Kashkari’s Loss Is a Good Loss

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Phoenix, Arizona – Unless you live in the state, the California Governor was not likely in your purview for midterm elections. After all, there were few reasons to follow the race. Since Neel Kashkari clinched the nomination from the Republican Party, analysts have been calling the race in favor for his opponent, incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown, who managed to uphold predictions through a 59%-41% victory, earning a fourth term as Governor of California.

For Kashkari, the loss couldn’t have been a surprise, and it became clear that his campaign was in trouble for gaining traction, from both the media and California voters. Antics like going undercover as a homeless man and smashing toy trains didn’t make Kashkari a household name, but it did manage to highlight what could come from Kashkari’s political career should he choose to run for office in the future.

Born to immigrants from Kashmir, India, Kashkari’s first-generation American background, coupled with experience in the public and private sectors brings a much needed outlet for the Republican Party to appeal to broader voter demographics. Kashkari, a Pro-Gay Marriage and Pro-Choice Republican, embodies a new type of Republican, the small, but growing segment within the GOP that distances itself from the religious right and makes the Economy his primary concern, presenting younger voters and independents a new option.

For the 41-year old, Kashkari’s goal was for voters to know who he is, and when he mounts his next campaign, voters will likely have some familiarity with his name, and suddenly, the $2.6 million spent by Kashkari looks less like a waste and more like a marketing strategy and vote of confidence from Kashkari himself, that his political career is far from over.

Even in his expected loss, Kashkari reflected on the campaign in a 12-page letter, titled “Lessons from the Trail,” detailing Kashkari’s experience fielding a gubernatorial race in his first ever contested election in one of the largest states in the country, a bold move that failed to capture the attention of Republicans outside of the state. For a proclaimed party “reformist” Kashkari couldn’t help pinpointing how the GOP has given up on a state that had supplied them with multiple Presidents and critical electoral votes. It would appear for the GOP that California represents a “lost” state, a constituency that has and will entrust Jerry Brown blindly, and with few signs of Brown losing power, and fewer Republicans willing to take him on, Kashkari’s letter is unlikely to ignite any power-plays that GOP strategists have in their minds to make California “red” again.

For the GOP, it’s obvious as to why they’d write off Kashkari’s run, after all, the engineer-turned-banker’s work in the Treasury came under fire for his oversight over the controversial TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), a program most Republicans and Democrats alike want to forget. Coupling that with the fact that Kashkari once worked for public enemy Goldman Sachs, and reaped millions doing so, supplied Democrats with enough firepower to thwart the grassroots-level movement Kashkari leveraged to attract media attention and name recognition in a state where only the famous stay relevant.

Despite the criticism lobbed at him, Kashkari laments in his letter, “I would never, ever compromise what I believe or pretend to be something I am not. If that meant I would lose the primary, then so be it. I was not go-ing to move hard right in the primary and then try to reinvent myself in the general. If I would run, I would run true to my beliefs the entire time – and not hide them from anyone.” As a call to the sensible minds of the GOP, one of the most important races in this year’s midterms elections may have been a loss, but it should bring forth attention to a candidate who can reinvent the party’s image and reach while sustainably maintaining the core economic values the United States has forgotten.

Arman Sidhu
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Arman Sidhu is a political commentator based in Phoenix, Arizona, covering topics related to Indian foreign policy, domestic politics, and the Indian-American diaspora. He is a researcher at Arizona State University and a former Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.

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