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OP-ED | ‘Find a Different Party’ - Advice for Potential Republican Congressional Candidates

by Susan Bigelow | Oct 18, 2013 10:00am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, Election 2014, Opinion

Say you’re a Connecticut Republican, and you want to run for Congress. Great! That’s fantastic. In fact, there’s even been a little buzz about your sort lately, what with Dr. William Petit thinking of joining the field in the 5th District. But it’s not going to be easy. In the post-shutdown political world, Republicans are even less popular around here than usual. Before you start raising money and buying yard signs, let me give you some advice.

1. Start disavowing the national GOP now. You can never be too early or too strident with this. In the last 30 years or so, the only really successful Republicans in this state have figured out where and when to break with the ever-more-unpalatable conservatism of the party as it exists west of the Hudson, and used it to paint themselves as independents. We love independents here, or so we tell everyone.

2. Don’t disavow too much, though. If you do, you’ll get a primary challenger and have to face the cranky, surly, right-wing troll brigade. Nobody wants to deal with them.

Therefore, stand with the Republican Party, but don’t stand so close that you get any of it on you. There is a sweet spot somewhere, but no one has any idea where it is.

3. Adhere to conservative principles. Who is going to vote for a person with no principles? And conservative principles are obviously a good place to start, especially if you actually have them. The right wing loves that, and they will give you money.

But if you’re too conservative inside, hide it. Your conservatism could end up being a liability, you knuckle-dragger! If you feel a certain way about the gays, want to wave “IMPEACH OBAMA” signs, or think that invading countries just for kicks is cool, you might want to keep that to yourself. Now is a good time to check and see if you’ve sent out any of those email forwards lately. You know the ones I mean.

Basically, if you don’t have conservative principles, fake them. If you do have conservative principles, hide them. This is known as the “Simmons/Roraback maneuver,” and it doesn’t work anymore.

4. Stake out positions early and stick to them. It’s really great when voters know what you stand for!

On the other hand, any time you take a position someone will attack you for being a knuckle-dragging conservative with ties to the Republican Party. In Utah, this would be a sign that you’re winning. But in Connecticut, it means you’re doomed.

Better to say as little as possible. “Taxes are ruining business” is pretty much the only safe subject. Stick to that.

5. When someone brings up the shutdown or the debt ceiling fight, change the subject. Quickly. Say that if you’d been in Congress then, you would have called in sick.

In fact, if the media tries to figure out how you might vote on things, suggest that you can’t possibly know until you’re in the thick of it. That’s what being an independent-minded representative is all about! You don’t want to interfere with democracy, do you?

6. Remember, the media is the enemy. Deride them whenever possible, so that when they run stories about how ogrish you are, you can say they had it in for you. Maybe write a long newspaper screed, make a YouTube video, or go on talk radio to complain about how awful the media is. The more epic your meltdown, the more money you’ll raise from Internet nuts.

7. Don’t put the word “Republican” on your lawn signs.

8. Reach out to women. Try to surround yourself with a coterie of non-threatening Republican women wherever you go. If you can lure M. Jodi Rell out of retirement to endorse you, better yet. If you happen to be female, which you probably aren’t, then put your first name in big letters on your signs so everybody knows it. Issue tote bags with “Women for ____” on them, in pink cursive script with flowers. When asked about what the national party’s been doing when it comes to women and minorities, claim ignorance.

9. Lastly, have you thought about looking for another party? Republicans are really unpopular around here these days. No Republican has come close since Chris Shays lost in 2008, and if the national GOP keeps doing what they’re doing, things aren’t getting better any time soon.

I hear the Whigs have an opening.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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(12) Comments

posted by: ASTANVET | October 18, 2013  11:30am

So this is what passes for journalism today… what a sad state of affairs.  Granted, it is an OP-ED, but the narrow mindedness of the progressive northeast saddens me.  Mockery, ridicule and snark is all you offer to this issue?  I don’t like the republicans that this State has offered, mainly because they aren’t conservatives.  You should be asking how the policies have shaped our society, our culture and our economy.  As a conservative, I am the epitome of freedom - I will engage in business activities with whomever wishes, without consideration of whatever status they fall under in your segmented compartmentalized world.  As a conservative, I believe in the harsh realities of budgets, of fiscal responsibility…heck of responsibility period.  That comes with it some uncomfortable conversations that we as adults should be able to have.  I believe in a State that can live independently of the Federal government, that we should be and are a free people who should be self reliant, not standing in line waiting for the next federal hand out, because once they pay for education, for health care, for building projects, we have lost the ability to manifest our own destiny.  Conservatism is about individual freedom.  About Liberty…and that government is suppose to be there not to run our lives, but tend to the basic functions between sovereign entities and above all else protect the sovereignty of the individual.  Susan, I think you miss the point about conservatism.  I don’t blame you - the GOP candidates that pass as conservatives today that you hate so much are really just progressives too - which is odd that you would have so much hate for them as they are just like the Democrats under a different color.  I would like to see a bold conservative candidate in CT.  One who is not afraid to balance the budget, lower the tax burden on the good people of CT, someone who will protect the people from the ever present encroachment of government into our lives.  You may seek a master from Hartford or Washington, I do not.  As the Great patriot Samuel Adams said, “Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you”

posted by: Historian | October 18, 2013  11:53am

as opposed to the corruption in and around the Democratic party?

posted by: robn | October 18, 2013  12:49pm

funny but the Dems are kidding themselves if they think the union coopting happening in New Haven (and the state) right now is helping them; its caused a schism from which they may not recover.

posted by: Matt W. | October 18, 2013  2:45pm

Matt W.

