November 5, 2008

RE: A Word on Our State GOP

Marc Comtois

....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.

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Very well put. My only problem is that when a Republican is presented locally they are typically rejected. For the first time in many years a Republican ran for City Council in Pawtucket, one of the most Democratic bastions in RI. Furthermore, he was the one of the few candidates that actually pounded the pavement and tried to build grassroots support. Alas, poor Robert Tirell's fate was similar to that of his fellow GOP brethren. In fact, the race wasn't even close. He was eclipsed by a nearly 2:1 margin. How can we even foment change when the electorate opts for the status quo year after year? Yes the RI GOP has been plagued by poor leadership. But in the Ocean State, the GOP is the party of change. Seize that mantra and maybe we'll get somewhere.

Posted by: Eric at November 5, 2008 4:16 PM

I wish I could be a little more optimistic about Rhode Island in the short-term, but there isn't really a reason to be. Things are going to need to get worst here, before a real "change" message will resonate locally. It happened in Louisiana -- eventually.

At present, it doesn't matter how good your message is the city level, if the state or national GOP is walloped by straight party ticket voting. National issues shouldn't have an effect -- positive or negative -- on local concerns, because for the most part, they are much different issues. A ton of GOP incumbents lost statewide, not because they necessarily lacked messages, but because too many people were voting against someone in Washington DC, which is the exact opposite of the status quo in Rhode Island. When people are blinded by that kind of emotion or rage, innocents end up getting hurt, too.

And before it's brought up, yes Allan Fung won ... thankfully. That's largely because Mayor Napolitano already screwed the pooch there, and they need someone to do clean-up. Remember, Cranston by and large has a strong Republican presence already, Allan has great name ID, they were already in crisis, and he ran a great campaign. Rightfully, he should have gotten 75% of the vote. There were a few other exceptions here and there around RI, but exceptions do not prove the rule.

Posted by: Will at November 5, 2008 5:12 PM

Our Party is a disaster right now - the ED and Pres of the RIGOP need to be served their walking papers, and more energetic and intelligent replacements need to come in.

Posted by: A State Rep Candidate Who Lost at November 5, 2008 5:28 PM

Other than historical and ethnic ties another reason this is a one party state is that here, unlike most places, you can be for vouchers and guns and against baby-killing or rectal marriages and rise to the highest levels of the party. You can't do that as a Democrat in places like NY, CA, etc. Therefore Republicans have a built in base of both voters and a talent pool of pols in those states.

Posted by: Mike at November 5, 2008 7:27 PM

I think Mike has it right. The Dems have grabbed all parts of the issue spectrum and staked out their territorial claim. This ability comes from the fundamental, though tragic voter belief that Democrat is better than Republican at the legislative level.

Fact is, the one RI Dem party has factions that in any other part of the country would be two separate parties.

There is no solution as long as they can keep the entitlement drunk, unionist mob in control.

But we can still fight, maybe we just need to wait until their control is total so they can't possibly blame a Republican for their problems.

Maybe, in the next election, no Republicans should run and we can watch them eat their own. It won't be very productive, and we may have to suffer for a short time with the results of their lunacy, but what have the voters offered a loyal opposition so far? Just once, maybe we should all sit back and watch the show.

Posted by: John at November 5, 2008 10:20 PM

Hey Will and all you other folks with the blinders still on, let's get one thing straight.

Allan Fung won because he's a RINO, just like his boy Scott Avedisian over in Warwick. Fung sold out to the public sector unions, in particular, the Police officer's union.

The fact that some of you naieve folks still consider the Avedisians, Chafees, and the Fungs of the world Republicans is precisly the reason you have absolutely no party. Those guys are sell outs to special interest groups, plain and simple.

If you're not pro-union in this state, you ain't winning anything. Until the voters smarten up and start voting for the opposite of who the unions endorse, we'll going to be in for much more pain.

I mean, can one person from Warwick or anywher else actually tell me ONE issue Scott Avedisian is conservative on? The guy raises taxes the max amount every year, kisses up to public sector unions, offers crossing guards lifetime healthcare and pensions, ect... How is THAT guy a Republican?

Why don't any of you people actually see this? Will you ever wake up?

Posted by: Rasputin at November 5, 2008 10:29 PM

There was a Republican challenger to Sen.Ruggerio in my district.The challenger didn't walk the neighborhoods that I saw (maybe we weren't home,but they didn't leave a flyer),posted few signs and I never saw her outside a supermarket or anything,so I had no idea what she stood for.
I went ahead and voted for Ruggerio because he at least gets an A rating from the NRA.June Gibbs is a Republican and gets an F.Glad she lost.Mike is right.In RI you can be a Democrat without being a left winger.
The people at RIF sure don't like the more conservative Democrats.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 6, 2008 7:21 AM

Joe, if you want to start cleaning up the General Assembly, you need to get the dreck like Ruggerio out of there first (but the turfing of Montalbano was a good start).
Being a union guy myself, I'm "supposed" to vote for Ruggerio, right? No, I didn't. He's precisely the kind of guy that gives unions a bad name in this state, and he's a fatter fat cat than any of the Democrats with union ties who always get pounded on in here.
And if there's any truth to the campaign tactics employed by Ruggerio and his posse...this is the kind of garbage you see the Caffey clan and Freddie Cork pull in "Brotherhood." It's entertaining TV, but I don't want that representing me. If somebody came up to me in a bar and said, "Do you know who she's running against?" I'd say, "Yes, and that's precisely why I'm supporting her."
BTW, did you see Rubbers out on the trail? Didn't encounter either in my travels, but I'd probably have ended up volunteering for a ham sandwich if one was running against him.

Posted by: rhody at November 6, 2008 12:46 PM

Rhody-I've never seen the Brotherhood,but here's a funny story:My son used to live in Woonsocket and one day I was going there to visit my grandaughter and I saw this decrepit tenement with a Motel sign on it around the corner from his place.I asked him "who the f**k would spend money on a fleabag motel in Woonsocket?" and he explained it was for a "movie".
Ruggiero's opponent could've had flyers printed with her policy positions on it.She apparently never answered the NRA questionnaire.The NRA is totally party neutral in endorsements-they routinely endorse Democrats in RI.
BTW I am not a union-basher.I was a public employee union member for 26 years.I just believe in responsible behavior.(like no strikes by public employees)

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 6, 2008 9:16 PM

Believe me, we union folk in the private sector suffer for the misbehavior (whether real or perceived) of those in the public sector. We're generally realistic enough to know strikes don't work - public relations and getting our side of the story out there is really the only weapon we have left.

Posted by: rhody at November 7, 2008 12:34 PM
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