December 21, 2006

Jeff Deckman’s Five Point Plan for Rebuilding the RI GOP

Carroll Andrew Morse

In Tuesday’s Projo, former Rhode Island GOP Executive Director Jeff Deckman proposed a five-point plan for rebuiliding the Republican Party in Rhode Island (h/t SusanD)…

  • Step One: The governor must take a strong leadership role in the re-organization of the party just as he did in his first two years in office.
  • Step Two: Recruit a chairman who understands the complexities of organizational design and the human dynamics that affect them.
  • Step Three: Build the organization bi-directionally — from the top down and from the grass-roots level up.
  • Step Four: Build coalitions with taxpayer groups and other reform-minded organizations.
  • Step Five: Focus the resources.
Mr. Deckman goes into specifics about each recommendation in his article.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I found it interesting that his plan was basically all "process" and very thin on "ideas."

When Newt Gingrich built towards the big victory of 1994, he did so by developing a central set of ideas that ultimately became the "Contract With America."

Candidate Carcieri talked about the "Big Audit," and it really resonated with the voters.

Here's what Republicans need to do. Get people thinking about the top ten things that you would do if you controlled the General Assembly. Thinking along those lines forces candidates and leadership to think about governing, not just campaigning.

Is there hunger among the electorate for change? We'll never know unless we give them some real concrete proposals.

Posted by: brassband at December 21, 2006 12:02 PM

Notice he avoids the most important point of raising money and finacially supporting candidates. Perhaps because he and others who have run the party in recent history performed so poorly in that area.

Please, if you ran for office in 2006 as a Republican, post here how much money you got (and when you got it) from the RI Republican State Central Committee...

Posted by: George at December 21, 2006 2:03 PM

not to throw cold water on mr. deckman's five-point plan, but if this is the best the former executive director of the party can come up with, then democrats should consider celebrating christmas a few days early

brassband is dead on. the reason that the rigop is so woefully inept is b/c it's focussed way too much on "The party" and not enough on ideas. here's a question: what does the rigop stand for? does it have a platform? will it offer anything different than the democrats? why would any reform group attach itself to the sickly dog that is the rigop?

it seems to me that the rigop simply wants to be the ones with their names after the words "majority leader" or "incumbent"; it has no ideas, no inspiring leaders, and therefore no relevance to the average rhode islander. mr. dekman's "strategy" reflects that.

take "step three":

build the organization bi-directionally to "build momentum within the party"?! "The Party" is made up of less than 15% of the population. who cares if you build momentum within "The Party". who cares if you energize the dozen or so log cabin republicans or the 3 young what if town committees are activated and given goals? you're still only dealing with a committee of 10 - 20 people.

i'm not even going to bring up the fact that nowhere in mr. deckman's article does he bring up the need to reach OUTSIDE of "The Party". if his insular strategy is followed, the rigop will NOT be competitive in 12 months, 24 months, or 48 months.

Posted by: tony at December 21, 2006 2:33 PM

I'm not going to bash Jeff, because from my conversations with him, I know he's well-intentioned, and actually does want to (re)build the party (of course, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but I digress). That being said, all of his recommendations would have been great things to have taken action on while he was actually in the employ of the RIGOP, if the so-called state party leadership had let him.

What perhaps isn't being acknowledged is that the task ahead is going to require that we start from scratch. We are trying to build an iceberg with ice cubes. Our sense of scale is totally wrong. Yes, having some "top/down" apparatus is fine, but up until very recently, any involvement from the "bottom" (i.e. the grassroots), has been -- how can I put it -- treated like how one might treat a leper.

Other than some good people (and also some not so good ones), we have little else to our credit. Even the idea of building a party around common ideals or principles is shunned by far too many in our party. Why else even have a party? Having been a delegate to the RI Republican State Central Committee for the last four years certainly hasn't made me any more confident about our future prospects. We've been treading water and not really getting anywhere. I've known more than a few Republicans who've simply giving up on the party -- and I'd be lying if I said I blame them. I'm still involved with the party because of two things: Ronald Reagan, and what the party might be in the future; not what it is now. I'm hopeful (though not entirely confident yet).

I'm going to save any more specific remarks for a letter to the editor that I've been working on that hopefully will be published, because there was plenty to work with.

PS Of course, if the RIGOP was in the business of making substantial direct financial contributions to Republican candidates, you should be able to find that information online on campaign finance reports. My guess is that the total contributions won't take up that much space.

