California Republicans’ Munchausen By Proxy Problem

To paraphrase the oft-misquoted Mark Twain, rumors of the death of the California Republican Party are greatly exaggerated. The results of the November 2018 elections, while not completed until December, got worse each passing day until we came up with the final tally. It was, to use the technical terminology preferred by political pundits, a massacre, a slaughter, a bloodbath. As I’m an eternal optimist, and in an effort to stop myself from curling up into the fetal position and avoid making plans to flee the once-Golden State like so many others, I am able to see the good news buried within these dismal results. (“There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”)

I wrote in October that the continued leftward lurch of California Democrats would result in such dismal living conditions that voters would have to take notice. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a bit longer.

What I’m seeing now, however, isn’t just that the patient is ailing. She is, and the results show that something’s definitely amiss. But the growing chorus of voices insisting that the patient is already dead, and worse, is deserving of death—that chorus is coming from inside the house! Mike Madrid, a “GOP political consultant” according to his Twitter handle (albeit one who advised Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa in his failed bid for governor), is everywhere lately saying just that. Here he is in the Los Angeles Times, calling the time of quietus like they do on “Grey’s Anatomy”:

“It’s dead,” Mike Madrid, a former political director of the California Republican Party, said of the state GOP. “It exists in small regional pockets, where there are enough white, non-college-educated working-class communities for there to be a Republican Party. But that’s not much.”

Interesting. This non-white, college-educated, private-school-supporting immigrant mom is a Republican, and actually put my life on hold (as a mother of four, I admit that it was more like a vacation!) for a year to run for office in one of the deepest blue areas of Los Angeles County. I found the exact opposite. People’s belief in liberty isn’t defined by the color of their skin, and almost no one is excited by the prospect of more crime in their neighborhoods, more filth on the streets, and higher costs for everything. The problem is that the Republican Party has been invisible, or not making the (very good) case for common-sense solutions to all the problems that unfettered one-party rule has brought us.

Madrid is not alone in aiming his arrows inside the tent. In that same article, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a putative Republican, claims that President Trump is the problem. And here is former Republican Assembly leader Kristen Olsen, quoted everywhere with her view that California’s Grand Old Party is dead. She also places the blame squarely on a president who didn’t even campaign in our state and who had nothing to do with our steady decline in Republican registration that started in the mid-1990s. (For the record, in California President Bush was also Hitler, John McCain was awful, and Central Casting’s Mitt Romney was practically the Devil—so nothing’s new on that front.)

These voices are not alone. These centrist Republicans all claim to want the same thing—the best treatment for the rotting corpse over which they stand. They all care so much, we should take their advice and be for the abolition of the internal combustion engine, the breeding of cattle, the removal of borders, and forget about the enforcement of laws! I mean, that’s being reasonable and bipartisan. Why would they lead us astray?

Here’s my theory. Munchausen’s Syndrome is a psychological malady that afflicts those who want attention for imagined diseases. While sad, its even more heartbreaking cousin is Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, wherein a parent can go so far as to hurt her child in order to fake an illness and garner sympathy. The child’s condition improves when the parent is kept away. What sort of attention are these “GOP is dead in California” naysayers getting? Lots and lots. In addition, there’s been a flurry of movement from folks who want to start a new, third party in California to appeal to voters with common sense.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that creating a third party is a fiscal and organizational heavy lift in one state, let alone in 50. When I was asked to participate in one of those ventures, because I ran my campaign as a proponent of common sense, I said, “no thanks” because the only predictable result of such an operation is to remove all vestiges of opposition to the current untethered Democrat agenda in Sacramento.

Starting a third party or forging a “New Way” with the very people who’ve been pinching off the air supply of the state’s conservative voters for years isn’t a path to victory. I also happen to like being a member of the party that freed the slaves, stood for civil rights and didn’t inter Japanese Americans during World War II, but maybe that’s just me.

