The King's Marquee

Election Day is finally here! Let's get out there an seal the deal for Trump and the American people! And don't forget to support the CTGOP under-ticket!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Connecticut GOP Crisis Part 2: Redefine the Party

It is understood that you cannot win elections without votes.  However, you cannot win votes unless you stand for something worth voting for.  For as long as I can remember, Connecticut Republicans have had something of an identity crisis.  No one can explain in simple terms what it means to be a Connecticut Republican, nor can they tell you how it differs from being a Connecticut Democrat.  Moreover, Connecticut Republican Party leaders have gone out of their way to publicly distance themselves from the National Republican Party as an asinine strategy to pander to the local media.  This particular tactic of watering down your own platform to appeal to your opposition's base hasn't been particularly rewarding for Republicans who haven't seen a Republican majority in the Statehouse since 1972, or held key state offices in several decades. 

The Party of Chris Healy
For years, we've had serious problems with Connecticut's State budget caused primarily by the tax and spend policies of the majority Democrats in Connecticut's Statehouse (few people deny this truth).  On the other hand, we've also had twenty years of Republican Governors who've refused to use the power of their office as a bully pulpit, or even taken action by vetoing budgets that couldn't be reconciled.  Further, Republicans have always touted that Connecticut is a special place where Democrats and Republicans work together to settle their political differences, and as a result of this - Connecticut's financial woes have multiplied to the point where we are in our own economic crisis.  It's clear that the price of putting so-called collaboration over principle hasn't been beneficial for taxpayers or businesses.

As a Republican and an activist, I've always been placed in a precarious position of having to defend the record of our Republican Governors to both Independent and Republican voters.  And to a large degree, voters who say there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between the two parties - have a point.  Up until the last election, the idea of voting Republican to serve as some form of counter-balance to a spend-happy legislature seemed to be a useful strategy, but when a Republican Governor ends up going along with the Democrat's spending policies year after year, then few arguments can be made to show the pubic a tangible difference.

If anyone has paid close attention, Connecticut Republicans have also never taken their underticket seriously.  In previous years, the sitting Republican Governor rarely bothered to campaign with the Secretary of State Candidate or Treasurer Candidate, or others.  Republicans have treated the Governor's race as an all-or-nothing contest, with the other races serving as filler in the background.  In fact, I was told that the Governor would intentionally not appear with other Republican candidates in fear that they would bring her/him down in the polls.  Hardly the team effort one would expect to see from Republican Party leaders or candidates.

The Connecticut Republican Party has never implemented a coherent strategy for turning Connecticut Republican.  I believe its because those who've been in power lack the vision and ability to make it possible.  This has led to a defeatist approach that has led to ever shrinking representation at every level of Government.  The Connecticut Republican Party has never felt compelled to infuse activism as a tool for educating the public, or for molding public opinion on critical issues impacting Connecticut residents.  Activism under Chairman Chris Healy has been limited to him sending out a press release or his making a rather boring appearance on the local political circuit.  Neither tactic has been successful, whatsoever.  The Republican Party leadership is Connecticut is tired, lazy, and inept.

The most recent election cycle saw the public energized to a point not seen in many years, but the state party had no strategy for enlisting the multitude of activists coming out of the woodwork and mobilizing them in a manner beneficial to winning elections.  Many people seeking to volunteer called GOP Headquarters and were turned away or told to call back, or call elsewhere.  The Party's inability to take motivated individuals and put them to work underlines the inherent failures of the Party Leadership.

As some friends of mine have pointed out, the Connecticut Republican Party seems to be afraid of itself.  In its effort to not appear controversial or confrontational, it hides in the shadows during times of public discourse.  It seems to be satisfied to stand for nothing rather than take any stand at all.  Frankly, its an embarrassment for those of us who are proud to be identified as a members of the National Republican Party.  Our national party leaders are brave enough to stand up and debate, write, litigate and work on behalf of conservative economic and social principles.  If it weren't for the National Republican Party, there would be little reason to be a Republican in Connecticut at all.

In the rare event, where you do see Connecticut Republicans leaders take a stand, its usually in reaction to what has already happened at a point when its already too late to do anything about it.   Taking the low road of whining about what's transpired is hardly a way to inspire people to join a cause and take up action with you.  In fact, I've known a number of people who have moved away from the Republican Party and joined either the  Constitution Party, or the Libertarian Party for the simple reason that there is at least some level of organized activism in place to challenge the status quo and mold public opinion.

In the beginning of this entry, I mentioned that you need votes to win elections.  This means that you need a set of principles that are appealing to the majority of voters which serve their best interest.  For the longest time, we've packaged progressive positions (that have been only slightly less progressive than those pursued by the Democrat Party) and tried to sell them as Republican ideals.  If Democrats desire high tax increases, and our position is to be for tax increases that aren't as high as the Democrat Party's numbers, then we serve no one's interest, and many Republican voters will opt to stay at home.  If on the other hand, we changed our public image and worked to protect residents from additional taxes, unchecked spending, and promised to fight on behalf of taxpayers, we would gain a whole new population of supporters and members who would see Connecticut Republicans as more than a group of wishy-washy yes men.

