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May 21, 2009

Needed: A Different Approach for Change

Chris Cavey

Rolling up to the 2010 election it seems the predominate theme within our state is a continued desire for change. Is it a philosophical change, or a broad-brushed wholesale changing of the "professional," long-term politicians, who, regardless of party, are perceived as sharing the blame for the current political and economic situation?


Since December, my travels have carried me to almost every corner of Maryland, to various types of political meetings. The mantra within the rank-and-file is a burning desire for changing elected leadership at a statewide level. Republicans, who want their party to be relevant, know there must be intra-party change for them to reach those statewide leadership goals.


None have disgust or distain for elected Republican officials. Much of that is reserved for statewide Democrat leadership. Most Republicans know the men and women elected from their own party and see them as friends and allies. They have pride in the fact they can make a phone call to a sympathetic political ear representing their district.


Yet, why is there this presumed vacuum of statewide leadership, especially within the mainstream media? Perhaps we should look at the current political conditions to find a few possible answers.


First, it is very difficult to lead from a minority position. Just ask anyone who has ever been on the small numbered side of any vote, in any club or community association. It puts you in a situation of choosing to work from within to change, then looking like you have succumbed to agreement and are a lapdog for the other side. Or you work against the majority and become a naysayer and bomb-thrower, who constantly rails against the majority, a member of the party of "no." Neither choice invokes public perception of leadership qualities.


Next is the raw single-party dominating political game. Republican elected officials represent constituency. Being in the political minority means sometimes taking the scraps and favors allowed by the Democrat majority for the good of your constituency – like it or not.


Their forced political politeness helps ensure their voices, and that of their constituency, are heard by the ruling majority. Otherwise the Democrat leadership will shut them out and the folks at home will be effectively silenced. It is a mathematical fact of being way out-numbered and a practical instinct to want to serve those who expect you to perform.


Last is a lack of spontaneity. Long-term incumbents are battered war horses who have fought many battles and often times have no desire to think outside of the box as they once did when first elected. Just like anything else, they have learned the path which works best and have the human tendencies to reject new patterns. Everyone, in all walks of life, experience this problem.


One answer is that we need to update our communications.


We need new life breathed within our current elected officials. We also need a new generation to step up and play a new game with new tools against those who would continue to harm our economy and our way of life. We need to forget the old school Republican packaging and re-teach Maryland's voting citizens that they have choices – viable choices with good ideas.


Many Republicans yearn for the good 'ole days of Ronald Reagan. I say no. If Ronald Reagan was here today he would, of course, have the same strong principles, the same wit and the same great communication skills. However, he would not have the same presentation or use the same sales skills. He would have updated those skills to keep them fresh.


President Reagan was smart and an excellent communicator because he understood current situations. He sold to his audience in a way they understood the message. He knew his audience and he spoke to his audience.


Today he would not be selling a 1980 conservative message to a 2009 electorate. He would be communicating with current technique, making his 2009 message clear about our current situation, selling his conservative message to a new audience in terms they would understand and react positively.


He understood what most of our party does not. "This is not your father's Oldsmobile!" Or Pontiac, for that matter.


The press reports the Republican bench as thin. I dispute that. The bench is filled with individuals the press has no knowledge exist. They are smart, aggressive leaders honing their skills in county and town councils; Republican Central Committees and clubs across Maryland. The press also gives little deference to our current batch of hard-working elected officials due only to the fact none are in statewide offices.


Maryland is floundering due to Democrat abuses in manipulating our two-party system. Republicans are struggling to work within the limitations forced upon them. Soon a combination of Republican revival and Democrat adverse selection will culminate and then wholesale changes will come.


The question is: When the dust settles, will it really be a change of political destiny for Maryland, or will the electorate just switch the pieces and call it a change?


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