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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, speaks Saturday to a crowd of more than 400 at the state GOP convention in Sacramento.

  • Connor Grubaugh

Viewpoints: Rove isn't the guru who will help GOP win over a new generation

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 15A

After melting down on Fox News on election night 2012, denying the fact that President Barack Obama had already won re-election, Karl Rove learned he isn't the political savant Republicans once worshipped. He learned that the GOP isn't the party it once was. As haggard as Democrats appeared in 2012, Republicans under Rove were even more inept.

After spending nearly $200 million through his Super PAC American Crossroads and 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS in the 2012 election cycle and winning only 10 of 38 races he flooded with cash, Karl Rove learned money can't buy elections. Americans know a lame horse when they see one.

But after Saturday's appearance at the Sacramento Hyatt Regency Hotel, it's clear the GOP strategist has one more lesson to learn – and Californians are watching. Speaking to an audience of more than 400 desperate California Republicans, Rove explained "It's not just the tactical things of a better turnout operation … we've got a strategic issue. We have great principles, but we sometimes talk about those principles in a way that makes it sound like it's 1968, 1980 or 2000." According to The Bee, Solano County Republican Party Chair Donald S. Peterson said Rove told county officials in an earlier meeting that Republicans "have to work on image, on our branding."

No kidding – the GOP needs to rebrand itself. There's just one problem – Karl Rove is the GOP's much-maligned and now-defunct brand. He is the party's image. He is the "strategic issue." Whether it's 1968, 1980 or 2000, Karl Rove needs to learn that Karl Rove is out of date.

I'm a student in the University of California system, and Rove's appearance before California Republicans was more than a little disappointing. Not only was the man who is practically a pariah at most UC and CSU campuses welcomed to Sacramento with open arms, attendees to the bourgeois convention paid $300 per person just to marinate in Rove's ideological juices.

All this while young people are largely left out in the cold winter of the Great Recession. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data and Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for the Millennial Generation, unemployment in the 18-29 year-old demographic reached 13.1 percent in January 2013. With workforce nonparticipation due to discouragement or other causes factored in, the young adult unemployment rate sits at a shocking 16.2 percent.

I've personally interacted with countless highly qualified college seniors who understand what it's like to try to find a job in the current market. With little prospect of finding long-term viable employment, they're making alternative plans – little schemes to bide their time until a job opens up somewhere. For these work-hungry young people, the next generation of California voters, the development of a sustainable economic climate is issue No. 1.

And California college students know Karl Rove is not the man who will make that dream come true.

In the 2012 election cycle, many Americans cringed as Rove directed the GOP on futile efforts to exploit the wedge politics of the past. On gay marriage, abortion and immigration, Republicans lost. On the importance of a balanced budget over a growing economy, they lost again. Even as Rove couldn't believe the facts laid out before him on election night last November, Americans knew the Republican Party would need to rethink itself.

And after enormous campaign losses proved his political strategy nothing more than puffed-up demagoguery, many hoped Rove would play only a limited role in the process of redefining the GOP.

But he survived the ordeal. And now he's back, plying state legislators and party elites for $300 a head.

Rove represents a Republican Party that laughably exalts its fiscally conservative economic agenda as equivalent to job creation and allows its unappealing social conservatism to eclipse more pressing issues. Playing whack-a-mole with the budget without any support for sensible (albeit limited) government spending doesn't create jobs any more than other distracting GOP favorites like deporting illegal immigrants, banning gay marriage and railing against abortion.

California's young people need a revitalized Republican Party to protect their future. They need a party, like the party of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, that's willing to leave behind the heavy burdens of social conservatism and embrace economic progress. They need a party willing to cut loose excessive bureaucracy while maintaining and improving strong investments in education, infrastructure and innovation.

Karl Rove, step back. With any luck, there will soon be a new party in town.

Connor Grubaugh is a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Connor Grubaugh



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