Rep. Ronny Jackson gives pep talk at state GOP luncheon
Rep. Ronny Jackson gives pep talk at a state GOP luncheon in San Diego last weekend. Photo by Chris Stone

This past weekend, I was invited to be a “trainer” for the Califoria GOP convention in 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? Maybe that is just asking for too much? Walk before we run, maybe?

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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 perceived, and that’s the worst part.

I have, in the past, stood up for Republicans and will continue to do so. But the insiders in the party don’t seem to understand the situation, and are completely delusional about their own importance and think that anyone actually cares that they have some role 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 who did not need to be talked down to as if they didn’t understand Asians. 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, racial barriers wouldn’t need to exist, and I thought we had achieved this in California. But political Republicans seem to be lacking 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 guiding 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 overall 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 are 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 opportunity in 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 on Twitter that this training was “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 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?

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, with a second 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 in lockstep with Democrats. Stop thinking you know it all, Republicans.

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 California Republicans seem to only promote “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.

My biggest takeaway is not that many in Republican leadership are focused on being accepted by a dying political structure with a toxic political brand. Instead, it’s that 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 existing party structures.

What the GOP has become is a cult of misfits, distracted by warped priorities, with a consultant class ripping off the faithful. What is left are sycophants who are woefully clueless on how dead the brand is. The bottom line is the GOP in California isn’t even a viable party. Independents and NPP’s are higher in registration by 4 percentage points, 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 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.” This is 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.

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.

Marc Ang is president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Orange County, co-chair of “Recall Gascon Now,” was director of outreach for the “No on 16” campaign, a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B, which specializes in race relations and the minority conservative experience.