Whitman and Fiorina Need To Move to The Center

Whitman and Fiorina Need To Move to The Center

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Republican businesswomen Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina may have run harsh, anti-immigrant campaigns in their successful races for the GOP nomination for governor and U.S. senator but they better moderate their tone on immigration if they want to avoid being trounced by their Democratic opponents in November, says A.G. Block, director of the public affairs journalism program at the University of California Center Sacramento. Block, is also former editor of California Journal, spoke with New America Media editor Aaron Glantz.

A.G., your reaction to the election results in a nutshell.

It was pretty appalling, especially in the governor’s race on the Republican side. This is a state that is in free fall both in terms of its governability and public perception of elected leaders and how they are, or are not, able to cope with this. Neither of the Republican candidates really addressed the issues that plagued the state.

Immigration is not one of those issues and yet these two candidates, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner -- and in the Senate race Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore went about the same thing – went out of their way as much as they could to cater to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party. Nothing constructive came out of that. We still don’t know, after how many months and how many millions of dollars, what kind of governor Meg Whitman might be.

It’s a decade and a half since Proposition 187, which barred undocumented immigrants from receiving most state services. That was very successful for Pete Wilson, but ultimately less successful for the Republican Party. It seemed like Republicans in California were very anti-immigrant during the 187 era, but then the Republicans ran away from it because of the large number of Latino voters who registered Democratic in reaction to it. Now we see the Republican candidates going back and embracing that hard line stand.

You’re right, but let’s see what happens from here forward. Yes, the candidates did but you have to remember, the Republican base still embraces that kind of anti-immigrant outlook and candidates were appealing to the Republican base. If they continue to do that, they’re just going to get slaughtered in November.

187 turned out to be a colossal long-term disaster for the Republican Party, but I have to wonder what the Republican Party is these days. You have two candidates for the U.S. Senate that embraced the notion that we ought to be able to sell guns and explosives to people on the No Fly List. With Chuck DeVore that didn’t surprise me. He’s pretty conservative on the natural, but with Fiorina, she’s trying to build an image that’s similar. So one or two things are at work here. Either she is colossally stupid or the National Rifle Association ate her spine.

Now, let’s see what Fiorina does from here. If she pivots on this point, then her whole campaign and her whole political persona is grounded in cynicism and nothing more, because she was only saying what she needed to say to pander to the Republican far right in the primary and it’s not what she really believes. If she does that, she’s gutless.

You are anticipating that the tough talk on immigration from these two candidates will subside?

If the Democrats let it. If I were the Democrats, I wouldn’t let them forget it. I would keep hammering at them. What is it that you believe about immigration? Here’s what you said in the primary. Do you still believe it? If not, why not? What changed? Let them come up with an explanation. If you’re only speaking to what you think the audience wants to hear then the audience has no idea who you really are.

It is true that with Fiorina and Whitman you have two people without a long history of votes and other traditional yardsticks that people use to evaluate somebody’s record.

Exactly. Both of these people, especially Whitman, say “I want you the electorate to entrust me with government,” but she has not made an effort to explain that to the voters. Who is she? What does she stand for?