What Happened When I Infiltrated One of the Most Secretive and Powerful Republican Organizations in the Country
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Indeed, nothing in this election season has been more surprising than the decision of Romero, an East L.A. Latina progressive and former California State Senate Democratic majority leader, to join with the Lincoln Club on 32. Romero won a hotly contested run for the California Assembly in 1998, largely by fighting the Lincoln Club on Prop. 32′s progenitor, Proposition 226–the first ‘paycheck protection’ initiative. Now, suddenly, not only is she in favor of 32, she’s become its primary spokesperson.
“Isn’t she great!” Loewen tells me. “We don’t even have to coordinate with her. She just goes for it.”
“She and Teresa are friends. Teresa and her husband own a restaurant in El Monte and a lot of political players tend to eat there—including Democrats. We approached her about 32 way back—maybe a year and a half ago. She told us she’d think about it. We didn’t hear from her for a while. Then, six months ago, she finally called Teresa and said ‘I’m in.’ She’s been 100 percent committed ever since.
“We tried to get Common Cause to jump on board too. Their president, Bob Edgar, was actually for it. He’s a friend of mine. But the board ultimately came out against it.”
With that, Loewen flashes me a toothy “oh well” smile, and excuses himself to head outside into the endless Orange County summer.
“You Get a Lot of Wackos on Our Side”
Loewen’s response was typical of the mood at the meeting–a warm, good-humored affair, not tainted by the shrill chest-thumping of Fox News or the life-or-death rhetoric of the Tea Party. Most of those present were absolutely delighted just to be able to speak about these issues strategically, without getting ridiculed by their liberal Southern California colleagues, or having the conversation descend into uneducated birtherism.
“You get a lot of wackos on our side,” one prospective member admitted to me.
That said, of course they’re all good-humored. They’re rich, they’re powerful and they’re pretty much all white. Their only stake in the larger political battle is holding on to a few extra tax dollars. But the fact is that being rich, white and sophisticated just isn’t enough to stay in control in the 21st Century. With America’s changing demographics, you need to be mercenary. So you plug away, peeling off your opponents’ key allies and hoping voters are foolish enough to vote for your Trojan Horse measures, or apathetic enough to ignore them.
If you lose, there’s no real worry. You finish your chicken salad with a smile, and go home to your wealthy suburban home to fight another day. Two weeks after the election, the Lincoln Club has a sleepover field trip planned at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, where they’ll peruse the new and bizarrely random “Treasures of Walt Disney” exhibit before enjoying a power dinner with Wisconsin’s union-busting Governor Scott Walker.
“Yes on 32, Huh?”
As I head to my car with a fistful of Prop. 32 bumper stickers, I catch one of the parking attendants, an elderly Asian man, dismissively eyeing my political propaganda. I turn to face him, expecting he’ll look away, but he doesn’t.
“Yes on 32, huh?” he asks.
“Oh, you betcha,” I say, channeling my whitest, inner white guy. “We’re going to take the state back from those special interests.”
He pauses for a moment, scanning me up and down. “I’ll be voting no,” he finally says, before walking away.
“What’ll it take to change your mind?” I shout after him.