November 7, 2008

A Way Toward a Better RI Future

Justin Katz

Seeing some of the bright spots in the election results for Rhode Island listed on one page gives a sense that things can change, not the least because it shows that I understated their breadth the other day. The nature of the Republican and reform victories also provides some valuable insight for the Republican Party that doesn't involve, as Dan Yorke suggested, blowing the party up for a year or two:

1. Republicans can overcome the straight ticket curse if they provide compelling candidates lower down on the ticket. It's easier to convince voters that a particular candidate — a fellow townie — is worth a non-Dem vote than it is to do the same with somebody at a higher, more-distant level. Succeed at that, and not only does the straight ticket box go blank, but the face of the RIGOP becomes a friendly neighbor.

2. Town-level political action groups work — in two senses of the word. They'll work in the sense of putting in hours to elect a slate of candidates with immediate and direct power over matters of local interest. And they work in the sense that they can get people elected.

So, let me amplify what I've already said. The RIGOP should forswear state and national elections and invest in town candidates and support town groups. (It will be key, in the latter effort, just to support them — not to trample them with requirements or superseding actions.) These local people will become better known, redefining the Republican Party as they go, and in very short order will find it an easy matter to challenge unpopular state-level incumbents.

And whether or not the RIGOP wises up to the need for a basic, longer-term retooling of its strategy, citizens of Rhode Island who wish to save the state from calamity ought to step up and do so.