Al Fonzi has a tough job.
The retired lieutenant colonel and veteran of both the Navy and Army is the chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party, and he knows the general election this November will likely be a difficult one for the GOP.
“California’s Republican Party is broken,” he told me recently over lunch at a restaurant near his Atascadero home.
A rather uncontroversial assessment considering that not a single statewide office is held by a Republican, and Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.
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Republicans haven’t held the governor’s mansion this century (both Fonzi and I agree, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t count) and it’s unlikely there will be a conservative resurgence in the state anytime soon.
And that’s mostly Republicans’ fault.
“The Democratic Party is poison to the needs of working-class people,” Fonzi said. Yet they continue to dominate the state. “That’s our fault, because we haven’t made that clear.”
And nominating a wealthy, arrogant, narcissistic, short-fingered vulgarian to lead the party in 2016 isn’t likely to help the conservative cause anywhere in the country.
Fonzi blames President Barack Obama for creating the political culture that produced Donald Trump.
“We ran into a president who said, ‘My way or the highway,’ ” Fonzi said.
Obama rammed through a restructuring of the nation’s health insurance system without any Republican buy-in, and the result has been higher deductibles, higher premiums, less choice and insurers warning the “marketplace” is unsustainable.
Obama joked about using the IRS to audit his enemies, then Lois Lerner and the IRS targeted conservative groups in the run-up to his re-election campaign to prevent them from raising money. She takes the Fifth before Congress, but Obama’s “Justice” Department decides there was really no need for her to do that, because she did absolutely nothing wrong.
After years of saying he couldn’t extend amnesty to people living in the country illegally without Congress, he suddenly discovered he could. When sued by several states over his illegal amnesty, “Justice” Department lawyers were “intentionally deceptive” about what the government was doing, prompting a federal judge to order government lawyers to take remedial ethics classes.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the reaction on the right has been: “Well, two can play this game.”
A Donald Trump presidency isn’t Fonzi’s first choice, but in his estimation it’s immensely preferable to a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt politician in my lifetime, and I include Richard Nixon,” Fonzi said.
I told Fonzi I would have preferred if the Republican Party had nominated a Republican, rather than longtime Clinton buddy and contributor Trump.
That elicited a wry smile.
I worry that if Trump’s elected, in his willingness to make a deal, he’ll sell out the people who voted for him when he espoused conservative-ish positions in the primary.
“What he will do, I can’t tell you,” Fonzi said. “I hope he learns. I hope he’s malleable. This isn’t a business. When you make a bad decision, people die.
“I hope he’s up to it.”
And Fonzi worries that Republicans who loathe Trump will decide to stay home in the fall.
Republicans have a good chance to pick up the open congressional seat resulting from Lois Capps’ retirement.
Republicans should also be able to hold onto the state Assembly seat currently held by Katcho Achadjian, who is term-limited out, not to mention several county supervisor races.
“The Republican Party still stands for what it says it does,” Fonzi said. Limited government. Economic opportunity. Religious freedom. Pro-life. A strong national defense.
While Fonzi’s argument that “to vote for a third party (for president) you’re allowing evil to succeed” might carry some weight if we were in Ohio or Florida, it’s pretty safe to say that in deep blue California my vote for president just doesn’t matter.
Come November, I don’t want any evil to succeed, so I won’t vote for Hillary, or H.P. Lovecraft’s alien god Cthulhu. Instead, I’ll probably end up writing in the Sweet Meteor of Death, because if one thing is clear by now it’s that global mass extinction is the best-case scenario.
After all, if our choices are Clinton or Trump, we can’t say we haven’t earned it.
Conservative columnist Matthew Hoy is a former reporter, editor and page designer. His column appears in The Tribune every other Sunday, in rotation with liberal columnist Tom Fulks. Read Hoy’s blog at Hoystory.com. Follow him on Twitter @Hoystory.