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Dan Lawlor: RI GOP Needs Reboot

Monday, January 28, 2013


If the choice is between a corrupt Democrat and an intolerant Republican, Rhode Islanders vote Democrat.

The Republican Party will not be successful if it is a party of angry, bitter men - in fact, when it has been that party, it loses, again and again. The Green Party and Libertarians will not be successful if they are only a group of core believers. People need a vision - not just of what they're against, but what they're for, where aspire to, and why.

They need a mission.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a Brown alum), recently argued that the national Republican Party needs to recalibrate, "By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington – instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport, and Cheyenne...we will not win elections by simply pointing out the failures of the other side. We must boldly paint the picture of what America can be, of just how incredibly bright America’s future can be."

In the "real" Rhode Island of Warwick and Cranston, there are actual, elected Republicans: Scott Avedisian and Allan Fung. Both are "NPR Republicans," pro-growth and socially liberal. Going further back, who was re-elected time and again in Rhode Island? John Chafee. Who only lost re-election because of the abysmal policies of the national Republican Party? Lincoln Chafee.

Moderate Republicanism in Rhode Island has produced US Senators John and Lincoln Chafee, US representative Ron Machtley, Mayor Vincent A Cianci Jr. (the first time around), Attorney General Arlene Violet, Secretary of State Susan Farmer, State Treasurer Nancy Mayer, Governor Lincoln Almond, US Representative Claudine Schneider, and the late State Representative Mary Ross.

Who exactly can far right conservatives point to as a repeated electoral success in Rhode Island? Steve Laffey (who lost in the US Senate Republican primary to Lincoln Chafee)? Don Carcieri (who, save for his differences on social issues, basically became allies with the leadership of the General Assembly in terms of economics and 38 Studios)? I concede Doreen Costa (who is a woman and active in her community!)

More than anything, the far right policies and rage in the GOP, not to mention what Jindal has called the "offensive and bizarre comments" of numerous national candidates, have hurt the chances of the local Republican Party. The Republicans don't need to echo the mill owners of generations past, but rather the good government types who founded libraries, built the public school system, and spoke for women's rights. Olympia Snowe-John Chafee Republicans are much more electable (and sensible!) than Sarah Palin-Todd Akin types.

Former Reform Party leader and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura refers to the two parties as Rebloodicans and Democrips - two gangs fighting for resources and power. Locally, it seems, people think one gang is a bit corrupt, but still delivers goods to just enough people to be successful.

A Republican Party that is for accountable management of the state has a much better shot of engaging large numbers of voters than a party that seems to give the message of, "You're all moochers! Stay away from my money and my neighborhood!"

Angry vitriol is not helping the local GOP grow. More importantly, a small, disconnected GOP hurts the state's political culture, lets the Democrats be lazy (if not egregious at times) in their vetting process for candidates, and weakens public debate. Moderate, third way Republicanism, embracing pro-growth policies and environmentalism, along with women and minority leadership, is the only version of the GOP which has a demonstrated, repeated record of success in this state since WWII.

Let's hope as the State GOP starts preparing for a new chairperson, the group loses the rage, and starts believing in Rhode Island again.


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I want to see someone that doesn't compromise.

Every time the liberal always asks for the whole pie, while those of us making the pie keep handing it over, it seems we compromise by only giving half a pie. Once that's settled the liberals eat that half and come back and request the whole of what's left of the pie again. Again a compromise and the liberals take another half, now we're down to a quarter of the pie. Again they come back for more.

All the time they're eating pie, they're passing regulations on how to make pie, what to put into the pie, what can't be put into the pie, what size oven to bake the pie, etc.

The conservatives need to say no more pie, and stick to their semi-automatic firearms.

Comment #1 by Wuggly Ump on 2013 01 28

More Republican bashing from the left. Dan you don't get it. Republicans may not have much success in RI, but let's look at RI. Now Number 1 for unemployment, ranked last for business, failing financially in most all areas. Why, Democrats that's why! Seems to me you are going after the wrong party. Do you really think gay marriage will save the state. Our General Assembly is clueless and I put you right there along with them. You also stereotype all Republicans, aren't liberals against stereotyping?

Comment #2 by Rhonda Bennett on 2013 01 28

just another liberal who can only describe the Republican Party as "angry"--- has this guy ever seen an Occupy rally? A union protest? Angry doesn't even describe libs/progressives.

just another liberal telling Republicans not to be so.....REPUBLICAN! What a laugh.

