RE: A Word on Our State GOP
….Well, a few words, actually. Justin is correct and, save taking the “Dan Yorke Nuclear Option“, the state GOP better start navel-gazing ASAP. Much of what follows I wrote about four years ago and it still seems to apply.
Rhode Islanders seem to recognize that something is wrong with their state government, but they continue to enable the Democratic party and its leaders who perpetuate the problem by re-electing their own particular Democrat to the legislature. (Yes, Montalbano has been acutely rejected, but insert same-ol’ Democratic leader “here”). As it has been observed before, most Rhode Islanders simply think “my guy is OK” and it’s the “other guys” who are the bad actors. Changing that attitude is the job that the RI GOP needs to undertake before it will ever make meaningful political progress in this state. It hasn’t done a good job.
As Justin suggests, trying to determine what it means to be a Rhode Island Republican is a worthwhile exercise. But unless the RI GOP can find attractive candidates to espouse these viable alternatives, the policy prescriptions concocted by us armchair philosophers and policy-wonks will be all for naught. Finding a coherent RIGOP philosophy is but one part of the problem. And it’s the easy part. The RIGOP must realize that a party built for longevity is built from the bottom up, not the top down. The tough part will be finding and funding the right folks to run against the Democrat monopoly across the entire political spectrum.
It’s been my impression that Rhode Island Republicans are too enamored with running for the big-name positions–Governor, U.S. Congress, Mayor–and not so much into vying for the local political billets like Town Council, School Committee, or State Legislature. In other words, if RI politics were a buffet table, too many GOP candidates pass right over the meat and potatoes and head for the filet mignon. The problem is, there are many more meat-and-potatoes entrées, and they are cheaper and easier to get! Both Alan Fung and Scott Avedesian worked their way up to Mayor. Their model should be studied.
Starting small acquaints a candidate with political and governmental processes. More importantly, it also acquaints them with the voters. Thus, it gives them something that most don’t have the money to buy: name recognition. Like it or not, it isn’t the ideas that first attract RI voters to particular candidates, it’s how well they know and like them. All politics may be local, but in Rhode Island, it’s also personal.
And since success in Rhode Island politics is heavily dependent upon personal connections, its at the grassroots where the work needs to be done. A candidate will get votes for being a “good guy” regardless of his political disposition. The RI GOP needs to identify their own “Jimmy who lives up the street” to run against the Democrat’s “Tommy who lives down the street.” And these candidates need to be both embedded in the fabric of their community and willing to risk personal relationships for the sake of political gain.