Positive Convention Plus Suggestions
Last weekend most of the members of Maryland's Republican State Central Committee realized survival was impossible if they remained in the formation of a circular firing squad. By Saturday afternoon's adjournment, only a very few had any desire for self-inflicted political wounds.
Every human I have encountered involved in the political world agrees the Republican Party needs to make some changes to draw voters back into the fold. The Maryland Republican Party knows it, too, and is in need of a full body make over. Last weekend's MDGOP Winter Convention – much to my surprise – metamorphosis appeared to have started.
Sure, the temptation for negative vibes was constantly present; after all, the party suffered quite an election blow just 24 days prior. However, the theme carried away was one of positive motion.
Yes... there was some very important and frank discussions (as it should have been), but no one was fired, condemned, sanctioned or publicly blamed for previous actions. Thank you's were expressed; recognitions received; and debate on issues before the convention was lively, open and civil.
A detailed plan for the future of MDGOP was laid out before the membership of the State Central Committee and for 30-minutes was intently absorbed. Opportunity for working on new committees and restructured committees were offered and the party appears of be flowing toward renewal of the basics of winning – direct one-on-one voter contact.
The positive nature of what could have been a very negative weekend was the best indication of the desire to seek change rather than play the blame game. In that spirit of change here are a few ideas members of my beloved party might consider. Some of the following thoughts are uniquely mine, while others were gleaned from many conversations before during and after the convention.
· Run the party like a bona fide business operation. Pay your State Party Chairmen and hold them accountable to the MDGOP Executive Committee like a CEO who is held accountable to a board of directors. Try as they might, a chairman, who is totally a volunteer, cannot expend the time, effort or energy to be successful while simultaneously trying to provide for their family as a breadwinner by also holding a full-time, real-life job. Times have changed. The political world gets more technical and complex each election cycle. It is time for the party that is the champion of small business to act like one.
· 2. Opening your primaries to unaffiliated voters should be debated. It was tried once over a decade ago and was not well received. Again, times have changed. Offering opportunity to participate in the Primary Election process is not only a form of outreach to a segment of voting population, but an excellent way to introduce GOP candidates into many households earlier – the earlier the better!
· 3. Candidates for all GOP offices should be required to collect a set amount of signatures to gain ballot access. This is accomplished in other states successfully. The benefits are several. It eliminates the candidates who do not work, or who just enter the race without much thought. It increases the party’s activity and "buzz" within the community – as all candidates must seek the proper amounts of signatures. These signatures are also an indication to the party of pre-election support from the public. Think about it... if a candidate cannot get enough signatures for ballot access – what is the realistic chances of them winning against a hard-working opposite party opponent? There is nothing to lose – except lazy candidates.
· 4. Republican Central Committees need to endorse candidates pre-primary. The job of the party should be to place its best candidate in nomination. Other states have committees that "endorse" a selected nominee. Most are "red states." Think about it. The party falls one step short on the job of recruitment (of candidates) when they do not endorse 100% of those they recruit.
· 5. Move away from incumbent endorsement, otherwise a true farm team will never be grown. Good potential candidates give up when everyone must stand in line for 16 to 20 years. Effective, hard-working GOP incumbents will have no problems being re-elected or "endorsed." Who would ever logically throw away their all-star players? However, those not making the grade of effectiveness would be out -creating space for a new generation of candidates as the farm team members climb the political ladder. (You should support term-limits too. Be leaders and change county charters – especially in GOP dominated counties.)
· 6. Create both a long-term and a short-term plan...and stick to it. This flows back to suggestion number one. Be a business. Don't re-invent the wheel every cycle. Make a plan, create goals, modify the plan as conditions change and make new goals as the old goals become accomplishments. If this is perpetuated from chairman to chairman and executive committee to executive committee each cycle, it will breed success and spawn additional investors.
Someone told me last weekend that they felt like they were defeated and lying at the bottom. I asked them, if so, why they bothered to attend at all. They answered, with a smile, "I'm not lying face down – I'm looking up."
That one answer was the best summary of the MDGOP convention.