Submitted by Dan Quigley, Greenwich
Just when Republicans thought their Party could not possibly dig a deeper hole for itself, it has once again defied expectations. The circus that is the election for Speaker of the House of Representatives is a bi-product of yet another example of the tail wagging the dog in the Republican Party. In many ways, what is unfolding in Washington bears striking similarities to what transpired in Greenwich this past year. A minority of hardline ideologues are holding the Republican party hostage while simultaneously inflicting incalculable reputational damage to their party. All in the name of pushing the party farther right, and further out of touch with the average moderate Republican, Independent and Unaffiliated voters it desperately needs to attract in order to win elections.
The problems within the Republican Party will not be easy to solve. The party has won only one presidential popular vote since 1988 and its tent will likely continue to shrink as long as its far-right flank is allowed to commandeer its course. The twenty or so House Republicans determined to block Kevin McCarthy’s election as Speaker have put their narrow self interests ahead of all else. While Representative McCarthy is far from perfect, in the absence of any viable alternative, his ascension to the Speakership should have been confirmed, if for no other reason than to allow the House to get down to doing the people’s business. However, he has effectively surrendered to this group, rendering himself compromised should he become Speaker with the slew of concessions he has made to them in his pursuit of the Speakership.
This minority of far-right House Republicans have sent the American people a message that not only will they not work with Democrats, they won’t work with their fellow Republicans either.
This comes on the heels of Republicans’ historically poor national and local midterm election results, which were primarily driven by what Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell famously called a “candidate quality” problem and inept national and local party leadership. Subsequently, the far-right wing of the Republican party has doubled down on their losing strategies rather than taking ownership of their mistakes and changing course. This stubborn unwillingness to face political reality will only exacerbate existing problems and turn off more voters.
The question is, what can be done to get the Republican party back on track? The damage inflicted on it by Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters is profound both on a national and local level. His influence has permeated the party, and it will require political will to clean up the mess. Although recent signs suggest that his grip on the party is beginning to loosen, more needs to be done. In a heavily Democratic state like CT, smart, moderate, center-right Republicans stand a better chance of running competitive campaigns than their far-right peers. This was made abundantly clear by the results in statewide races last November, particularly in Greenwich. Local Democrats and even incumbent Democratic Governor Ned Lamont smartly ran to the middle during their campaigns, and were rewarded with resounding election victories. Simply put, CT Republicans need to nominate candidates who will appeal to a broader group of voters which will give the party a better chance to win. Real change begins with registered Republicans at the ballot box and the path to do this is through the local town party Committees.
In Greenwich, the Republican Town Committee (RTC) is responsible for nominating qualified candidates and providing them support during campaigns and once they are in office. Local party organizations can also play an important role in helping with messaging. Our RTC has lost its way. Instead of focusing on the local and state issues that matter most to voters, they have become captive by divisive national culture war issues. They have also failed with their messaging relying on controversial, pro-MAGA local Republicans to deliver a negative message to voters with disastrous consequences. Last November, this flawed strategy produced the single worst election results for Republicans in the history of Greenwich.
In seizing control of the local party a year ago, these far-right local Republicans may have changed the leadership of the party, but without any political gains to show for it, their revolt is nothing but a hollow victory. So, what can traditionally moderate Republicans do to fix this mess in Greenwich? This group likely represents the majority of their party and can determine the future path of its trajectory. There will be a Republican Town Committee caucus one year from now. In order to reset the local GOP and get it back on track, it will require moderate, registered Republicans to come out en masse and support candidates for the RTC that represent their interests and not just those of a small minority of the party. This means that moderate Republicans can no longer afford to remain complacent about what is happening locally. Apathy will continue to lead to undesirable outcomes.
My fellow Greenwich Republican Ed Dadakis had it right when he recently wrote that “the Republican message still resonates in Greenwich – if it’s the right message.” The message being peddled by the local RTC has been the wrong one. This group, much like their hardline brethren in Washington, do not speak for the majority of Republicans. If they persist in doubling down on their failed strategy, it is not in the best interest of the Republican Party or our community. As I heard a commentator say on television recently, “The far-right wing of the Republican party is burning down their own house because they are excited by the flames.”