CA GOP Fall Convention pushes liberty

by Sal Rodriguez | September 23, 2014 9:51 am

California GOP convention 2014This past weekend, California Republicans gathered in Los Angeles for their annual Fall Convention[1] under the banner, “Reclaim California.” Throughout the event, party delegates, candidates and elected officials sought to cast a picture of unity and diversity just over six weeks away from the Nov. 4 election.

While national media seized upon the reluctance of Fresno mayor and state controller candidate Ashley Swearengin to endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, more profound was the strong showing of liberty-minded groups and ideas.

At a Saturday luncheon, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul spoke about political subjects not commonly associated with the Republican Party. While Paul certainly got in the expected digs at the Democratic establishment, it was his emphasis on civil liberties that drew the most applause.

Calling for the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons and reforming federal drug policy, Paul argued the party will not sway younger voters talking about taxes and regulations.

“Kids don’t have any money, they’ve got student debt, they’re worried about getting a job and they have a cell phone,” he said. “They don’t care about taxes and regulation.”

Recalling a standing ovation he received while speaking [2]at the notoriously left-wing University of California, Berkeley in March, he argued civil liberties issues have far more resonance across the aisle. “When I went to Berkeley, I had a pretty simple message: What you say or do on your cell phone is none of the government’s damn business,” he said.

‘Legalize freedom’

The vice chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, Robert Vaughn, concurred with Paul’s assessment that a more liberty-oriented message from the party was key to attracting new members.

“Let’s legalize freedom,” said Mr. Vaughn. “If the Republican Party is going to grow, it has to deemphasize the social issues and stick to a more common-sense message of limited government.”

While Vaughn noted that there is at times a tension between liberty-minded party members and the party establishment, the party nonetheless has been more accepting of those committed to focusing on liberty.

“The party has been on the decline in recent years,” he said. “If the party is going to grow, it cannot use traditional social issues to broaden the tent.”

Arturo AlasThe Liberty Caucus has endorsed numerous candidates[3], including one of its members, Arturo Alas. A real-estate broker, Alas is running[4] in the 32nd Congressional District against incumbent Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte.

Alas had one of the largest contingents of supporters at the convention, perhaps second only to grassroots proponents of a potential presidential candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson.

Alas’ youthful campaign volunteers repeatedly emphasized his top campaign priority: liberty. “We have here a libertarian candidate who will defend individual liberty,” said one supporter.

Indeed, it appeared that a focus on individual liberty outweighed more traditional, conservative groups at the Republican convention.

Tea Party

The large Tea Party contingent was focused more on budget issues. Members of the Tea Party California Caucus argued the movement stood for “Maximum Liberty, Minimal Government.”

Robert Jeffers, communications coordinator for the Tea Party California Caucus[5], said concerns with reining in the state and federal governments were of far greater significance to members than traditional social issues.

“California used to be a great state,” he said. “In order to return to greatness, the state needs to cut taxes, repeal bad regulations and focus on strengthening local businesses.”

While Jeffers said the state Republican Party has “diluted” its message, he did not suggest the party focus on social issues. “If the party wants to succeed, it needs to focus on the principles of individual liberty, limited government,” he said.

Whatever the fortunes of the Republican Party at the polls on Nov. 4, it was clear from its Fall Convention that its most vigorous members are pinning the party’s future on advancing freedom.

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