Comment #3 by Bryan Sullivan on 2013 01 28

HERE IT IS: http://www.golocalprov.com/politics/travis-rowley22/

But even if John Chafee was the wise and measured individual Democrats now claim that he was, what exactly did Chafee and his team of moderates do in terms of augmenting Republican power here in the Ocean State? By the time 2009 rolled around, the Democrat-light strategy had culminated in the most ineffective state Republican party in the nation. In 2008, the RI Democratic Party was boasting the highest concentration of party members within any state legislature. The RIGOP was a party that was known to “meet in a phone booth.”

Nice work, John Chafee.

Today, the RIGOP could still “meet in a phone booth.” But, somehow, this is all the fault of Tea Partiers. Moderates got a few decades. Conservatives get a few years.

That’s what liberals consider to be sound political analysis.

Comment #4 by Drew M on 2013 01 28

Travis Rowley already destroyed this argument....hold on...

Comment #5 by Drew M on 2013 01 28

I would like the press to start listening to the RI GOP and stop perpetuating these stereotypes. This article once again paints the RI GOP as some sort of Wild Eyed Right Wing Militia Group.

Fact is, if the RI GOP took a vote on most social issues, I doubt there would be a clear majority at all, either way. There are pro-life and pro-choice people in the party. There are pro gay marriage and pro marriage sanctity people in the RI GOP. Our own House Caucus split their vote on gay marriage AND Senator Dawson Hodgeson (R) is one of the leaders in the effort to pass it in the Senate. Whatever the issue is, you can find someone who agrees with both sides (if there are only 2 sides to the issue) within the RI GOP.

We do not believe that we need to abolish Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or Welfare. Most of us do believe that we all need to talk about these subjects and fix what is not working while preserving people dignity.

The one thing that is fairly consistent belief is that our government is out of control and needs to be reigned in. There are varying degrees of that, but most believe that the Government, both Federal and State, have over reached the bounds set forth in our Constitution.

Last, but certainly not least, is that 1 party control of our State Government has damaged our community. The press continues to be complicit in this by continually telling the voters of RI whatever our opposition wants them to say.

Comment #6 by Mark Smiley on 2013 01 28

The RIGOP needs to severe its ties with Mark Smiley, Ray McKay, and this RIRA crowd ("OWM" old white men). Their one shot of success was with Kenny McKay and Patrick Sweeney. As a former donor, I got back involved. I just hope the next Chairman can lead the GOP back for 2014, without doing more harm than good (See Mike Napolitano and the ill conceived Strike Force). And for the record, Carcieri was not the conservative candidate in that primary, that was Jim Bennett.

Comment #7 by Had Enough on 2013 01 28

Mr. Lawlor seems to advocate for the Republican Party to become "Democrat-light". A healthy democracy needs more than a singular point of view. While not being a Republican; it is hard to argue with the observations regarding the fiscal and regulatory problems one party rule has created in RI.
The Republicans need to stand for something (unlike the Democrats who stand for everything) and then sell it. There seems little commitment by the Repubs to stand tall and defend their positions. There is ample political space dedicated to the electoral impact of the Latino population. Keep in mind, these voters tend to be socially conservative. So why would they not be good prospects for another parties point of view? It all comes down to outreach and messaging.

Comment #8 by Harold Stassen on 2013 01 28

@ had enough
Nice to criticize from the sidelines and not use your name rather than roll up your sleeves and try to make a difference! The Strike Force is a group of volunteers that helps candidates with everything from honk and wakes to staffing events. It is but one cog in a wheel that is needed in the RIGOP. It is not the total solution. If you see something wrong in having a volunteer staff assist candidates perhaps you can open your wallet and support a paid staff. If you think the losses suffered by Republican candidates were due to having a Strike Force, you haven’t done your homework. It was a start and can always use improvement.

The 2012 election season also saw the RIGOP raise tens of thousands of dollars and actually give it to candidates running for the General Assembly. This had not been done in years, but it was sorely needed. With your logic was this too an error?

If you are looking to lay blame, how about offering some solutions….

How about becoming a team player instead of an ongoing negative naysayer…

Perhaps this is the root of the problem. Individuals like you who will continually bash the party and individuals in it, and then claim you are card carrying donor with only the parties’ best interests in mind, all the while insulting everyone.

Gee I guess all those older white guys are all the same. You clearly don’t know me.

Comment #9 by Michael Napolitano on 2013 01 28

@Mike Napolitano

So how did that “Strike Force” work out?

Riddle me this:

1)How much money did the RIGOP raise after Kenny left; and
2)What was the “StrikeForce” loss to win ratio.

