On Aug. 15, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a presentation to a meeting of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco regarding the future of the Republican Party in California.
Other than House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Faulconer is the most notable elected Republican in the state of California.
Faulconer was elected the 36th mayor of California’s second largest city in 2014 after a highly publicized special election. He won reelection in 2016, receiving more than 57 percent of votes cast in a three-way June Primary election, despite the fact that Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in San Diego at a nearly two-to-one ratio.
If there is a Republican elected official who knows how to win despite being in the minority, it’s Kevin Faulconer.
At the Commonwealth Club, Faulconer shared a call to action: it’s time to offer California a GOP with broad appeal again. A party with new solutions. A party that fights for the middle class. A party that competes and wins.
Since 1996, registered Republicans have shrunk from 36.4 percent of California voters to 26 percent.
While the trend is not as severe, Republicans have not fared well in Kern County either.
In 2000, Republicans constituted 46.3 percent of Kern County voters. Headed into the November 2016 election, we accounted for 38.9 percent of registered voters. Comparatively, Democrats made up 35.9 percent of registered voters.
While Kern County’s population has increased by approximately 34 percent, Republicans’ share of registered voters has decreased by 16 percent.
Voters aren’t flocking to the Democratic Party, though. Rather, they are increasingly registering with No Party Preference.
In 1996, 1,775,262 Californians, 11.3 percent of registered voters, had declared No Party Preference. By 2016, their ranks approached 5 million, 24.3 percent of voters. Only 337,051 fewer than California Republicans.
As Mayor Faulconer said, “It’s time to offer California a GOP with broad appeal again.”
It’s time to offer voters in the middle reasons to join the Republican Party.
Sadly, it appears that the CSUB College Republicans are more interested in media mentions than the future of our political party.
This week we learned the CSUB College Republicans were in a skirmish with the university regarding plans to host an event for a controversial political figure. As it turns out, the controversial speaker they had invited to attend is none other than Milo Yiannopoulos.
Milo, of Breitbart, Twitter-ban, and Berkeley protest infamy, may be headed to Bakersfield.
The CSUB College Republicans have every right to host Yiannopoulos on their campus. Our universities fail to advance democracy if they obstruct political speech with which they disagree.
That said, I question the objective of the CSUB College Republicans’ plan to bring Yiannopoulos to town.
According to the College Republican’s online profile, the purpose of their club is, in part, to “contribute to the growth and influence of the Republican Party on campus” and “recruit California State University Bakersfield students as members of the club and as members of the Republican Party.”
Seizing the zeitgeist might increase your Twitter followers, but it accomplishes very little to expand the appeal of the GOP.
It does nothing to help the Republican brand when you cede your platform to an incessant provocateur. There are far more articulate and appropriate voices for the conservative movement that could have been and should still be invited to CSUB.
The first step in any campaign is to know your audience.
Of the approximately 8,000 students at CSUB, more than 60 percent are Hispanic/Latino. In Kern County, Hispanics and Latinos represent a majority, 50.4 percent of the population.
According to the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of Latinos in the United States identify with or lead towards the Democratic Party, compared to just 27 percent who identify with or lean towards the Republican Party. Further, 50 percent of Latino voters perceive that the Democratic Party has more concern for Hispanics and Latinos compared to the Republican Party.
Who are the College Republicans attempting to reach?
Appropriate or not, Yiannopoulos is a divisive character with more notoriety for the number of protestors his events draw than the Republican voters he registers.
Railing against college safe spaces and fake news might be fun for a night, but it does nothing to address the substantive issues facing CSUB students. Students face rising tuition, never-ending tax increases, crumbling roads and an uncertain job market after graduation. The Democrat-controlled legislature and our Democratic governor are only making the situation more perilous.
Rather than hosting an event that demonstrates the broad appeal of the Republican Party, the CSUB College Republicans invited Milo.
If the CSUB College Republicans’ goal is to capture their 15 seconds of fame, congratulations.
Fame is fleeting. And when Yiannopoulos leaves Bakersfield and the crowds dissipate, what legacy will this leave for the Republican Party on the CSUB campus, much less across our county?
Next-generation Republicans have a myriad of opportunities to communicate with their peers and advance the GOP. Hosting Milo Yiannopoulos at CSUB isn’t one of them.
This isn’t the future of the Republican Party.
Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics, culture and civic engagement; the views expressed are his own. Reach him at Facebook.com/thatjustinsalters, Twitter @justinsalters or email@example.com. He is president-elect of the CSUB Alumni Association and a delegate to the California Republican Party.