Monday, November 10, 2008

Whither the state Republican Party?

The state Republican Party has been decimated by decades of bad advice proffered by those who do not have the party’s interests in mind. That is why it is a small, negligible party.

During the Weicker years, in a moment of rare candor, Weicker was heard to say, “Why doesn’t somebody take it [the state party] over; it’s so small.” To this end, Weicker the maverick managed to convince the Republican state party machinery to appoint his chief aide, Tom D’Amore, as party chairman. D’Amore lately was advising the Ned Lamont campaign in its struggle to unhorse Sen. Joe Lieberman. Ned Lamont, one must suppose, is D’Amore’s idea of a boffo senator; but he is not a Republican, not a moderate and not – no thanks to D’Amore – not a senator.

Now, are we permitted to reason from the present back to the past? If D’Amore was comfortable supporting Ned Lamont, have his political preferences changed in any significant respect from the time when he was Republican Party chairman? The truthful answer is “No.” D’Amore is now what he was then. What was he then? Answer: like Weicker, a Rockefeller, Jacob Javitts kind of Republican -- and he was Republican Party chairman.

Next question: What was it that moved the leaders of the Republican Party to nominate as their party chairman a Ned Lamont Democrat? We can only speculate. Was it ungovernable suicidal tendencies? This would not be far off the mark; the road to suicide is paved with bad advice. Party central was moved by two things: 1) Weicker’s success as a “maverick” Republican and 2) an importunate state media, which admired Weicker because he was not a loathsome conservative.

Since that time, the political landscape has changed dramatically. In Massachusetts Republicans hold a mere 17 of 160 House seats, and in Rhode Island, where Weicker counterpart Lincoln Chaffee was booted from office, Republicans hold only 6 of 75 seats.

Since the Weicker era, the Republican party in Connecticut has become more negligible; Weicker and D’Amore have been put out to pasture; Connecticut has just bid goodbye to former Rep. Chris Shays, the last Republican “moderate” standing in New England, though Shays, like Weicker, preferred to think of himself as a maverick; and those who do not have the interests of the Republican Party at heart have become even more importunate.

The chatter now is that Republicans in the state must become even more moderate to survive. One is tempted to ask: More like Chris Shays do you mean? More like Weicker? More like Chaffee?

The Obama tsunami has just washed over light-as-air Republicans, moderates all, blowing them out to sea. And now here comes the avalanche of bad advice, most of it centered on the theme of moderation, pragmatism and compromise, code words signifying a spinal collapse.

It will not be long before the Obamacrats in Connecticut begin to attempt to scatter the loyal opposition by stamping their feet and calling for the resignation of the present party chairman, Chris Healy – who most certainly is not Tom D’Amore.

When that happens, Republicans should take courage from the title of an Evelyn Waugh novel: “Put out more flags.”
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