In my last two years as an Executive Board member of the Republican Party of San Diego County (a position from which I’ve resigned), I noticed a growing alienation between “rank-and-file” Republican volunteers and our County Central Committee (an elected position which I still hold). The most engaged Republican voters think we push candidates on them rather than listen to them. I covered this in my series about the RPSDC.
This isn’t just a San Diego problem.
Breitbart News reports that political consultant Pat Caddell sees this happening nationwide:
“The alienation among Republican voters is so high,” says Caddell, that conservatively “a quarter to one-third of the Republican party are hanging by a thread from bolting.” Caddell argues that GOP voters’ attitudes are “so anti-establishment,” and they give Republican leadership poor ratings.
Breitbart’s Chairman asked Caddell, “Does the math show you that there could be an uprising and could the GOP go the way of the Whig Party?” (The Whigs elected two presidents in the mid 19th century, and at one time, claimed Abraham Lincoln as a member, but quickly disappeared from the political landscape over slavery issues.)
Caddell answered by reminding Bannon that the estimate that one-quarter to one-third are hanging on by a thread is a conservative one. He explained:
The GOP leadership, the lawyers, the lobbyists, the consultant class of the Republican party, and all the big donors don’t understand that these people are angry … They are saying that John Boehner doesn’t care about them, and all he cares about is the special interests. I’ve never seen anything like this in the base of a party. And that is why the analogy to the Whigs is not so far-fetched.
This is dangerous territory for the Republican brand. Political party committees have an advantage of being able to spend unlimited money on Republican voter contact. If one out of three voters re-register to Decline-to-State, because of the feckless national leadership, the Republican Party of San Diego County will be neutered in its ability to get local Republicans elected.
My advice is simple:
1- Start voter contact in an off-election year…like right now. A quarterly mail contact costs $1-2 million. Fundraising responsibility should be delegated to elected Republicans, especially Congressmen and Assembly Members, to raise funds into the local party to support this project.
2- Distinguish the local brand from the national and state party organizations. Make “San Diego Republican” a brand which is aligned with the voters in San Diego County.
3- Re-establish the Neighborhood Volunteer Precinct Captain program…quickly. We need to get Republican volunteers talking to their neighbors as early as September of 2015. The Presidential primary elections will have people re-engaged in politics and local Republicans will want to hear from their local party.
It’s time to broaden the tent and get our voters to volunteer, join local clubs, come to county meetings, meet elected officials and candidates, and start to feel like our local leadership is engaged with them rather than dictating to them. We can do this now, and be impervious to the mistakes the national party makes or stick our head in the sand while the national party wrecks the brand.