Neel Kashkari’s Magical Mystery Tour

I received a mailer from Neel Kashkari the other day which seems to reflect the candidate himself.  The mailer is very glossy, very expensive, and very devoid of ideas.

Given that Kashkari is surrounded by veterans of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 7 year “search and destroy” mission waged against the California GOP, it is not surprising that the sense of déjà vu and dread is overwhelming when reading Kashkari’s palaver.

In no less than four places the mailer labels Kashkari a “conservative Republican”, yet offers up no ideas or specifics, let alone conservative ones.

“We’re in a fiscal crisis” the mailer declares, yet says not one word about how the candidate would get us out of said crisis.

“We need to turn California around” says another headline, yet says nothing about how Kashkari would do so.

Kashkari, we are told by the glossy piece, will “end the wasteful spending that got us into this mess”.  But, you guessed it, offers no specifics on where said wasteful spending will be cut.  Actually he does say he’d ax Jerry Brown’s “bullet train” – hardly an act of political bravery or leadership given that about 65% of Californians now oppose the project.  Where was Kashhari when this monstrosity was being foisted on California?

Kashkari “will ensure that California invests in what matters most”. What exactly that might be remains a mystery as the mailer doesn’t say.  Kashari “will return money back to the taxpayer” we are told.  What we are not told is how he will do that or what budget items he will cut.

And oddly enough the mailer doesn’t mention that Kashkari is the quintessential Corporatist Republican, a creature of Wall Street who was knee-deep in TARP. You remember TARP – the ultimate big government program which consisted of throwing hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars up in the air and hoping that some of it landed in places to help the struggling economy. Now if that’s not a typical “conservative Republican” approach, what the heck is?

California Republicans can be forgiven if their reaction to this vapid, idea-free piece is “ho hum, yawn, been there and done that”.  For indeed we have, with Ahnolt, and that fling turned out disastrously for California at large and the GOP in particular.

This mail piece, and the Kashkari campaign itself, totally avoids the real issues that matter to California Republicans.  Perhaps by oversight, or perhaps because telling the truth about the candidate’s views would alienate most Republican voters.

For instance, 2006’s AB 32, supposedly passed to fight global warming…err  global cooling…err climate change, is an economic zombie eating the life out of California’s economy, wreaking havoc (for UCLA graduates, that means doing really bad things)  in dozens of areas that are none of the state government’s business, like local zoning and land use decisions. This mailer has lots of pictures of Kashari dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, but no mention of AB 32.

AB 1266, passed in 2013, allows students of either gender to play on sports teams and use the locker rooms, showers and bathrooms of the opposite gender. Kashkari’s piece shows him holding a sledge hammer, apparently ready to smash what looks like the engine from a Lionel train set, but apparently didn’t have room to mention his stance on AB 1266.

Proposition 13 is under increasing attack by liberals, always desperate for more tax dollars to spend on their pet programs and favored special interest groups.  If the picture of the giant tree stump upon which the above mentioned toy train rests was made just a wee bit smaller, perhaps there would have been the space necessary to explain Kashkari’s view of these attacks.

And then there’s the 800 lb. elephant in the room – Kashkari’s vote for Barack Obama in 2008.  You will be shocked I know to hear that the mailer for this “conservative Republican” fails to mention that he preferred a community organizer for President over a bona-fide war hero.  Can I see the hands of all the other conservative Republicans who voted for the Chicago democrat for President in 2008?  Nobody?  Kashkari’s “conservative Republican” tent is apparently a small one indeed.

Frankly it is this vote that should worry California Republicans the most for it shows exactly what we don’t need in 2016 –  a feckless, nomadic mind that blows with the wind. This vote represents a grotesque lapse in judgment, calling into question why Republicans should trust Kashkari’s judgment on anything else.

I don’t expect a change from Kashkari or his highly-paid, under-performing handlers, and that’s sad.  The California GOP deserves a serious debate about the serious issues facing the state.  Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the other major GOP candidate for Governor, deserves to be challenged on his view of all the above and other items that affect the state’s future.

Most of all, Jerry Brown deserves to be challenged every day in every way by a Republican candidate who actually believes in traditional Republican values, will be evangelical about those values and has a platform that will rescue California from its decline. This first vapid, idea-free mailing from Kashkari does nothing to indicate that he is that candidate.

(William E. Saracino is a member of the California Political Review editorial board. Originally published on California Political Review.)


  1. Ed Olson says

    The description of Kashkari as a “corporatist Republican” hits the nail squarely on the head. Exactly what we don’t need to appeal to the average voter.

  2. R. Ray Morford says

    You can’t cram everything into a flier. Neel is a good man and deserves our attention. Stop trying to divide the California Republican Party. If the Democrats see a divided house, we’re done.

  3. Wayne Minser says

    Neel Kashkari is a perfect example of a RINO. A conservative, he is not.

  4. JLSeagull says

    Neel Kashkari has a lot of experience at big government and big business and is the great hope of establishment Republicans in CA. He’s even put out a 33-page paper on Education but how many voters are going to take time to read a document that long? In today’s Internet society with its short attention span, if you can’t make your point in short sentences or a paragraph your done before you start. People don’t handle nuance well. Unfortunately a lot of conservative voters see him as little more than a carpetbagger helicoptering into the state. There is already a divide between conservative and moderate/liberal establishment Republicans in CA. Kashkari was counting on funding his campaign with money from establishment Republicans but when they see the lack of specificity in his “plans”, the funds are not forthcoming. With his DC and East Coast big business and government background Neel doesn’t realize that the average CA Republican voter is more discriminating than he gives them credit for. They may not particularly care for Tim Donnelly but they definitely don’t support Kashkari. I had to laugh at the photo in his brochure that showed him with an ax next to a big tree stump. Anybody, urban and particularly rural, knows that the tree was clearly felled with a saw and not an ax. Given the gap between conservative and establishment Republicans, the questions are, whomever finishes #2, Kashkari or Donnelly, will both the conservative AND establishment Republicans support the winner? And will the winner be able to appeal to the Decline-to-State voters and moderate Democrats?

  5. Remember as you go to the polls…. those who are in the race will do and say anything to win… But, You can look at who they run with and who they have as long term friends and even their social past… there are a million clues that will help to define the person….
    From the Kashkari flyer I would not be voting for him and the fact that he voted for and supported Obama tells me either he is an insider and knew what he was doing or he was a complete moron with an empty mind… Those are the only choices…. and either one — stops my vote.

  6. M. Studer says

    Kashkari, has literally said he’s got no use for the Bill of Rights. This guy is to the Left of a RINO and BARELY to the right of Obama. If I had to choose between him and Moonbeam, it’s be a heck of a tough call. Brown at least tempers the erosion of our 2A right, Kashkari has said he has no use for the 2A. Personally I have no use for him. Connelly for Governor .

  7. Amen to all you’ve written, Mr. Saracino.

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