Given the premium that is placed on “snark” these days (which I define as: attempted passive aggressive cleverness that falls short of actually being clever). The following is my contribution. 

I think its very sweet that you care enough to try to help your political opponent.  Was that too clever?  I’ll keep working on it. Snarks seems to have filled the vacuum left by rhetorical argument and persuasive writing. Its interesting to see that we’ve advanced so far that we are now finally able to put down those old tools, no longer held down by the need to make a point or support a position. One can finally make a living on little more than arrogance, sarcasm and veiled aggression.  It’s about time. I can finally stop scolding my kids for calling names or being a ‘know it all’.  They’ll be awesome at snark!  (Hey, look at me. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it!)

posted by: StevenRosenbaum | October 18, 2013  3:45pm

This is quite a bit of writing. A good editor would have boiled this windy diatribe down to four words: Republicans Suck Democrats Rock. Perhaps the name should be changed to CT Progressive Junkie.

posted by: Doug Hardy | October 18, 2013  5:32pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked former state GOP chairman Christopher Healy to chip in an op-ed as well on the shutdown so that we covered both sides of the issue in op-ed form. It’s available here: OP-ED | Obama’s Empty Win

posted by: wmwallace | October 18, 2013  6:30pm

This is coming from a die in the wool liberal and telling republican candidates what to do. I just look at Connecticut to see how one party rule is doing and it ain’t pretty.
What the republicans need to do is stick to principle of smaller government, taxing less, and no borrowing to make the budget.
Kicking the can down the road as the governor and the CT legislators did this past budget is not helping the health of our state. That needs to change.

posted by: ocoandasoc | October 18, 2013  6:32pm

It’s easy for CT Democrats to be smug. With the national GOP adopting socially regressive polices that are anathema in the Northeast part of the country it’s hard for the CT GOP to attract voters or decent candidates. But the Dems seem to be under the impression that this state of affairs somehow gives them the right to badly mismanage the State’s affairs and its taxpayers’ dollars.  Make no mistake, CT desperately needs a strong and immediate dose of fiscal conservatism. And more lawmakers and officeholders who understand that without competent execution and oversight that’s relatively free of political patronage even well-intended policies can be detrimental to the well-being of the State and its citizens. If CT’s one-party system could make some headway on the education achievement gap, reign in the negative influence of big labor and big corporate interests, deal with looming infrastructure and unfunded pension liabilities melt-downs, turn around the nation’s worst economic growth rate, start to control spiraling living costs and tax burdens, and stop the exodus of wealthy retirees, educated and ambitious youth and growing businesses, then I believe they’d have something to crow about. But failing that (and they are!) they might want to leave the humor to others. For unless something changes , Connecticut politicians won’t be making jokes… they’ll be the punch line!

posted by: JusticePartyCT | October 18, 2013  6:37pm

Actually, I would put a call out to all citizens thinking of running to consider a third-party and steer clear of the duopoly. Both parties are working hard to place their parties first and at the end of the day, not much separates them when they are so beholden to their corporate sponsors; whether it is Washington or Hartford. Considering 42% of people in Connecticut are unaffiliated, it is clear that WE THE PEOPLE are tired of Democrats AND Republicans. Sadly, they write the rules on who gets to compete against them and the barriers-to-entry are very high. Let’s stop voting for the lesser of two evils. Carlos Camacho, Acting Chairperson, Justice Party of Connecticut, http://www.justicepartyct.org

posted by: Jesterr72 | October 19, 2013  11:37am

This is really a sad commentary on the writer and the editor who agreed to run it.  Sure, it’s an Op-Ed, but since when did this site use Alinsky tactics of ridicule & sarcasm to make a point? Do you ever run pieces ridiculing liberalism? Bigelow is not clever - just angry. Your readers deserve better.

posted by: ASTANVET | October 20, 2013  8:14pm

Justice party peeps - While i would normally agree with you… but why form something new only to be part of a broken system… I personally would like to abolish all party affiliations and caucuses (except for STATE Caucuses) or towns in the CGA - party systems only lead to ESPN type coverage and team politics - it has brought ruin to our nation… I know it’s a pipe dream, and i appreciate your efforts - But i usually look at the name of any organization or law and make the assessment that they do the exact opposite… affordable care act, patriot act, common sense gun act… you get the point.  I’ll look at your candidates as individuals and hope that they do have some common sense, principles and above all else no corporate sponsors.

posted by: justsayin | October 20, 2013  9:09pm

By around here where do you mean? Not where I live in CT, not where I work in CT. Please provide a bit of detail or fact, it seems your latest rant is void of both.