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At state convention, California GOP attempts to chart new course on immigration

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

One of the highlights in news publications covering this past weekend’s State GOP convention is the California Republican Party’s refusal to embrace Arizona’s immigration law as a legitimate approach in dealing with the nation’s “broken” immigration system.  The Washington Independent writes, “The party skipped over a resolution that would have stated the party’s support for SB 1070 and Proposition 187, a 1994 effort to cut public benefits to undocumented immigrants.” 

Proposition 187, as many Californians remember, was heavily pushed by Pete Wilson. Coincidentally, Pete Wilson appeared in an ad with Meg Whitman,who has been noted for extending her hand to the Latino community through various means. 

As the Independent noted, the GOP bumped endorsing the two controversial immigration political hot potatoes off the agenda to the dismay of more conservative candidates in the state.  One such conservative, former Republican Senatorial candidate Chuck DeVore, said that the state Republican Party has caused a rift with its most loyal supporters in their decision not to to deal with the Arizona immigration law. 

Among Republicans in general, the Arizona immigration law has generated an abundant amount of support. A Gallup poll in April showed that 62 percent of Republicans supported the Arizona law.  As recently as July, Gallup showed that a whopping 79 percent of Republicans opposed the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law. 

In the moderate to liberal climate of California, the votes of the conservative minority are not likely to have any significant sway in electing right of center candidates to the Senate and the governor’s office.  Prominent Republicans getting the nominations for their respective offices, therefore, are more moderate in stances such as immigration, even though some of their past rhetoric might demonstrate otherwise. 

While strong anti-illegal immigration rhetoric might work in Arizona, California is certainly a species of its own. The state Republican party has, in all likelihood, learned some hard political lessons from the repercussions of supporting legislation like Proposition 187.  The type of rhetoric that might be seen as anti-Latino seems gradually to be phasing out of the California GOP.  Most telling of the moderate, outreached direction that the state party is taking is embedded in what the Chairman of the state party said, according to the Los Angeles Times

     "We are building a party for the long term that transcends this election cycle," said Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party. "If we're going to become a majority party in this state, we must do business a little bit differently." 

It’s plausible to say that the California Republican party is turning a new page in incremental steps to become relevant in the Golden State.  Perhaps the Republican Party as a whole should take some lessons from members residing in California.

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