Another entrant into the California Governor’s race, Neel Kashkari, is right out of the play book of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman – a rich businessman who has never held elective office and is socially liberal but claims to be a fiscal conservative. Mr. Kashkari, while likely a very nice gentleman and a great private industry success story, is not a candidate this fiscal and social conservative can support.
When the former Bush administration official entered the California Governor’s race he proclaimed that his emphasis for the Governor’s race is the high poverty rate in California and improving education. The successful Republican businessman has taken a position in favor of abortion and homosexual marriage. One of the chief creators and implementers of the Bush Administration’s Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP), he defends that program because he claims the government was repaid all of the loaned funds plus interest. In my opinion, on TARP, Mr. Kashkari seriously misses the point of fiscal conservatives’ objections to that program, some of which I will cover below.
Undoubtedly other voices in the Republican Party will soon be lecturing conservatives like myself that social issues are losers for Republicans in California and we need a successful businessperson who is “socially liberal” to lead California and the CRP out of its woes. With all due respect we have heard this tune before and it has only been a disaster for California and the Republican Party. This same tune was played to us in 2003 for the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. We were told Tom McClintock could not win the Governorship so we all must get behind successful showman Arnold Schwarzenegger. While Arnold’s early years showed promise (repealing the car tax which he later raised again), right after he was re-elected in 2006 he took a hard turn to the left and gave us things like the carbon cap and trade laws that are crippling business in California.
He also joined then Attorney General Jerry Brown by refusing to defend Proposition 8, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow homosexual marriage in California not because the people voted for it, or due to the courts actually finding it was proper on the merits, but solely due to the Governor’s (and Attorney General’s) refusal to do their job and defend the law. This has severely weakened the initiative system in California as it allows the Governor and Attorney General to veto the people’s voice by simply refusing to defend a federal constitutional challenge to an initiative that the people voted yes on. I lay this partially at Mr. Schwarzenegger’s feet.
The next time we heard this piped piper tune of “we need to run a rich social liberal Republican” was Meg Whitman’s run for Governor against Jerry Brown four years ago. Although Ms. Whitman is a very nice person (I met her a couple of times) and she is a rich and successful Republican, she had never held elective office and she is pro-abortion. Her views on homosexual marriage seem to be both yes and no. It is my understanding that she also supported TARP. Ms. Whitman was rejected by voters who were tired of years of pseudo Republican Arnold as Governor in favor of re-tread Jerry “Governor Moon Beam” Brown.
And here we are again with another candidate right out of the Arnold / Meg mold. We are being told take our sincerely held beliefs on social issues (and even fiscal issues); ignore them and recent history to support and vote for Mr. Kashkari.
For this conservative activist my answer is No Thank You. Obviously as you have gathered Mr. Kashkari and I differ on abortion and homosexual marriage. And while I realize the Courts have instituted homosexual marriage in California by judicial fiat and abortion is regularly made more and more legal and taxpayer supported by the Democratic legislature (and current Governor) that does not equate to any obligation for me to support a candidate that also believes in these policies. There is no reasonable expectation that a Governor Kashkari would act any differently than the Arnold or Moon Beam.
However Mr. Kashkari’s actions as a Bush Administration Treasury official and his defense of his role in the TARP program, in my opinion, place him in at least a very questionable category on fiscal issues. The TARP program should be called the Bail Out Wall Street Big Bankers program. It put the federal government in the corporate boardrooms as an owner – a place it should never be in in a free enterprise economic system.
In addition, the companies the TARP program bailed out were, for the most part, companies that made very bad business decisions and should have been allowed to fail. Even with TARP bailouts, many, many employees of these companies (who did not make the bad decisions for their employers) lost their jobs anyway. Finally these big banks now have cash in their coffers but they are generally not lending to small businesses who find capital still very difficult to come by almost six years after the 2008 crisis. Regular consumers also are still having a harder time obtaining loans, etc. In short TARP was great for Wall Street but not for Main Street where the rest of us live. Many on the left also opposed TARP which could hurt Mr. Kashkari’s prospects with voters in June.
This is the bailout program Mr. Kashkari is so proud of and is his only governmental claim to fame. To me this does not make him qualified for the Governor’s office.
In the June “top two” primary election, we will most likely be given the choice of Governor Jerry Brown, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, Neel Kashkari and now Mayor Andrew Blount of Laguna Hills plus two or three more minor candidates. Of course a late entry by another more established Republican candidate like Congressman Darrell Issa would up end the race – he has money, a very good track record, good name ID, etc. But so far neither Mr. Issa nor any other well-known Republican has said they are even interested in entering the race.
Can Mr. Kashkari best Mr. Donnelly and now Andrew Blount in June to be one of the “top two” for the run off in November? Yes he may do so. But it is not “inevitable.” First – voters in the “top two” primary vote for one of all the candidates – not for which Republican or Democrat they like. Voters who like Jerry Brown over Tim Donnelly are going to vote for Jerry Brown not Mr. Kashkari. That leaves voters who do not like Mr. Brown which will include most Republicans and many decline to state voters. I will not predict how all Republicans will vote. But I will predict that many fiscal and social conservative Republicans like me will choose Mr. Donnelly as more in line with their beliefs on public policy than Mr. Kashkari plus Mr. Donnelly’s experience at holding elected office. I do not yet know enough about Mr. Blount (who describes himself as a Libertarian) to give any opinions about what voters will be attracted to him. A lot will depend on how Mr. Donnelly, Mr. Kashkari and Mr. Blount conduct themselves on the campaign trial.
As for Decline to State voters – many are former Republicans who left the party for one reason or another. For those who felt the party was too conservative – Mr. Kashkari might be their cup of tea. But for those who felt the CRP was not consistent in presenting candidates and elected officials whose positions and decisions adhere to the Party’s own platform – it is illogical to think they would vote for Mr. Kashkari. Some will vote for Tim Donnelly, some may vote for Andrew Blount and some may just skip that part of the ballot.
So I would say it is a toss up as to whether or not Mr. Kashkari will face Governor Brown in November. But my vote in June will not be for Mr. Kashkari – that tune I have heard before and is not a dance I chose to join in.
Am I supporting Assemblyman Donnelly? I have not given him any money or endorsed him (or any other candidate at this point). That may change, as we get closer to June. Also, I am a practicing attorney and a Republican activist for limited and constitutional government. I am not on any candidates’ payroll and I do not earn a living as a political consultant.