The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has brought renewed attention to the conservative legacy of Republican president Ronald Reagan, who appointed Scalia to the high court in 1986. In those days, Reagan was a hero to Republicans in California, where he had been elected to two terms as governor by large majorities. Lately, however, a pollster who is said to be a close friend and advisor to San Diego GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer (an ex–public relations man who aides are talking up as a candidate for the state’s highest office) is putting out a different message. “Shining Light into the GOP’s generational black hole,” is the title of an online presentation by Competitive Edge, run by John Nienstedt, whose clients also have included the big-money GOP Lincoln Club, which shuns discussion of social and ethical issues in favor of mainstream corporate lobbying.
In December 2009, Nienstedt joined the Republican Party, Lincoln Club, and builders lobby in a lawsuit to overturn city campaign contribution limits. To make his point about the need for a new GOP pitch, Nienstedt’s piece cites Jared Santos, a prototypical 33-year-old roofer with two years of college, who earns $48,000 a year. Jared has a two-year-old daughter and a girlfriend, Alisa, a hotel concierge, making $41,000. A condo owner, Jared plays Halo 4, uses Facebook, and watches football games. “I have no recollection of President Reagan, Grenada, tax reform, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or Morning in America,” sample lines from voters say. “In 2004, I flipped a coin in the voting booth and cast my vote for Bush. With the Iraq war, the Hurricane Katrina debacle and a flat-lining economy, I came to regret that vote over the next four years.” Says Jared, “I haven’t known a Republican president who has served as a good role model for me.”
So, what should California Republicans do? “Ronald Reagan may have been the greatest president since Lincoln, but Jared’s generation is not clued-in to that,” says the Competitive Edge analysis. “Cut the cord to the glory days and provide contemporary reasons for young voters to believe the GOP can bring back morning in America.” Oldsters in Reagan’s mold need not apply. The Grand Old Party should “Encourage and support articulate and passionate candidates who look, act and communicate less like the greatest generation and more like Jared.”