Your answers will easily solve the conundrum of the impotence of your efforts. As Mr. Lawlor alludes to, we have no John Chafee’s, Claudine Schneider’s, Nancy Meyer’s, etc. to promote the RIGOP. So maybe the RIGOP needs to look in the mirror and stop scarying away viable candidates who would otherwise be with the RIGOP (See Gina Raimondo and Rory Smith). But I guess you have the numbers to be picky and see if they pass a purity test. Further, your fundraising efforts are dwarfed by what we did in the 80’s and 90’s. Moreover, why would I stay involved with those circus events you call meetings? FYI that was a rhetorical question.

-Kevin Brown

Comment #10 by Had Enough on 2013 01 28

Today's Democrats are pretty all much tax-and-spenders who have no problem driving up huge debt (George Bush and his Republican Congress did the same...).

However, the Progressive Democrats who own the White House and Senate move far beyond mere face-in-the-trough generosity. They're out to transform the nation into a socialist nation sporting a big, inpenetrable bureaucracy. I absolutely reject their vision.

The only ones who I see right now who can take on the socialist ideologues are the Republicans -- a reformed Republican Party is needed that stays on point regarding fiscal responsibility. Bobby Jindal's vision happens to be a very good one.

So, I'll be with the Repubs.

Comment #11 by Art West on 2013 01 28

The RI GOP doesn't need to moderate its message it needs to modernize its message.

1) More social media usage for getting our message out.
2) Getting the word out from freshman to seniors in high school.
3) Better ideas at coming up with solutions to problems rather than pointing out the problems.
4) Outreach to Hispanic, Asian and African American Business Owners and their communities.
5) Develop more YR programs on all 7 college campuses
6) Better education on what the Republican party stands for rather than what the Democrats define us as being.
7) We need to Renew, Refocus and Re-energize as a party.
8) Build a "Farm Team" and run candidates for local city and town committees state wide. Take control of as many city and town councils as possible. Run candidates for school committee where most city and town tax dollars go.
9) It comes down to Money, Media and Message. We have a good message, lower taxes, people keeping their money rather than the government - federal, state and local taking it, municipal pension reform, smaller state and local government. These are all good ideas. We simply need to build on delivering a better message.

If a candidate wants to run for office the local city and town committees need to support them with volunteers and education on how to run and what is required. Especially since Representative and Senate districts may cover several cities and towns.

So Mr. Brown can continue to complain along with all the other naysayers, or he/they should join their local city or town committee and get involved. Is it easy, no. But nothing worthwhile ever is. If it was easy everyone would do it. Politics is not an easy game in RI, but it is winnable provided you have foresight and vision. Mr. Brown has two choices, he can help the RI GOP and his local committee or he can sit down and shut up.

Comment #12 by Mark D on 2013 01 28

Had Enough or Kevin Brown (whatever disguise he chooses to use) is clearly a lib bent on attacking Republicans under the premise of once being involved. Then he supports the comments of the liberal author of this column. Are you kidding me! This is the problem in Rhode Island, clearly one party rule that is clueless and killing our state. Go ahead stick up for them! You'll never get it!

The Obama title wave happened nationally, and in fact Republicans lost many races in states that Obama won. How about doing some research before you make ridiculous comments? I get real tired of reading comments from self proclaimed know-it-alls who have no clue.

Comment #13 by Scott Dickerson on 2013 01 28

I see a lot of solid RIGOP individuals running for state and local positions, some are successful based on their own team building and many are not successful because the team did not get built out for a winning effort. There seems to be plenty of support for corrective action in our state agenda that will lead to an economic rebirth but it takes a strong message and feet on the street. We are a small hands on state and that is the way the voters respond with a personal touch, whether is is the candidate or a team member, the voter wants to be represented.
We need to build to deliver one elected position at a time and support those candidates state wide. Build a team and we will win more votes.

Comment #14 by Gary Arnold on 2013 01 29

Sadly, there is a complete void of leadership in RIGOP. The Strike Force is a joke. Napolitano is a loudmouth and a bore. He has never ever been involved in a winning campaign. People are turned off by those who yell and constantly whine that the voters are stupid. (They are but they don't respond by being told that over and over again).

I hear there are two overweight white men who want to chair their party... this is pathetic. As an Independent who leans Republican, I actually feel sorry for them. Perhaps they should just stop and do some serious soul-searching before holding an election before another middle-aged white guy does even more damage.

They are also gutless. What the hell do they stand for? Smiley]s comments above are indicative that they are clueless.

