a huge libertarian resurgence in this country that began with the Ron Paul 2008 presidential run and if they want to start winning some partisan races then they need to tap into this energy. It’s about time they stop running boring candidates that marginalize certain groups of the country (ie. Mexican immigrants and gays). It’s time they run on the message of freedom, which unites all.