Kristin Olsen: California Republican suggests launch of new party

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Never Trump Republican Kristin Olsen
Former California Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen. Image: IVN (CC2.0)

Kristin Olsen, a prominent member of the California Republican party, has declared the GOP in her state “dead.” In a recent op-ed she suggested the possible formation of a new state-level third party for disenfranchised Californians.

Kristin Olsen: California GOP “isn’t salvageable”

Following enormous Democratic midterm election gains in California, which the Modesto Bee described as a “blowout,” Republican leaders have been struggling to chart a future course for the party in the Golden State. Now with only a handful of Republicans surviving among the 53-strong California Congressional delegation, and super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature, the GOP has an uncertain future before it.

One prominent leader is suggesting a radical course: start over.

In a guest commentary in Cal Matters, former State Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen delivered a brutal assessment of her party’s future. Or lack of one.

“The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time,” she wrote. “The Grand Old Party is dead – partly because it has failed to separate itself from today’s toxic, national brand of Republican politics.”

Olsen laid the blame for the California GOP’s woes squarely on the current President. The state’s sunnier brand of open-minded Republicanism may have held sway under Ronald Reagan, but Olsen says the state party is now more and more idealogically isolated from the RNC.

“Republican principles used to be about helping other people…We welcomed people from all over the world who sought to live the American Dream and contribute to the economy and society…Unfortunately, tragically, that is not the Republican Party promoted by President Donald Trump and his brand of national politics today.”

Is a new third party a viable solution?!

Olsen’s guest commentary followed a speech at an event hosted by the Sacremento Bee on November 12th where she made very similar remarks and reportedly “raised eyebrows.”

Last week an interview with Olsen broadcast on Capital Public Radio explained how disaffected Republicans like Olsen might put words into action.

The former Assemblywoman now sits on the board of the influential New Way California think tank, which is led by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Olsen’s radio interview, New Way are currently exploring the possibility of sponsoring a new third party.

“I think the opportunity here is, we’re at a unique time in history where people are hungry for something different than the two disparate parties are providing,” Olsen said.

If New Way do decided to part ways with the GOP, it will not be an easy road. Even at the state level, electorally successful third parties are a genuine rarity in American politics. Alaska, Maine, and Vermont have managed to elect independents in recent statewide elections, but a sustainable party infrastructure is needed for more than just a single charismatic candidate to break through.

With the support of a former governor, and current officeholders such as Olsen (who currently serves on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors), a new party could have a better chance than many others, however.

Olsen’s comments are very much a body blow to the remnants of the California Republican party. Possibly the only reason for the GOP to be cheerful in California at present is things can hardly get worse.

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