It sure feels like I’m alone sometimes in L.A., where most people think they don’t know any Republicans. In fact, there are more registered Republicans in Los Angeles County than in roughly 40 other states, but when the people leading our own team persist in calling us names, why would Republicans want to out themselves? The people who want to speak for us but who also think rank-and-file Republican voters are haters incapable of effectively defending our platform or positions are now super interested in the outcome of next week’s election for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party. Like the mother who fakes her child’s illness, they should be kept far away from the action.

Do the candidates for chairman think the California GOP is dead?

Jessica Patterson doesn’t think it is. “We will attract more voters when we expose the failures of liberal policies. Our students deserve better than the schools they’re in today. People should be able to afford a house to own or rent. Law enforcement officers should be respected, and entrepreneurs should be appreciated for the businesses they start and jobs they create. . . . I’m confident voters will respond positively.”

Travis Allen, another contender who ran for governor last year, saw firsthand the crowds of people who aren’t being represented in Sacramento. He says, “Many Californians have no one to speak for them. That’s why we need new, strong leadership in the GOP!”

Steve Frank is also campaigning to run the statewide party and points out the failure of the party is not in a message that voters don’t like, it’s in the lack of structure to get that message out. “We have over two dozen GOP County Central Committees that barely operate. Until we recognize our problems, admit them and fix them, the Republican Party in California will continue as a regional party, no longer a statewide party.”

Ouch. Frank is right, in a way. This is fixable, and while I’m sure that all the erstwhile centrist Republicans are nice people (I know and like former Assemblywoman Catherine Baker, for example), they aren’t being particularly helpful when they endorse the views of left-wing critics who call our voters racist, xenophobic extremists. Anyone worth his salt as a spokesperson for the independent-thinking citizens of California would point out that the things such “experts” claim killed the GOP in California—the propositions against illegal immigration, race-based admissions, and defining marriage—were all passed by healthy majorities of voters at times when Republicans were already well below half of the electorate.

Yes, Virginia, there is a California Republican Party, and I don’t think it’s dead. Real candidates on the hustings don’t think it’s dead, either. Republican Brandon Saario is one of several people running to replace L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, who was the only registered Republican in the group of nonpartisan officeholders. Saario sees plenty of contempt on the part of voters,  for the City Council specifically. “I haven’t had a single voter say anything negative to me because of my party affiliation.” Of course, he’s running in an area with slightly more Republican registration than I did.

My experience, however, proved to me that being present meant the world to voters, many of whom said I was the first Republican they’d ever voted for. You don’t need to be a Republican to vote for one, of course, and that’s where the Munchausen’s Syndrome crowd is doing the most harm. We need to play a game of addition, not of subtraction. As a voter named Louise wrote to me, “It was fun getting to know you and your platform last year! While I am a registered Independent, I always lean to the right it seems. God, Constitution, Family, Law and Order and so much more!  Republicans need to blow their horn more” (emphasis added). This doesn’t square with the calls for changing our tune.

We all know that the healthiest political color is purple. (Second best is red—no one is fleeing Texas.) So do us a favor, GOP consultants who want to hasten the death of the party, please leave us be. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only removing the child or other victim from the care of the person with “Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another” or FDIA  (the new, less colorful name for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy) can prevent further harm to the victim. If you’d like to become a Democrat like Brian Maienschein, feel free to do so. Otherwise, stop imposing your disorders on our party. All parties can overreach, of course, but I’ll stick with the party that when it goes too far, does so on the side of freedom.

Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

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About Roxanne Beckford Hoge

Roxanne Beckford was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She was graduated from Davidson College with a degree in psychology in 1986, then arrived in Southern California in the late 1980s to become a working actor. She starting out playing Whitley's cousin on "A Different World" and continued to appear in television and movie roles even while marrying her husband and having and raising four children. Roxanne is the co-owner of an online retailer, and ran for State Assembly, in 2018, which was quite the civics lesson for a mom with a minivan.

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