The Nassau Republican Committee of yesteryear exerted great influence in the body politic of our state. The election results from Nov. 6 once again prove this is no longer true. While in prior years the party boasted a full congressional delegation and a complement of elected officials in Albany, today we have shrinking stature, clout and power because of calcified tunnel vision.
The question for the Nassau GOP’s current leaders is whether they are capable of performing the honest post-mortem necessary to allow the party to be competitive. If so, here are some suggestions for them to consider:
1. Promote a brand.
The objective of a sustainable political party is to advocate for well-grounded values and ideals that represent the voters. Republican candidates in the past have run on a “We’re not them” platform. We must instead rededicate ourselves to principles that voters can easily identify with our candidates and our party: Fiscal responsibility, unblemished ethics, limited government, transparency and easier access to the ballot. Our party is tarnished when officeholders ignore the party’s principles to advance and enrich their interests at the taxpayer’s expense. Common-sense legislative initiatives can be effective campaign rhetoric for office seekers but we must deliver on our promises if we are to be trusted to lead.
2. Actively help good candidates win.
We cannot be a relevant political organization without consistently offering serious and substantive contenders. Nassau GOP leaders have taken our voting base for granted for too long by ignoring Republicanism in exchange for a misplaced expectation of blind loyalty. Even in districts where our candidates didn’t lose, tallies from the last election cycle confirm the percentage of support in traditional strongholds has greatly diminished. We must promote candidates who stand for something or we become nothing.
3. Build a farm team.
Outreach is key to finding new and more viable candidates who are willing to run for public office and can articulate and espouse Republican principles. We must expand the candidate search process beyond remaining the party of the clubhouse, by the clubhouse and for the clubhouse. Our party needs to break away from nepotism and those with prior ethically challenged dealings.
Joseph Cairo, the new Nassau County GOP chairman, has a unique opportunity to infuse energy, vision and hope for the future by casting a broader net for potential candidates and supporting efforts to allow easier access to more candidates to run for office.
4. Give disaffected Democrats a place to go.
As Albany moves further and further to the left, Republicans need to welcome both unaffiliated and disaffected Democratic voters who are looking for an alternate choice for their votes. The opportunity to win over increasing numbers of voters can come only when Republicans stand for something distinctly different from the high-tax/regulation agenda of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. GOP principles are a natural fit for these voters.
This summer, as I went door to door while running for the Assembly against an establishment candidate in the only GOP primary in Nassau County, I heard a familiar refrain. Local Republicans voters are not only angry with the entrenched politicians, but also are eager to have their personal and party principles promoted and advanced in the political arena.
Our party’s leaders need to decide whether they are willing to consider something other than a diminishing status quo. The path to future victory for Nassau Republicans depends on that choice.
James Coll, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the State Assembly, is the founder of ChangeNYS.org, a not-for-profit good-government advocacy group.