Commentary: Andrew Steele: ‘Unity’ isn’t political party’s answer
By Andrew Steele firstname.lastname@example.org March 5, 2013 11:50AM
Updated: March 5, 2013 11:53AM
I wasn’t at the Lake County Republican Party officer election Saturday, but from reading the coverage of it, it’s clear the party has no idea what to do to increase its competitiveness.
One thing you can be sure of is that any time a party focuses on the need for “unity,” that’s because it doesn’t have anywhere better to put its focus.
It can be convenient to identify the tensions within an organization as the cause of the organization’s performance shortcomings. And sometimes they are.
But just as often — perhaps more often — they’re not. It’s just nice (and easy) to think that if you clean up the unpleasantness within the organization, it’ll be smooth sailing to success.
The Democratic Party, it’s safe to say, has proven that unity has nothing to do with electoral success.
There’s nothing wrong with a party enjoying some kumbaya moments (although most of the Republican precinct officials clearly weren’t interested even in that on Saturday).
In the GOP’s defense, it’s not easy to see how they get over the hump in Lake County. Voting patterns, once established, can take generations to overturn.
It would be good to have a stronger county-wide Republican Party. It’s not good to have one party’s primary (in our case the Democratic Party’s) as the “real” contest. Contests between parties are more public (both in the sense of being more open and in the sense of being less personal) than contests within a party.
And, some old fashioned house-cleaning, when offices change party hands, can be a good thing.
The question is, how do you do it? The answer can’t be “unity.” Really, nobody cares except you.
And, the answer isn’t “working harder,” in some generic sense, which is another cliche you often hear. The return on phone calls, campaign donations and the like is very small. Those are more feel-good operations than anything.
Much of a local party’s fortune is determined at levels above the county. The state and national GOP are not helping their local affiliates in Democratic areas — in fact, they’ve been cutting those affiliates adrift in recent years by becoming more ideologically rigid.
So, those local parties should accept that and move on. Winning in Lake County would mean a push toward pleasing current Democratic voters where they live. Help Gary get what it wants and needs — airport control, school funding, casinos, etc. Support pro-immigrant (even illegal ones) programs and policies. Support Medicaid expansion, child care programs and the like.
Some of those things are probably impossible for Republicans to do, and certainly wouldn’t be supported by higher-ups in the state. But at the very least, don’t endorse the Richard Mourdocks of the world, wonder why you keep losing, then define “unity” as your saving goal.