On March 29, New York Times columnist David Brooks lamented that a telegenic young veteran and would-be rising Republican star Nathan Fletcher felt compelled to quit the California GOP and run as an independent moderate after failing to gain support from the party in his run for San Diego mayor:
[A]s Scott Lewis of voiceofsandiego.org has detailed, the San Diego Republican Party has moved sharply right recently. A group of insurgents have toppled the old city establishment. As Lewis wrote, "The Republican Party has gone through a fantastically effective effort to enforce conformity around its principles."
The G.O.P. central committee and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an activist group, spurned Fletcher in the mayor's race, endorsing the more orthodox conservative, Councilman Carl DeMaio.
That same day, Huffington Post California-politics columnist William Bradley wrote essentially the same column about poor Nathan Fletcher:
He hasn't moved to the left. His party has moved further to the right, with its endorsed candidate, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, helping lead the way. [...]
Fletcher has also backed gay rights, giving an emotional speech in the Capitol as a decorated Marine veteran opposing the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy and voting for legislation requiring curriculum materials to reflect the role of gays and lesbians in history. And he's an advocate of renewable energy, voting for [Gov. Jerry] Brown's legislation to require that 33% of all electric power in California come from renewable sources by the end of 2020. [...]
Fletcher's move sets up a very intriguing test case for Republicans who haven't turned their backs on modernity and governance.
Chimed in John Wildermuth at Fox & Hounds Daily:
Fletcher ran into some uniquely Republican problems during his time in Sacramento. He supported gay rights measures, like Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno's effort to require state textbooks to recognize the accomplishments of gays and lesbians. Fletcher voted for environmental legislation. He backed Gov. Jerry Brown's jobs program and, horror of horrors, had the reputation of being willing to work with the Democratic leadership in the Assembly.
The party's conservative base was quick to suggest that Fletcher was a RINO, or Republican in name only. Or even, they said with gasp, a moderate.
Over at Rachel Maddow's blog that same day, Kent Jones said this:
Come on out, moderate, goal-oriented Republicans. We know you're out there.
And four days later, proving once again that the L.A. Times will make sure to get it wrong and get it last, Sacramento columnist George Skelton wrote more in that vein, in a column I cannot read because of the newspaper's new reader-hating firewall, but which I am told also describes Carl DeMaio as an "orthodox conservative." Which, it turns out, is grossly inaccurate. Here's Scott Lewis at voiceofsandiego.com (where I harvested some of these links):
One important note about both Brooks' and Skelton's columns. They label DeMaio an "orthodox conservative," but that's hardly the case.
Weird, right? He seems like such a knuckle-dragger compared to the enlightened, gay-friendly Fletcher, even if–remarkably–none of the Fletcher-laments linked above ever talk about what makes Carl DeMaio so conservative.
Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel, from whom I harvested most of these links, has much more:
I knew Carl DeMaio slightly when he was barely out of college and working for the Reason Public Policy Institute. RPPI was a very wonky place and he didn't seem like a scary guy, but maybe he's taken on some unsavory positions. I don't know, and you won't know either if you rely on Brooks or Bradley to tell you. They aren't interested in the actual candidate's policies, only in using DeMaio as a symbol of evil right-wing crazies. [...]
My friend Cosmo Wenman, who lives in the San Diego metro area [...] points out that Carl DeMaio is San Diego's first openly gay city councilman, a fact that probably didn't turn up in the 10 minutes David Brooks spent researching his column but that Bill Bradley, a veteran California political writer, surely knows. So why does he mislead readers by emphasizing Fletcher's pro-gay credentials, leaving us to infer that DeMaio is a social con?
Not only that, but super-moderate hero Nathan Fletcher has been accusing DeMaio of semi-secretly pushing a pro-gay agenda when he's talking to certain "communities":
Family values: Family values are very important to me. As a married father of two, I take very seriously my commitment to my wife and children. As a Christian of strong faith, I take seriously my commitment to God. However, I do not believe it is the role of government to legislate religion and impose our moral values. That is the role of the institutions of family and faith. We have looked to government for too much intervention in people's individual freedoms and personal lives. Please know and appreciate that I am consistent in this position—regardless of what community I am speaking to and how it might affect a scorecard. I know from conversations with many of you that Carl Demaio tells you he will never advocate or push social issues related to sexual orientation. However, this doesn't square with the statements and commitments he makes in other communities. Like or dislike my positions, I have always been upfront, honest, and straightforward.
Over at Deseret News, Eric Schulzke adds:
And DeMaio is not an orthodox conservative on fiscal issues either. If anything, he is a libertarian, having worked as a policy analyst for the libertarian Reason Public Policy Institute in the early 2000s. [...]
[H]ow [David Brooks and William Bradley] oversimplified the picture this situation so dramatically is a puzzle. Were they cleverly played by Fletcher allies? Do they actually think that a gay Republican with libertarian leanings represents a lurch to the right, an enforcement of conformity, and a return to orthodoxy?
This is what happens when political narrative overrides journalistic impulse. Imagine how different this story might have been spun if the dominant opinion-journalism narrative going around was about how the Republican Party was at long last ditching gay panic in favor of robust fiscal reform. Brooks and the rest of 'em ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they won't be.
Here Carl DeMaio's author page at Reason.org. A search at Reason.com shows a politician sensibly concerned about the immediate crises (especially in San Diego) of pension reform and public-sector featherbedding, rather than the far-off fever dreams of assigning energy-source percentages in the year 2020. And you can watch Reason.tv interviewing DeMaio two years ago: