LOS ANGELES, CA – This past weekend, I was invited to be a “trainer” for the CA GOP convention for a session called Asian Community Voices. While I am disillusioned by the GOP, which has slowly become a toxic fringe party that plays politics poorly, focused on infighting, and can’t achieve real results or tangible outcomes, I see glimmers of hope for the future.
I felt it was a good first step and I should be slightly encouraging but more importantly I needed to show up and speak my truth. Will they learn something new, break out of old habits and become a true viable opposition party to give checks and balances to the one party Democratic state or maybe that is just asking for too much? Walk before we run, maybe? I also know that enough people inside the party structure are hungry for the truth, many who are my friends and people I respect who are trying to save the sinking ship, but who are earnestly and honestly fighting the good fight. So I showed up.
Unfortunately, party leadership remains emblematic of just where the party is and has been for the better part of the last two decades, stuck in 1995 style campaign messaging. The party seems to have no clue how the brand is even perceived, and that’s the worst part. I have, in the past, stood up for Republicans and will continue to do so, but I’m under zero delusion that I’m contrarian to where the culture is. The insiders in the political party don’t seem to understand this, and are completely delusional about their own importance and think that anyone actually cares that they have some title for a brand that was beaten down by 25 points in an off year special election, when the opposition made it about the same brand they keep peddling nonstop, with no critical thinking.
I also really dislike the idea of “training”. Our segment was really a panel and I knew enough people in the room that did not need to be talked down to like they were dumb on who Asians are. My great friend and co-panelist, Jeff Wang, touched upon this simple fact and asked the question to the audience, “who are actually friends with Asians?” If you knew how to cultivate relationships as regular everyday people, all these racial barriers wouldn’t need to exist and I thought we achieved this in California. But political California Republicans seem to be lacking on regular social skills so I can fathom why this is foreign to them. This “training” should have been billed as a conversation. The word “training” comes off condescending, like I know better than you, emblematic of the political Republicans.
Asian community voices should not be about cynically waking up the dumb, but instead, gently guide people to vote Republican based on our values, something I have done in my organization, Asian Industry B2B, with business owners and those who have a freedom loving entrepreneurial bent. It should also not be about uninspired voter registration efforts when the greater brand is dying. Amplify a bad brand, and you’re actually doubling or tripling your work.
What the GOP has now attracted in the Asian community is those who are living in the past, or those who are interested in climbing some political structure or hierarchy. No wonder the Democrats have made so many inroads in the younger generation because they involve people and were previously low on condescension, though now, that is changing as they become more comfortable, lazy and hell bent on growing their power. Yet the GOP cannot take advantage of the opportunities of Democrats failing, because they themselves are doing similar things, unable to strike a real contrast.
But what gives me hope is that so many are registering out of Republican into Independent. Because in California, the NPPs are truly the “replacement” Republican party. Free thinkers who do not want to be associated with the party, which really is the “fringe” party playing politics instead of finding solutions. If you are intellectually honest, you cannot be a Republican or a Democrat, at this point. What finally made me register out of Republican was watching the good honest Republican grassroots donors donating $50 here, or a $100 there, sometimes, their own meager life savings, and then watching that same money spent ridiculously on salaries for consultants who actually were poor fiduciaries to the campaign and cause. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this over the last few election cycles.
Right after our Asian Community Voices segment, the Vice Chair Peter Kuo, my co-panelist, posted his typical uninspired rantings on Twitter calling this training “historic”. It is this type of desperate hyperbole that turns off your average person. First of all, this is 20 years too late. The Democrats have made this outreach way back, and just now we are doing this? Second, do we even need to pander? I think issues like law and order, school choice, wildfires, affordable housing, etc., all affect all races equally. Using words like “historic” just made me cringe like I have never before. I reject this grandiose mentality – can we just be real?
Peter also had the nerve to make a quip that I should return to the party and not “sit on the fence”. That is laughable, if you look at my record of work in the community and in the media promoting conservative values. But this is par for the course. Meanwhile, Peter is symbolic of an out of touch older generation. My heart actually went out for him as he talked about not having a connection with his daughter. In contrast, I know so many parents, including my own late father, who actually took time to listen. After being around so many Republicans in my activism, I found a common thread: many had broken relationships with children. There was a disconnect because they didn’t bond and connect, and were too rigid and didn’t evolve with the changing world. It doesn’t mean throw out your values, but at least know what’s going on and talk to your kids. And this goes beyond race. This seems to be common in successful Asian families. I can certainly admire Peter’s immigrant story but this is not what we need in 2021, especially with a 2nd generation of Asian Americans who are intermarrying and overwhelmingly Democrat, breaking with their parents and concerned about other issues. I encouraged the party to start embracing things like cannabis or bitcoin, or at least having a conversation about it, to get to this new bloc of voters, who are open to not voting lockstep with Democrats. Stop thinking you know it all, Republicans.
