California Republicans who are dissatisfied with their party should withhold campaign donations until it changes course, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday.
"The people that are funding the Republican Party should turn off their financial support, because that would starve the party, and I think they would then maybe come to their senses," Schwarzenegger told a crowd at the launch event for his centrist Republican advocacy group New Way California. "You better go and lead and tell your people around you that we’ve got to change, because that’s what California demands, or there will be no more money."
Schwarzenegger, California's highest-profile Republican figure and one of the last to win statewide office in 2006, is part of a nascent movement to reshape and broaden the appeal of a political party that now makes up just a quarter of registered voters here. During his speech at a community center in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, he took a victory lap for predicting his party's demise in an infamous 2007 speech where he said the California GOP was "dying at the box office."
"How right I was," Schwarzenegger said.
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But he made the case that the party could still survive by attracting moderate voters. The leaders of New Way California, which also include former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, argue that the California GOP should focus on issues the state already cares about, like protecting the environment and improving education and health care, rather than the divisive positions of the national party that play better in more conservative parts of the country.
"Today we are the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg, but before the last bit of the ship submerged," Schwarzenegger said. "But unlike the Titanic, we might be able to save Leonardo DiCaprio before he goes under."
A veiled jab at President Donald Trump for focusing on "Twitter fights" instead of real solutions aside, Schwarzenegger and his fellow attendees were light on specifics Wednesday about how to claw the Republican Party back to relevance in California.
Mayes, who lost his leadership post last summer after negotiating with Democrats on a climate change program, made an appeal for ideological compromise. Referencing the Bible, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Republicans need to show voters that they really care about people.
"What is happening increasingly in our country is people don’t feel a connection with each other, and they don’t know who is going to help them," he said. "People have to believe that we care about one another."