With the right plan, the GOP may rise again – By George J. Marlin
The following appears in the January 1-7, 2010 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Throughout most of our nation’s history, New York has been an electoral battleground state. In the 38 presidential elections since 1860, Republicans and Democratic presidential candidates have each carried the state 19 times. During that same period, New Yorkers elected 17 Republican governors, who collectively held the office for 75 years, versus 76 years for 20 Democrats.
New York has, traditionally, had a vital two-party system because, politically, the state was evenly balanced. Upstate rural and downstate suburban voters trended Republican while inner city folks leaned Democratic.
Since the mid-1990s, however, New York’s Republican Party has been self-destructing. It all started when Governor George Pataki’s political consultants convinced him that the best approach to winning elections was to abandon conservative principles, become Democratic-lite on fiscal and social issues and buy off government employee and health care unions.
This leftist pandering strategy may have worked for Pataki, against weak opponents, but it has had a devastating impact on his party and our state. In a twelve-year period, 1998-2008, the GOP lost the office of governor, attorney general, a U.S. Senator, 12 assemblymen, their 42-year hold on the state senate and nine congressional seats.
The 2006 gubernatorial results proved the awful condition of the party. The Republican-Conservative nominee, John Faso, received 29 percent of the votes cast statewide and 14 percent in New York City—all time lows.
There is also another reason why New York’s political balance has dissipated: Oppressive taxes and regulations have caused industries and people to flee the Empire State. A recent Manhattan Institute study revealed that between 2000 and 2008 New York experienced a net migration outflow of over 1.5 million people. Many of those people who moved to seek opportunities elsewhere were registered Republicans and Conservatives.
Vast areas in western and central New York, once the reddest political regions, have emptied out. Scores of farms and manufacturing plants have been abandoned. Once thriving population centers have become ghost towns. As a result, a majority of jobs north of Putnam County are now government and healthcare related. And those dependent on the state’s largesse for their paychecks are voting for big government Democrats.
The newly elected GOP state chairman, Ed Cox, has an incredible opportunity to rebuild his party. He should emulate predecessor Bill Powers (1991-2001) who rebuilt the Party from the bottom up, and created a starting bench of candidates that culminated in the election of a New York City mayor in 1993 and a governor in 1994.
So far Cox has been lucky. The anti-tax-and-spend voter backlash in November resulted in numerous local GOP victories including country executive races in Nassau and Westchester.
But his real test will be in 2010. My recommendation is Cox commits most of his resources next year to regaining majority control of the Senate. Suffolk’s Brian Foley, who embraces the extreme leftist Working Families Party and voted for same-sex marriage, is vulnerable as are several upstate Democratic senators. If successful, the GOP will have a seat at the important 2011 redistricting table. If not, the party could be gerrymandered out of existence.
As for the statewide races, Cox should reach out for new faces to fill out the ticket. Voters should be spared aging retreads with a history of losing statewide races. To present a squeaky-clean image, the GOP should avoid nominating candidates who have made their living as lobbyists.
Finally Cox should not fall for liberal pundits’ warnings that he must resurrect the “Rockefeller liberal wing” if the N.Y. GOP is to survive. He should learn from Nassau’s Ed Mangano and Westchester’s Rob Astorino who proved that responsible fiscal, economic and social conservative views still matter to many voters—even in a deep blue state like New York—and that principled lower tax, smaller government positions resonate even in the age of Obama.