Posted by: Will at December 21, 2006 6:03 PM

Jeff forgot one more. Don't go on the radio to "leak" information about a private meeting you knew about to expose information that could be damaging ( whether it is true or not ) to a major Republican leader in Rhode Island. There is NOTHING positive that can come of such an ill-conceived stunt.

Posted by: Sean at December 21, 2006 10:05 PM

Maybe if the party boss (Da Govna) would go around the state and actually listen to the suggestions of the few working-class (not the lawyers, consultants and corporate big-wigs) Republicans out there, it may give them a feeling that they have a role in the success of the party. As it is, only the select few ever get the chance to be part of the discussions and the select few are the same old guard that are preserving the Party, not serving the state.

There are lots of good ideas among republicans in the state, maybe if the fat cats will stop to listen they will help the grassroots republicans feel like the belong! Most of us are Republicans because of a deep commitment to the philosophy, unfortunately, the leadership appears to have a different agenda.

Posted by: Ben at December 22, 2006 7:24 AM

I think that Jeff makes several valid points. I would only add:

1. Brassband is right that the RI GOP needs to develop and publish platform. Many people may not recall it, but the whole point of conventions in the past was not only to endorse candidates but to publish a party platform.

However, I disagree with brassband on the number of issues. We don't need to find the top ten issues. I'd limit the issues to three positions that become associated with RI Republicans. It might be difficult to attain consensus on ten issues and might also confuse the voters. Gingrich did 10, but he hd to picked out 10 issues because some were more popular in different regions and he needed a national platform.

You want voters to know exactly what they are voting for when the vote for a Republican. And note, I said the positions need to be associated with RI Republicans, not the RI Republican Party. When the RI GOP selects the issues, it must do so with the understanding that the issues must appeal to voters in those districts most likely to vote for a Republican candidate.

2. Now onto the RI GOP and money. The party will always give more money and support to legislative candidates in years when there are no statewide or federal races. Retaining the governorship was more important than electing local Republicans this year.

Now let's look at a typical RI GOP conversation-

Person #1: "The RI GOP doesn't give any money to candidates or support its candidates enough"

Person #2: "Well, how much money have you given personally to the RI GOP?"

Person #1: "I don't give anything because they won't use it in the right ways anyway."

See the problem? As with any organization, input coming from those with skin in the game should matter most. Otherwise you're just putting together a group of negative malcontents with no positive energy.

The other problem is that it is a CANDIDATE'S responsibility to raise the money to run for office. Some candidates think the state party should run their race for them and feel entitled to money. Which after all, is other people's money. As a Republican, I'm always concerned when a politician feels they're entitled to someone else's money!

Yes, a state party should put money into those targeted races that are very close. But for a candidate to disaparage the state party for not supporting them after they lose 60/40 is ridiculous. My response to that type of criticism? You should have walked more doors, buddy.

Any outside money a candidate receives should be viewed as a welcomed bonus, not as a entitlement.

Posted by: Anthony at December 22, 2006 11:10 AM

My favorite political science professor in college once told me a story about an interview he did with an uber-lefty New Jersey legislator. The legislator strangely had a nice framed picture of Richard Nixon prominently displayed in his office. When asked about it, he explained to the good professor that many Dem legislators in NJ owed their seats to Richard Nixon.

As a GOP candidate who ran this year in one of the most unfortunate districts in the state (our unofficial town historian says the GOP has never held the seat), I have many opinions about what went right and what went wrong this year. This was without doubt the worst year to have an R next to your name since Nixon was around, and while there was more that I could have done (we can always do more), there isn’t much. I raised the money ($30K), knocked on all the doors, wrote the letters to the editor, etc... I topped out at just a shade under 43%, but all things considered it was a good showing and I am ready to run again and win the seat next time.

The reason our G.A. candidates lost this time are many: several were not very good candidates to begin with (didn’t raise money & didn’t knock on doors), some were running in really bad districts (there are no-go areas for Rs in this state, like the Al Anbar province is for our military), and some lost close races due to the ticket-pullers. Look at the East Bay. I really thought that we had a chance to pick up a couple of seats but all of us came up short (I got 43%, Hamel 48%, Ottianno 45%, and Robitaille lost by 9 votes). On the other hand, some were let down by the party, and some good candidates from the ’04 cycle (>45%) chose not to run because they felt betrayed by the party from the previous cycle.