Comment #15 by Marisa Picardi on 2013 01 30

Everyone, I would like to introduce Marisa Picardi. She is not a registered voter in the State Of RI. Not only that, there are no records of her ever having been. Who Marisa is will remain unknown, sort of. He is probably one of the middle aged disgruntled white armchair quarterbacks standing in the back of the room mumbling about how he would do this or that better, but never has the actual guts to step in front and lead. Please go back under the rock you came out from under so that when we need a coward, we will know where to find you.

Comment #16 by Mark Smiley on 2013 01 30

Welcome to the wonderful world of politics where individuals take shots at you without doing there homework, and use fictitious names.

As the Republican Chair in Lincoln I have been involved in many local victories. I was Communications Director and Press Secretary for the John Robitialle for Governor campaign and yes we did lose by 8,000 votes.

With the RIGOP we put together a plan to assist candidates for the General Assembly. It also included the funding of campaigns. Something not done is decades. I was part of a team effort. Marrisa Picardi (clearly another false name) if you think that giving candidates support and money is a joke, than you clearly don't get it. But what is clear is that you are out to get in the last word and insult those of us who are trying to make a difference. Perhaps you will create yet another screen name here? Also you lob stereotype insults all the while attempting to lecture about stereotyping the voters. You clearly have an agenda.

Never a dull moment in RI politics....

Comment #17 by Michael Napolitano on 2013 01 30

Reading the posts here made me chuckle a bit! As a board member of Strike Force I have to say that none of us like Michael Napolitano and Mark Smiley and others ever threw our hands up and post negative crap on the Social Media or call talk shows spitting out insults while sitting on our BUTTS doing nothing. We spent countless hours in our efforts to get folks elected and in a Presidential year when the odds were totally against us. Yes, we could have stayed home and complained like some of you here doing nothing but "Rubber Necking" looking at the accident as you drive by on your merry way. Instead we jumped in anyway and gave it a good shot. We have all had our individual successes in our towns or running other campaigns, but we at least can say we tried. Will we try again????....of Course and will you complain again....of course, as you know no other way than sit do nothing and complain. I am cool with that, if you just want to be a complainer and toss out insults while eating popcorn go for it. In the end we put our heads on the pillow knowing we gave it our best. As for you................ you'll continue to throw out insults to justify your existence. I guess it must be "That when we are kicked in the Rear, it must be that we are in Front." Thanks for the entertainment.

Comment #18 by Stephen DeNuccio on 2013 01 30

With regards to Dan Lawlor in this article.... the GOP does NOT need a Reboot in my opinion being we are using computer terminology here I much prefer CTRL - ALT - DELETE .

Comment #19 by Stephen DeNuccio on 2013 01 30

The only thing in RI that needs a reboot are the democrats. They are ruining our state. Those of you working to make a difference in the republican party, keep it up as it is not going unnoticed. I attended 2 events where strike force volunteers were helping and they were great. Also several of the candidates who received help were very appreciative. No doubt the individuals lobbing the insults are democrats or the individuals in the republican party who are really the ones dragging it down and want everything to stay the same and insult anyone who sees the need for change. (definition of insanity)

Stay the course and ignore the fools. There insults show their true colors.

Comment #20 by Rhonda Bennett on 2013 01 30

Wow, Inspector Smiley... aren't you the bright light? I am indeed a registered voter... Picard is my maiden name which I use professionally and I use my legal married name as a registered voter here.

How pathetic that would dismiss the comments of someone who actually matters... an independent voter who used to lean Republican... but when I see those with big egos ... loudmouths like the three stooges of the GOP here... who offer nothing of real substance to anyone like me... well, it just boggles the mind.

By the way, Mr. Napolitano, my pals in Lincoln tell me that you are famous for using pseudonyms on FB and here online ... this is just a case of you guys getting caught ... you've got no ideas just an overblown sense of your own importance.

Now let's tell the truth... the Strike Force was an epic fail... you got your butts kicked... and you can't even take a moment to reflect upon what you did wrong. Definition of insanity: these people who think they can run a State Party. Ick.

Comment #21 by Marisa Picardi on 2013 01 31

I can't get over how guys who think they are leaders in a state party snipe and reply to commentary here. It's all so petty.

GOP NEEDS A BOOT... not a reboot. They don't know what the hell they believe ... they stand for nothing. I'd prefer voting for a blue-collar Democrat... at least I know he's a corrupted sellout.

Comment #22 by PHIL MURPHY on 2013 02 01

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