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Embrace the GOP, Save RI from Ruin

Friday, May 20, 2011


“The credit belongs to the man in the arena.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Across Rhode Island for the past several years, dozens of right-of-center activist groups have sprung up in defiance to the state’s political establishment. It has truly been a grassroots phenomenon, and it has offered hope to those who have long been waiting for the state’s silent majority to rise.

While the activism has been laudable, and perhaps an important first step, the true dynamics of Ocean State politics is still lost on many of these new conservative advocates. An inefficient political strategy is prohibiting these good people from hastening the demise of the progressives’ kingdom – a powerful enterprise that rewards failed and corrupt mayors with promotions to U.S. Congress, and hands out $90,000 government jobs to high school graduates with the appropriate family connections.

This corruption is enabled by one contemptible entity – the RI Democrat Party. Those who sought to transform the Ocean State into a progressive paradise on the backs of industrious Rhode Islanders have placed themselves in the seats of power via the party of big government.

Politics is about power. And the war is waged through the political parties.

So it’s an unfortunate scenario that, while the Democrats’ base is proud to bare the Democratic label, it has become fashionable among the conservative community and the talk radio world to criticize – even ridicule – the efforts of the RI Republican Party. At Operation Clean Government’s forum last weekend, it was not uncommon to hear a man complain about the RIGOP, receiving applause and laughter after referring to it as “the party that can’t shoot straight.” The implication, of course, was that the members of that particular audience, many of whom hesitate to become involved with the RIGOP, are the ones who can shoot straight.

It’s really too bad. Not only is the criticism of the RIGOP often overblown and unwarranted, but there’s no doubt that this attitude continues to dissuade thousands of smart and talented folks from collaborating under one Republican banner – not to join the RIGOP, but to take it over; to have it consumed by intelligent, dignified, and patriotic conservatives; to redefine and rebrand the RI Republican Party as a reliable steward of taxpayer interests. The Democrats wouldn’t stand a chance up against such a political force.

It really is too bad. Because the very lesson that progressive Democrats don’t want conservative activists to learn is that a political party is only as worthy as the people who currently comprise it – not its past performance or its traditional reputation. Therefore, every objection and censure of the RIGOP is appropriately answered with the same response: Well, then take it over. Don’t join it. Take it over.

Political Innocence

But it has been this writer’s observation that some people regard protecting their own political innocence as more important than actually saving Rhode Island from ruin. During this era of anti-government fervor, and in the midst of the Tea Party’s message that both political parties have failed to serve the people, adopting a political affiliation as their own could possibly suggest to others that they are also to blame.

The false and destructive conclusion that many have reached is that the only way to remain independent-minded and loyal to the truth is to reject a party affiliation. The result is that these good soldiers voluntarily remain on the political sidelines, content with being smarter than everyone else, participating in rigorous talk radio discussions, while Rhode Island crumbles.

Progressives surely do not subscribe to that philosophy. Indeed, progressives have never gotten anything right. Yet, they dominate Rhode Island politics. And they dominate Rhode Island politics because they have learned to control the RI Democrat Party. Moreover, they proudly market to the masses the Democratic name.

Nothing will ever change in Rhode Island without the emergence of a powerful Republican Party, which offers the perfect vehicle for conservative reform. Its platform screams for limited government, and is therefore primed to be taken over by liberty-minded activists. And it offers an immediate and significant base of voters for any politician who adorns its name. The only downside for conservatives is that, yes, they will have to call themselves Republicans.

Ironically, the mockery confirms Republicans’ promise. Within the consistent derision of the RIGOP something profound is being admitted: The state’s recovery depends on its success. After all, why would such a powerless political party continue to be the focal point of conversation if it didn’t represent the best hope for Rhode Island? The common derision aimed at the RIGOP is, in fact, a declaration of hope for its revival and overwhelming triumph over the disreputable Democrat Party.

In its uphill quest, the RIGOP sure could use some more people who know how to shoot straight.

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Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for U.S. Senate.


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