Connecticut Republicans are ripe for renewal in a period where new jobs are scarce, housing values are diving, and businesses are leaving the state due to what is becoming an increasingly hostile environment for them to survive in.  In his first week in office, the new Governor, Dan Malloy, is proposing further mandates and taxes to make it harder to companies to want to remain in state.  Republican leaders should not be sitting quietly watching things unravel but actively voicing opposition in the strongest manner possible. Republicans should be working with business groups to form alliances and influence those in the statehouse on the ramifications of regressive policies.

Republicans should be writing columns, appearing on media outlets, and organizing rallies to obtain presence and mold public opinion.  The Tea Party volunteers, loathed by the media and liberals, are self-engaged in the debate.  By and large the Connecticut Tea Party is a result of the ineptitude of Republican Leaders who were not interested in activism or mobilizing volunteers.  Granted, the rise of the Tea Party was a national phenomena, but the outrage in Connecticut far exceeds many states because of the economic climate and under-representation of conservatives in office.  And, as I've mentioned in previous entries, the blatant distrust of Connecticut's Republican leaders doesn't help matters any.  The Chairman's hijacking of the state convention which included the locking out of candidates from speaking or showing a 5 minute video to express themselves has fractured the party beyond repair.  It is for this reason, the Party leadership must change hands, else the fracturing will continue.

Returning to our Roots

The Democrat Party's make up is a large mix of special interest groups such as union employees, labor groups, social liberal groups - from the anti-war crowd to gay rights activists.  What's long forgotten is that the Democrat coalition is just as fragile as ours.  The union machinist who is angry about foreign products flooding our markets isn't interested in the gay activist's agenda to want to marry and adopt children, but since both agendas are part of the Democrat platform, they both tolerate each other, and have learned to work together to achieve the same result.

The Republican Party seems to have a march larger problem.  How do you establish a platform which incorporates sound economic principles, adheres to constitutional laws, and encompasses a set of moral social standards that differentiate us from the free-for-all values of the left yet don't alienate people who may disagree on certain aspects of social policy.  This is more than getting different personalities to work nicely together, its preventing elements of the party from ripping each other to shreds or hijacking the Party to advance a minority's agenda.  And beyond that, its making sure that some elements of the Party do not become over-representative of the Party's platform so as to neutralize the Party's ability to attract voters and win elections.

Obviously, this is a big challenge for the simple reason that those who actually get off their duff and work - participate in campaigns, put up signs, make calls to get out the vote tend to come from the hot-button-issue corners of the coalition. These are the activists who do 70% of the work required to deliver the candidate to victory.  So you might ask, well if they do 70% of the work why can't they develop the platform? And its because while they might be 70% of the Party workforce, they may only represent 15% of the public's viewpoint, and some of them tend to care about very little else.

What is needed is a leadership team that can work with different groups, stick to the basics without alienating those who may not agree on one or two issues.  The team must also reach out to people from various backgrounds and find ways to encourage them to recognize that the Democrats policies are counterproductive to Connecticut's economy, and social well being.  Facts are facts, and the record of the Democrat Party carries with it a pattern of increased taxation, out of control spending, and hostility toward companies.  How hard can it be to get out front and present these facts to the public? 

Social Conservatives tend to dislike hearing that fact that the basis of the Republican Party's existence has always been tied to free market economics and and individual liberty.  At its root, much of this already includes gun ownership, less government, lower taxes, and freedom of religion, etc.  Since the encroachment of the left's new ideology, which began after WWII, the Republican Party has had to take up causes that used to be part of the normal mindset of people in both parties - I'm referring to things like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and hearing a morning prayer in school, or defending against the assault on Christmas.  These concept of supporting things like Christmas are not actually conservative principles as the left and the media ascribe them.  These are generally accepted principles which liberals have gone out of their way to tear down so as to create a more decedent society free from Christianity and Western Traditions.  These are the same people that attempt to put Islam on the same level with Christianity, which is of course in contrast to the Western values that led to the creation of the United States in the first place.

When Ronald Reagan ran in 1980, he was elected because he brought a vision of prosperity,  and optimism to America, and he followed through with policies that advanced those causes.  Reagan didn't stand out on a soapbox and preach hellfire against those who disagreed with him.  He didn't isolate people and tell them to get lost because they didn't agree with everything he said, or chase them out of the Party because of they didn't fit his perfect mold.  But do you think Ronald Reagan would have sat by quietly while lunatics tried to remove Merry Christmas from our culture?  I think not.  No less than he went after Communists, who he defeated through words and policies.

Reagan openly pursued simple policies of economic freedom, less government, and adherence to constitutional ideals.  He welcomed all walks of life and backgrounds while standing firm on conservative principles.  Reagan never wavered.  Today we could use his example and rebuild Connecticut's Republican Party based on principle, energy, and activism.  Again, Reagan didn't front the social issues in a way to divide or antagonize the coalition; he fought to establish the basics - conservative economic principles, less government (intrusion and taxation), and individual liberty.

Lastly, don't listen to the fools who opt to say, we can never win because there are simply more of them than of us, or we are a different state.  That's the laziness shining through our leaders who should be put out to pasture. As far as I can tell, the people in Connecticut haven't seen many principled Republicans in leadership or running for office. If Republicans in Connecticut want to win, act like winners, nominate winners as leaders, run principled individuals for office, and show the public that we are more than progressives in suitcoats.   

The original blog entry can be found at

1 comment:

Melanie - Tricycle said...

I hope that everyone has a great year in 2011!