Where does a Mike Wasserman, Laurie Smith or Jim Cunneen go?
These quintessential Silicon Valley moderate Republicans are out of step with their current party. They are tolerated as Republicans, but with no real enthusiasm from the declining, myopic base of their current party. Republicans are an endangered species in California and the moderates within the party have been driven out by the hard-right agenda that is an anathema to a growing multicultural state.
Exacerbating the problem is the Republicans’ failure to understand math and supporting initiatives that ensure their rapid decline and position of power in California.
The first initiative was a fair reapportionment. For years, Republicans chafed at being a minority party. The cause, they believed, was a reapportionment system that benefitted incumbent Democrats. It also, parenthetically, benefitted republican incumbents.
Republicans are often challenged by math questions, as Bill Clinton pointed out to a national audience last night. But the simple fact is that by making the system fair, more democratic seats were created. Democrats should pick up at least five house members and Democrats will increase their majorities in the legislature, possibly to 2/3’s majority—eliminating even the obstructionist power Republicans have in state government.
The second initiative championed by Republicans was the “open primary.” Because Republicans are so marginalized, in 12 Assembly races and four state Senate races, Republicans are not even on the ballot. Democrats are on the ballot in every state Senate race and only five Assembly races don’t have a Democrat.
More importantly, Republicans have no statewide elected leader at all. The last two who served, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Poizner, were both considered suspect because of their willingness to engage with Democrats for policy purposes.
Which brings us back to Wasserman, Smith and Cunneen—all who whom are willing to work with their political opponents to get things done. They personify the Silicon Valley pragmatism of former icons Becky Morgan, Pete McCloskey and former Marin Assemblyman Bill Bagley.
In short, they only have two options: join the Democratic Party, which welcomes diversity and allows fiscal competence a voice in the party, or start a third party, which takes millions of dollars and has yet to be successful.
There is a third option: do nothing, stay in your current party and become extinct politically with the rest of the far right in California. So far that has been the road chosen by Mr. Cunneen. But that choice is not beneficial to the public, which is served by these individuals. It’s also not reflective of the innovation and adaptation that defines Silicon Valley leadership.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.