THE ISSUE: Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, titled "Take down that small tent," in response to the Republican Party's recent loss of two up-and-coming Republicans who became independents. He denounced the party for rigidity, urging "a welcoming, open and diverse Republican Party."
Is the California GOP's tent too small?
Pia Lopez: Yes
Political parties serve a useful purpose. They draw lines of difference on public issues and help keep our democratic republic alive by nominating candidates and encouraging people to vote.
It is not at all healthy that one party in California is no longer competitive.
Democrats hold both U.S. Senate seats. The last Republican was elected in 1988. Republicans haven't come within 10 percentage points since 1994.
Since 2000, Democrats have held at least 32 of the states 53 congressional seats. They hold all eight statewide offices. They have large majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
As a Field Poll pointed out last year, California gained 2 million new voters over the past two decades, but the Republican Party lost 286,000 registered voters. Today, the party has only a 30.3 percent share of registered voters.
Increasingly, the Republican Party is a party of older citizens. The share of Republicans 50 or older is 54 percent today; it was 40 percent in 1992, according to the Field Poll. The younger-than-40 share is 25 percent today; it was 41 percent in 1992.
That generational imbalance is costly.
While it may not apply to particular individuals, Aristotle's "Rhetoric" from the fourth century B.C. said the old tend to be distrustful and "put the worse construction on everything." They are not generous, "because money is one of the things they must have, and at the same time their experience has taught them how hard it is to get and how easy to lose." They lack confidence in the future. They "live by memory rather than by hope." Aristotle, of course, was no less sparing of the young.
Unfortunately, the California Republican Party today fits Aristotle's generalized pattern, increasingly a party of pessimism. It no longer tries to appeal to as wide a spectrum of voters as possible.
What is the party doing to appeal to young people and to working families? Parties traditionally have adapted to social and economic change to broaden their appeal in a dynamic society.
This should be a time of lively debate between Republicans and Democrats about how to create the opportunity society of the future. Here the parties will and should disagree. But Republicans should at least be part of the discussion which means they have to win elections and be part of the give-and-take of politics.
Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party, told his party's state convention delegates, "We do not pay enough attention to our next generation. We are not talking to enough minority voters, we are not talking to enough independents and we are not even talking to enough Democrats."
Yes, it is time to build a bigger tent.
Pia Lopez is an editorial writer at The Bee.
Ben Boychuk: Not really
Far be it from me to say the Republican tent should be smaller than it already is in our beloved Golden State. Maybe instead of fretting over the tent's size, Republicans should concern themselves with strengthening its structure.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his rather patronizing commentary for the Los Angeles Times, argues that the GOP should accommodate traditionalist "cavemen" and those "in the center" where the erstwhile governor places himself and his friends, Nathan Fletcher and Anthony Adams.
Fletcher, who is running for mayor of San Diego, cut his Republican ties after the local party bestowed its endorsement on an openly gay libertarian "small tent," my eye! who proposes the most ambitious public pension reform in the state.
Adams, a former state assemblyman now running for Congress, declared his independence when it became clear he couldn't prevail in the primary with his wishy-washy record on taxes and spending.
Schwarzenegger presumes to scold conservatives for refusing to have "conversations about protecting the environment, investing in the infrastructure America needs or improving health care."
If by "protecting the environment," he means getting on board with AB 32 and the green jobs illusion, no thanks. If by "investing in infrastructure," he's talking about California's multibillion-dollar high-speed rail boondoggle, kindly hand over your fiscally conservative credentials. And if "improving health care" means rolling over for Obamacare, why not just re-register as a Democrat and call it a day?
Capitulation is not moderation, and bipartisan compromise is not always a virtue. If that's what Arnold's bigger Republican tent requires, it will collapse.
A stronger Republican tent in California has at least five poles. At the four corners would be educational freedom, which empowers parents to send their children to any school of their choice; fiscal discipline, which keeps taxes and spending in check; a regulatory climate that keeps the air and water clean without driving entrepreneurs out of state; and an unapologetic devotion to America's founding principles life, liberty and human equality rightly understood.
At the center would be economic freedom, a principle as old as the GOP itself. "I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor," Abraham Lincoln said in 1858. "So far as it in no wise interferes with any other man's rights."
Freeing individuals to improve their own circumstances is at the heart of the Republican project, and it stands in stark contrast to the Democrats' progressive nanny statism. Raise that tent, and welcome all comers.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal (www.city-journal.org/california).