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Kevin Faulconer and a New Republican Politics of Inclusion

Mayor Kevin Faulconer
Photo credit:
Times of San Diego

The party that ended slavery and won the Civil War a century and a half ago is having a difficult year nationally.

As presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump attacks Mexican immigrants, re-tweets white supremist memes and slams the business community, the traditional Republican coalition is reeling.

In San Diego, Kevin Faulconer is demonstrating that there is a better way — a way for Republicans to represent all Americans.

The final results of the June primary were released last Wednesday. Faulconer was resoundingly re-elected with 57 percent of the vote. He won without a runoff in a city that is one-third Hispanic and only 25 percent Republican.

How did he do it? In contrast to Trump and the Tea Party, Faulconer practices the politics of inclusion. He began his re-election campaign with an ad in Spanish, and called for the first debate of the campaign to be on Spanish-language television.

“We come from different countries, different cultures and we don’t all speak the same language,” Faulconer said in his first ad. “But we all share the same aspirations. Every one of us deserves the opportunity to succeed.”

Faulconer has focused his efforts as mayor on bringing more resources to neighborhoods under-served after years of budget shortfalls and financial mismanagement. His slogan is “One San Diego.”

Just over a year ago, Faulconer appeared with then London Mayor Boris Johnson in a televised conversation at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Faulconer repeatedly extolled the benefits of inclusion, education and the bi-national region Cali-Baja region.

“We don’t say it’s two cities, San Diego and Tijuana. We say it’s one region,” Faulconer said.

Johnson is a member of Britain’s Conservative Party, the equivalent in that country of our Republican Party. Ironically, Johnson chose to back Britain’s exit from the European Union, driven in part by populist anger over immigration.

Though once mentioned as a future prime minister, many believe his career ended in the angry politics following the Bexit vote.

But Faulconer’s career may be just starting.

Unlike Johnson, Faulconer avoided association with the xenophobia that has gripped conservative parties around the world, including many of Trump’s supporters in the Republican Party. Faulconer has not endorsed Trump, and pointedly stayed away from Trump’s May rally in San Diego, though other prominent local Republicans, including Reps. Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter, were there.

Through the politics of inclusion, Faulconer can also avoid the political dead end of another San Diego mayor, Pete Wilson, who backed anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994. The initiative would have prohibited illegal aliens from receiving health care, public education, and other services. The proposition passed, but was later ruled unconstitutional.

Wilson’s prominent support for Proposition 187 helped him win re-election as governor, but the backlash from California’s growing Hispanic community relegated the California Republican Party to second-class status.

For Republicans, the future isn’t circling the wagons. It’s about inclusion. San Diego’s mayor is demonstrating that it’s a landslide-winning idea. 

This article appears courtesy of Chris Jennewein; editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.