A title doesn’t make you a leader. The current GOP leadership may look outwardly diverse, with a Latina and Asian as chair and vice chair, but after many years of poor results and no change in trends, is actually more indicative of how the CA Republicans seem to only uplift “yes” men and women. Can we practice meritocracy in a party that claims it’s all about it and the free market, and performance? Can we bring up leaders who actually have solid community connections and tangible credentials? Not titles, but true accomplishments.
Another person who attended texted me and told me to turn down my “anger”, focused more on the animation of my voice, while missing the point that she was projecting her own to me and that no one likes to be told what to do or condescended to. Funny that the ultimate response to my words on the panel was overwhelmingly supportive, because in the end, the convention goers and hardcore activists needed someone to match the anger and frustration. Once again, Republicans need to learn some humility and maybe look at results versus “Karening” what others are doing. I certainly wouldn’t have the nerve to tell someone else what to do with their own public presentations. Hey, you do you. But I’ll do me.
Both Peter and Madame Critique need to understand how out of touch they are, in general. The biggest takeaway is not that they are bad people, but that they are focused on being accepted by this dying structure and toxic political brand. I am not here to win a Mr. Congeniality award. I have never cared about that, and could care less about shallow accolades or titles, as I have turned down many opportunities to get involved in the political parties, because the community is my focus. There’s some serious work that needs to be done, in a state I have invested my life in. And the work doesn’t start or end in the political structures or elitist social clubs.
What the GOP has become is a cult of misfits, and has self-attracted myopic types of people, distracted by warped priorities, with a consultant class ripping flesh off the dead carcass of the roadkill. What is left are sycophants who are woefully clueless on how dead the brand is, and are busy brown-nosing other sycophants with titles that mean nothing, because the structure itself is compromised and is not even the 2nd biggest organization in California. The bottom line is the GOP in California isn’t even a viable party. Independents and NPP’s are higher in registration by 4 percent, while the GOP can’t even clear a quarter of registered voters, languishing in third place.
And this is not just limited to the establishment. The grassroots are just as misguided in a dying party. While I earnestly worked hard to get the grassroots engaged on our Facebook group for the recall election and in real life rallies, nonstop talk about electoral fraud became a quick defeatist excuse for those who are low on action, and high on rigidity, and are not even open to understanding the simple fact that our state is culturally liberal. In addition, there are many grifters who live on dead-end candidacies sucking up the money and oxygen from well meaning donors, and fake self-fashioned leaders who end up playing their own political games in the grassroots, the moment they are given a little bit of perceived power. This was so evident in the Recall Newsom campaign and I highlighted this on my Newsweek op-ed.
The fact remains that our once conservative state has had a huge demographic shift thanks to affluenza. Nowhere more evident than the formerly hardcore conservative Orange County, where the older generation is dying off and the newer generation is polar opposite liberal. Bottom line: electoral fraud cannot account for a 25 point loss in California, so it’s time we start cleaning house on the conservative side.
It’s not just about showing up, it’s how you show up. While Asian vice chair Peter Kuo is a nice guy, his flamboyant red suits and violin-playing as his gimmick, is once again a distraction from the real impactful work that needs to be done on a daily basis. It is almost poetic how in the Titanic movie, you have the people in denial playing music, dancing and having fancy dinners as the ship was slowly sinking. When Peter plays the violin, I picture Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet sinking into the ocean. The type of sycophantic hierarchy-worshipping behavior is also what I have seen in the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to infiltrate the San Gabriel Valley, which I have discussed in previous op-eds.
I had to also laugh at affirmative action hire, Latina Chair Jessica Patterson’s attempts to strip the California College Republicans from their charter status because they put out a few memes to make fun of her. I’m sorry but if you want to be a leader, you better learn how to laugh at yourself and maybe look at some harsh truths of why we are not succeeding in growing our movement. Humor does go a long way. Suppressing it is as bad as censorship in China.
Once again, we are post partisan and the GOP is playing catch up 20 years later, and now they’ve once again missed the pulse of the average person. The fastest growing bloc of voters in California are those with “no party preference”, mostly disaffected Republicans and Democrats, who don’t need to be boxed into partisan food fights and who actually want to work towards solutions. I am glad I went to the GOP convention to see exactly where the baseline is, but I see the enormity of the work that needs to be done. I will be fighting for my conservative values and commonsense solutions outside of their dysfunctional structure, but wish them all the best.