While we undoubtedly need to field better candidates (more self starters who can raise their own funds), we also need to build up a party that can backstop those candidates who are really willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to get elected.

That is why what Jeff wrote in the Projo the other day is so important. Of course we need a platform and some good ideas as a party to get elected. Of course we need to raise more money. But we have to start by fundamentally remaking the party organization before we can even get to those critical issues. Those of you that disparage process have it wrong. That is where it has to start. I have been a part of many organizations – some that run well and many that run poorly.

Good organizations have many similarities – strong leadership, interested and active membership, and great communication (internal and external). People join and stay with these organizations because they feel the organization adds value to their lives. And that new blood makes the organization bigger and stronger, and so on, and so on. Like with a lot of things in life, success breeds success.

Bad organizations usually lack one or all of these important aspects, and usually whither on the vine for a few years before dying off completely.

The RIGOP can become a good organization. The first (and most important) step is to pick the right chair, one who can take the good from the last couple of years, and build on it. We are heading into an off year here, when the RIGOP traditionally packs up its tents and goes home only to come out again at the beginning of the next election year. If the RIGOP is to ever be a viable opposition party in this state, that cannot happen again this year. The party needs to use this off-year to build a strong, functioning organization. Not many people like to join lousy organizations, and even fewer like to give their money to lost causes.

Once a real organization is built, it will be easier to raise money and attract better candidates. And more money and better candidates means more electoral success, which will feed into even more money and even better candidates in the future. It sounds so deceptively simple.

It is not, however going to be easy or quick. Like Rome, great organizations are not built in a day. With the right people, though, and a lot of hard work, the RIGOP CAN be built into a great organization. It has to start with the organization first. Jeff’s 5 step plan is not perfect, but it is an important step in the right direction.

Posted by: Spencer Maguire at December 22, 2006 12:41 PM

The GOP iis its own worse enemy in Rhode Island in many ways.No doubt I will be called part of the problem and not part of the solution.
I am not certain that the Republicans at least not in any forseeable future can go toe to toe with the Democrats throughout Rhode Island but improvements can be made.
I am not being a pessimist but the political deterioration of the GOP will be difficult to repair in many cases.Local ward,city,and town committees need to be reinvigorated with assistance from the state party..Also rank and file Republicans need to feel they are actually listened to by the state party. In many Rhode Island communities the local GOP committees are institutionally weak. They need to be reinvigorated.
We need to avoid going after"trophy" people who may look good on paper unless they have the fire in the belly and have the ability to work with others.Doing this political chore demands the expenditure of time and willing to expend it.We need party leaders who are capable and make the party a priority.
I do not like Patricia Morgan but I do see an possible improved future for the Rhode Island GOP just with her exiting as party chair in Rhode Island.
I do hope that even though he will be term limited the Governor tries to grow the party.
One great starting point for the GOP is Warwick and Cranston.Take Warwick for example.They have had a Republican Mayor for years.Many of their GOP city council candidates did well in 2006 despite the tide.Warwick is a good place to make a serious effort.In Cranston where historically the Mayor is usually Republican is a great place for a Republican resurgence.These two cities need to be focused on as well as other Rhode Island communities.
Happy Holidays!
P.S.How is my typing now?

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at December 22, 2006 2:39 PM

>>Take Warwick for example.They have had a Republican Mayor for years.

Chafee? Avedisian? I guess it depends upon how you define "Republican."

>>Cranston where historically the Mayor is usually Republican is a great place for a Republican resurgence.

As to Laffey, a valid comment. As the his "Republican" predecessors, same comment as with Warwick.

Those "RINOpublicans" are the reason why the Party is virtually extinct in this State.

Posted by: Tom W at December 22, 2006 3:31 PM


i really have to disagree with you and again with jeff deckman who as an organizational consultant should recognize that in order for a corporation to be successful, it has to actually know what it's in business for and/or what it's selling before you establish any sort of board or invest in any office space. with that in mind, what is the rigop offering? what is it in business for? POWER. that's it. and that's not good.

hell, i could start my own political party in a week based on deckman's suggestions on "organization building"

step 1. chairman: ok, i nominate my dog. he's a siberian husky and he's always been the lead dog. who cares if no one can understand him when he barks since my party doesn't stand for anything and therefore doesn't need to communicate anything.

