Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Republican Party Chairman

While Doug Hageman has not formally announced his availability as a candidate for Republican Party Chairman, a communication recently sent to local party chairs, vice chairs and fellow members serving on state central does not leave much room for doubt that a formal announcement is in the works.

Mr. Hageman has been active in the Republican Party for thirty years “in the trenches on a town committee,” as he put it, “as a candidate, a local officeholder, a campaign manager, and a member of State Central. I’ve attended every state convention since 1982, involved in campaigns from Dick Bozzuto and Angelo Fusco to Nancy Johnson, and 2010’s surprise victor, Rob “Landslide” Sampson, and both the current and earlier 1984 manifestations of Joe Markley,” Mr. Markley was recently elected to the state senate after a long hiatus, one of the few Republican running for office during the recently concluded elections who made it over the usual Republican hump.

While Republicans did well in the national elections – taking over the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats, making important advances in the U.S. Senate and winning important gubernatorial races – their accomplishments here in Connecticut were less stellar.

The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Linda McMahon lost her race to then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Mrs. McMahon ran a vigorous and expensive campaign against the number one star of the Democratic Party, but she was not able to prevail. Republican candidate Tom Foley lost in a tight race to then former Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy. Upon winning, the two Democratic office holders promptly changed their names to Sen. Dick Blumenthal and Gov. Dannel Malloy. The gubernatorial race was lost in Connecticut’s major cities; Mr. Foley carried a majority of towns.

In his pre-announcement, Mr. Hageman offers shrewd analysis of the losses.

Mr. Hagemen is disappointed with the efforts made by state central to capitalize on the national tsunami that swept so many Republicans into office.

The key to party restoration, Mr. Hagamen said, is to rebuild the political organization horizontally and vertically. The chairman himself should take to the road and solidify contacts between state and local parties, and state party members should be encouraged to work in the field with a view to expanding local party membership, a vertical integration that is indispensable to success.

At the same time, state central should not neglect the horizontal dimension. Contact between local leaders and activists can be as important as vertical integration. State Central and its members should take the initiative in reviving regional organizations on the legislative and congressional level: “Events which draw in good Republicans from a broad area present an ideal opportunity to give our next generation of candidate’s the critical exposure they need to jumpstart and establish effective and successful campaigns.” Candidate recruitment should be a top priority. No battleground should be ceded to the opposition, and it is especially important to take the fight to urban centers. Members of the tea party movement should be utilized, especially since many associated with the movement are so anxious to carry “a message of economic opportunity to those who need it most.” Money and message are crucial to success, but no less important are “leadership, vision, experience, fresh-thinking and open-heartedness. I guarantee you we will find communities in the cities hungry for our message.” Money follows success; it retreats from failure.

In touching on a code of ethics, Mr. Hageman comes very close to stepping on some sore toes. The state central committee must facilitate victories rather than determine winners and losers: “Race after race last year seemed to involve manipulation, with no result but defeat and hard feelings. The state chairman must be an honest broker, and the party apparatus held out of the fray. The chairman -- whether it’s me or another -- should subscribe to a code of ethics, which prohibits him from profiting on any campaign.”

The Romans during the period of their Republic, later overrun by the mad self deifying dictators pilloried by Suetonius in his “Lives of the Twelve Caesars,” used to have a saying: ‘Caesar’s wife must be beyond reproach.’ It helps a great deal if Caesar is beyond reproach as well. But there is a danger here. People not directly involved in the machinery of politics do tend to exaggerate the influence of party chairmen at a time when the parties themselves, battered by decades of “reform,” have very nearly emasculated party chairmen and party nominating conventions. One of the downers of the office is that you are given the opportunity to swallow an unhealthy amount of flack during your tenure, and the good you have done is, to slightly misquote the bard, “of’t buried with your bones.”
Post a Comment