The issue: What does the future hold for the Republican party?
Through the years, Republicans have seen many ups and downs. However, the results of the 2012 election cannot be dismissed as insignificant to the future of the Republican Party, particularly here in California.
On Nov. 6, Democrats won top-targeted races, kept the Oval Office and retained their majority in the U.S. Senate. Their sweep was especially seen in California, where Democrats already held all statewide offices, won the majority of the competitive ballot measures and now have supermajorities in the state Assembly and state Senate.
These results were hard to swallow, and they can’t be sugarcoated. But the future of the Republican Party in California is not bleak.
We can win again in California — and we don’t have to sell out to do it.
Democrats are pointing at the Republican platform and saying that it is out of touch — too conservative. But the truth is that Republicans share many of the same priorities as middleclass families throughout California: fiscal responsibility, firm support for public safety and support of education reform that puts students first, not special interests.
These issues present clear and winning policy differences over Democrats. The key for Republicans is overcoming the false perception that Republicans don’t care about the average working family. In presidential exit polls, voters were asked which candidate quality was most important : vision for the future (29 percent); shares my values (27 percent); cares about people like me (21 percent); and strong leader (18 percent).
In 3 out of 4 of these qualities, Mitt Romney was the preferred candidate: vision for future (55 percent to 45 percent); shared values (55 percent to 42 percent); and strong leader (61 percent to 38 percent.)
However, Mitt Romney lost decisively among voters who said “cares about people like me” was the most important quality (18 percent to 81 percent).
It is a myth that Democrats are the only ones who care about people and working families. Nonetheless, it is a stereotype that has woven itself into reality. Republicans need to project their empathy through words and deeds — articulating that supporting free enterprise, strengthening public safety and expanding educational opportunities is a formula that will improve the lives and prosperity of all Californians.
Take, for example, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. Voters know that Katcho is Republican, but they also know he is a local small-business owner who cares about the people of our county. On Election Day, he received 12,000 more votes in San Luis Obispo County than President Obama. Congressman Kevin McCarthy stayed true to his conservative ideals while outperforming party registration by an impressive 29 percent in his victory Nov. 6 because voters know that he is in touch with the issues that matter to them.
Another example is Congressman-elect David Valadao, who won in a district with an 11-point Democratic registration advantage and 49 percent Latino voting population.
Valadao, a fluent Spanish speaker, beat his opponent, John Hernandez, by 16 percent. Valadao won by having empathy with voters in his district and articulating the principle of economic prosperity through free enterprise.
Republicans cannot ignore the recent trends in voter registration. While registration has dropped for both Republicans and Democrats over the years as more voters select “no party preference,” Republicans have seen a steeper decline.
However, these trends need not be permanent. Here in San Luis Obispo County, Republicans have increased their registration advantage by nearly 40 percent between 2008 and 2012.
Lessons can be learned from candidates who had success in empathetically relating to voters and who were able to clearly and succinctly communicate Republican positions that are good for the economy and improve people’s lives. The only way for the Republican brand and party to be rebuilt is from the grassroots and local levels — and once we do that, we will win.
John Allan Peschong served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration and later as a senior strategist for the campaigns of President George W. Bush. He is a founding partner of Meridian Pacific Inc., a public relations and public affairs company, and serves as chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party.