step 2. build the organization bi-directionally: no problem. since this is all about organization building, even the most arbitrary commonalities should prove sufficient to build upon, i'll just start by approaching people who are wearing the same color shirt on the street as me and tell them i don't stand for anything and that i have a proven track record of failure. hopefully they won't care because they'll look beyond that and see that my chairman is a real hard-working selfless type who loves to be pet.

step 3. (this shouldn't be a separate step: i think the author just thought a five step plan was more weighty than a simple four or three point plan) so...repeat step three but instead of approaching random orange-clad pedestrians, i'll approach small irrelevant groups of people who like me, also have track records of futility and hopefully convince them that if they align themselves with me they'll more than double their failure rate and reach new heights of irrelevance

step 4: raise capital. how? that's easy, just have my chairman bark his way around the state hoping that people will contribute to my organization which, remember, doesn't stand for anything and has only excelled in setting an astounding rate of diminishing returns. then, once i get the money, use it to recruit and fund candidates who like me, share my belief in nothing in communities where we hope our message of cacophonous barking and rapid tail wagging will resonate with voters.

see how easy that was? and to think it only took four steps.

remember, spencer, political parties were not manufactured arbitrarily. they were born out of the belief in a series of fundamental principles between individuals. what deckman is describing is not party building - it's general contracting. except, deckman would like republicans to build a house without a foundation simply because they are "republicans." and like any house built without a foundation, it is destined to crumble.

and while you may one day hang a picture of billy murphy or bill lynch above your desk, that desk won't be in an elected office as you simply cannot build a party based on the missteps of incumbents. so to all of the republicans that may be reading this, please: stand up and tell your party to grow a spine and stand for SOMETHING. ANYTHING. the RIGOP is not a pitiful organization because it lacks managers. in fact, it seems like everyone is a manager at the RIGOP. what you need is to represent something other than "we're not corrupt like the democrats" b/c there are many in the RIGOP that are.

for the sake of this state, i hope the RIGOP doesn't listen to this "5 point plan" but something tells me they'll do exactly that.

Posted by: tony at December 22, 2006 6:40 PM

Huh? The bottom line is that there is no clear image or message from the RIGOP. The Democrats were able to make gains in this cycle because they had a clear message--"Change"

Most of the races were close. Two things to consider 1) this is not a doom and gloom situation 2) next cycle there will be no casino questions, the Pres, race is not a factor in RI and there will be no really contentious race (unless one of two people challenge Rep. Langevin)3) We need to present a clear message--"Do the right thing"

Take a look at Warwick. Already the City Council is fighting about who will lead the council--they, all dems, can't work together or even communicate once in office. I, as a Republican, always have been and always will be about doing the right thing.

Let's get a replacement for Ms. Morgan and move on. There are a some very good people out there--Sue Stenhouse for one.

And by the way, I ran for city council in Warwick and received not money from the state party.

Posted by: Shawn Masterson at December 23, 2006 6:58 AM

Sean, is someone a major Republican leader in the state when they can't even win their own voting precinct in a Republican primary? Ouch!!
More kool-aid for Sean please.
Jeff Deckman has some very good ideas. Sadly the Republican party in Rhode Island will not grow until the end game is about ALL Republicans winning rather than personal agendas and score settling during election season.

Posted by: Tim at December 24, 2006 11:03 AM

heard it all before.where's the beef? where's the substance in what jd is proposing? sounds like a bunch of hot air and probably is.

Posted by: leon at December 24, 2006 11:31 PM

Spencer and Shawn are correct.

No one has all the answers; no one is claiming to. It's a team effort. (Newsflash!)

Posted by: SusanD at December 26, 2006 12:09 PM

When a building is in this kind of disrepair there is only one solution. Tear the bloody thing down, burn what remains, level the scorched earth, and then bring in a good architect.

Jeff Deckman is all three monkeys... he's deaf, dumb and blind, and ... he is not an architect.

Anyone can come up with a plan. It just shouldn’t be someone who was part of what screwed things up in the first place. Next they’ll be telling us Karl Rove is coming to RI to “help.” Dooo!!!

J Manh

Posted by: Joe Mahn at December 26, 2006 10:27 PM

The mechanical/organizational aspect is important but the Rhode Island State GOP establishment needs to REFLECT AND ACT on why so many grass roots Republicans are disillusioned with them!
Enough said!

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at December 27, 2006 11:31 AM