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Red Faced in Blue State? Not a bit, say Cal Republicans

October 24, 2013

It has been many long and hoary decades since UC Berkeley was the nation’s epicenter of radical politics. Indeed, Cal Republicans have been among the most active groups on campus.  Still, poll after poll demonstrates that the recent zaniness in Washington is hurting the Republican brand.  And that made us wonder if Cal’s Republican students were experiencing a similar backlash.

So we got in touch with Brendan Pinder, the president of the Berkeley College Republicans, for his take on the situation.  Pinder first responded to some questions by email, then fleshed out his responses during a phone call.

Pinder said the shut-down and looming default haven’t affected interest in his group; the club’s weekly meetings remain well-attended. He noted with pride that opinions are diverse during these colloquia.

“For example, our weekly meeting just last night (October 10) had its theme as a round-table discussion of the shutdown and its effects on the debt-ceiling debate,” he wrote.  “Our group here on campus is incredibly diverse, with students’ political orientations ranging from strong party-line social conservatives, to socially liberal moderates, to libertarians like myself. As one would thus expect, we rarely if ever all agree on any single issue, and I can assure you that last night’s  discussion was characterized by several conflicting opinions. This diversity of viewpoints is something I have always been tremendously proud of with this club and it’s certainly something that I find lacking with much of the student body on this campus.”

Via phone, Pinder expanded on this theme, observing many Berkeley Republicans feel the current conservative strategy playing out in the House of Representatives was sound, while others found it divisive and counterproductive.

“That’s about what I’d expect for any of our discussions,” Pinder said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find any topic where everyone is in agreement.”

Pinder characterizes himself as a libertarian who champions the values and logic of mainstream Republicanism – freedom from government intrusion, personal responsibility, fiscal prudence. He is sympathetic to the concerns of those House members who are doing everything in their power to reign in federal spending in general – and torpedo the Affordable Care Act in particular.

“I think polls show that the American people have real concerns about the Affordable Care Act, and I understand it when people say they’re not going to let it pass without a fight,” Pinder said.  “It’s legitimate to point out how inherently unfair it is that favored businesses and Congress are exempted from (the act) while it applies to everybody else.”

Still, Pinder said, “I’m ambivalent about the strategy (of fostering a government shut-down and threatening a debt default).”

Pinder doesn’t buy into the idea that Republicans have suffered a self-inflicted wound, maintaining, without citing any specific polls, that Americans poll strongly for core Republican values — even as they deplore the dysfunction in Washington.

“We have the right values, and the American people know it,” he said. “Part of the problem is that the media really does have a liberal bias, and that hurts our messaging. But I think – a lot of people think – we also have to change our messaging, change the way we present our values. And that’s starting to happen, especially in California. I’m optimistic.”   

—Glen Martin

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