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Tom McClintock

Mr. McClintock is an expert on matters of the State budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator in the California State Legislature and ran for Controller on the Republican ticket in 2002. His valuable website is found at

the Shadow Governor
Conservatism Triumphant
A speech delivered to Young America's Foundation...
[Tom McClintock] 12/16/03

I want to begin by thanking all of you for your stalwart support—not only for my own recent campaign—but also for all you have done—year after year—for the cause of freedom. YAF has always been that reliable—and essential—"anchor to windward" that has kept the Republican party properly positioned as the party of liberty no matter which way the political winds have blown.

And that's a good thing, too, because today those political winds are more favorable than ever before. The events of the last several weeks here in California have been truly stunning—and at moments like this one can only stand back in awe.

The historical significance of events is difficult to judge close up, but I will venture a guess that the election of October 7th will be seen as one of the great climacterics in California's history—and possibly the nation's.

California has had the recall in its constitution for 92 years. In those 92 years, 31 attempts were made to recall a governor. None had come even close to qualifying.

Just eleven months ago, Democrats swept every constitutional office in California for the first time since 1882. And yet, just a few months later, this recall qualified with TWICE the required number of signatures with five weeks remaining in the allotted time.

It's been said that the only reason the recall qualified was that that money bought the required signatures. Wait a second. 155,000 Californians carried recall petitions. Three thousand were paid. The other 152,000 were acting in their capacity as citizens. And how else do you explain the fact that two million signatures were collected—including a half a million AFTER the paid gatherers were sent home?

More than 30 percent of the signers to recall a twice-elected Democratic incumbent were registered Democrats.

And then this stunning development: In a state where 35 percent of the voters are registered Republicans, the two major Republican candidates took a combined 62 percent of the vote—twice that cast for the Democrat.

Could it be that Californians have finally figured out that socialism hasn't worked any better here than anywhere else it has been tried?

And let us look carefully at that race. The conventional wisdom is that Arnold Schwarzenegger's election was a victory for the so-called "moderates" of the Republican Party. Well whatever Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal views might be, he certainly didn't campaign as a moderate. He campaigned as a Milton Friedman supply-side tax-fighting budget-cutting re-incarnation of Ronald Reagan.

It was a great frustration to me—but a great victory to the conservative cause—that the key themes that I outlined at the outset of my campaign were rapidly adopted and promoted by Mr. Schwarzenegger: abolish the car tax, restore freedom to the electricity market, and roll back the regulations that are choking our economy—starting with workers compensation. This was the foundation of his contract with California, a contract that must be—and will be honored.

So I believe that we can be proud of the fact that our campaign acted as the conscience of the election—and framed the issues upon which the contest was ultimately decided—the issues which a combined 62 percent of Californians supported.

And here's another fact: Consistently—in every poll conducted—voters said they viewed the Republican candidates in a positive light—ironically, I had the highest positive rating in every poll.

The three candidates they said they viewed in a negative light—by wide margins, were Bustamante, Davis and Peter Camejo of the Green party.

Now Peter Camejo I came to know as a perfect gentleman. There is not an offending bone in his body. People were rejecting his liberal ideology—as they were embracing ours.

Let me repeat: those who campaigned as conservatives were overwhelmingly viewed favorably by voters. Those who campaigned as liberals were overwhelmingly viewed unfavorably by voters.

So you can't call California the "Left Coast" any more. Welcome back to Reagan Country.

Once again this election has proven what has always been obvious to us—conservatism is not only right—it's popular.

However, tonight I must bring a new challenge to you as conservative leaders. Now we must convince many of our fellow conservatives of this.

From the outset of the race, we confronted a mantra that went something like this: Even though we agree with McClintock on practically everything, he just can't win and we can't afford to split the Republican vote.

When I was accused—even by conservatives—of being a spoiler in the race—my standard line was, the people aren't going to recall a governor for policies that have bankrupted our state and then elect another Democrat to carry on precisely those same policies.

That turned out to be right. The Republicans took a combined 62 percent of the vote. Bustamante got 31 percent. The Republicans received twice as many votes as the Democrat, meaning that it didn't matter which Republican candidate drew from the other—as it turns out, the election of Bustamante was virtually a mathematical impossibility. This election really was about rejecting left-wing policies and replacing them with conservative policies. Pure and simple.

The last statewide L.A. Times Poll revealed the crux of the problem for principled conservatives in future races. They asked the question, "Do you think McClintock is too conservative to win in California? Ironically, more Republicans said "yes" than did Democrats. Bear in mind, they weren't saying that McClintock was too conservative for they, themselves, to support—the vast majority were saying they thought I'd do the best job. What they were saying is that they thought that others would think I was too conservative.

A near majority of self-described conservatives were afraid of that.

And yet, the final Gallup poll reported that in a head-to-head race, I would have beaten Bustamante by almost exactly the same margin as Schwarzenegger.

So there's a certain failure of conviction among conservatives. We like our philosophy, but we don't believe that others do.

So, the first lesson of October 7th is that conservatism sells. The second lesson is that conservatives need to recognize this—and to regain the courage of conviction that has always been the foundation of freedom.

And the third lesson is that freedom is the wave of the future, and if the Republican party is going to succeed, it must stand by the conservative policies its candidates pledged during this campaign, and which 62 percent of California's voters just affirmed.

We must recognize that a political sea change has occurred in California.

Five years ago, when I began the effort to abolish California's car tax, we conducted extensive focus group studies—and the last question asked of each group was this: "What kind of a politician do you think would abolish the car tax, Republican or Democrat?"

The near unanimous answer around every conference table was, "A Democrat would abolish the car tax, because that helps working families like mine," Obviously there was a complete disconnect between those voters and the candidates they were electing. One thing you can say about Gray Davis. He reconnected those voters to reality. And they can hear us now.

They say, "A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged."

Big government has mugged the people of California. And on October 7th, they finally figured it out. And they acted on it.

And now, they expect our party to fulfill its new contract with voters. It is now absolutely vital that this administration act on the conservative pledges that it made to the voters: to cut spending and balance the budget without tax increases.

And that brings us to the fine point of it all—and the reason all of you are here today.

The fight we are waging today is an eternal struggle—and one that I believe our generation is destined to win—as long as we stay true to our ideals.

There are many among us who have either lost sight of those ideals—or who have come seriously to question whether those ideals are politically triumphant.

Never has there been a more important time for the Republicans to confidently, clearly, and unequivocally make our case to the people of California. Never has there been a more important time to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan—to paint our positions in BOLD colors—and not hide them in pale pastels.

Great parties are built upon great principles. And they are judged upon their devotion to those principles. Freedom is such a principle—it is the natural condition of human happiness and prosperity and it is the imperative of our age.

This speech was given to the Young America's Foundation's West Coast Leadership Conference in Santa Barbara, California on October 25, 2003.




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