The Rhode Island GOP seems to be divided. At least, that is the impression which the media would like to impress on readers. The same false divide has emerged throughout the nationwide press. Despite the poor national showing of the Republican Party in 2012, the same party controls thirty governorships, with supermajorities in state legislatures across the country. Conservatives and liberals were willing to join forces and create a coalition caucus in Washington state, normally perceived as a liberal state where Republicans do not fare as well.
In Rhode Island, the leadership for the Republican Party seems fought and fraught between a "liberal" Dan Harrop and the "conservative" Mark Smiley. Just for the sake of argument, not judgment or condemnation or bias, the words "liberal" and "conservative" have been cited with "quotation marks".
Instead of allowing the outside to define the inside, every party, Democrat or Republican, must unify around one "voice", but the "voice" or the identity of the party is much more than who is in charge. The person who leads must articulate the identity of the party. For the GOP in any state, including Rhode Island, the leader must advance a vision of free markets, free enterprise, and free people; limited government, local control, individual liberty. However, individual liberty and personal responsibility must go hand in hand, like love and marriage or a horse and carriage, a union of good will and strong sentiment which the Democratic Party has sought to divide, sever, or ignore altogether.
Rhode Island has turned into a microcosm of liberal-statist-socialist policies. Rising pension obligations (promises without any pretense of paying them, apparently), tens of thousands of people on food stamps, an anti-business climate, and a hostile tax system are scaring away free markets, diminishing free enterprise, and decimating free people in Rhode Island. Republicans already have the answer, but their voice and their values now are gaining alliance to present their message.
The voice of the Republican Party is free markets, free enterprise, and free people. Once the identity of the party has been established, the stance on social issues will fall into place, whether for the more "liberal" or more "conservative" elements within the party. A more libertarian approach is welcome in the Republican Party to begin with ,since the line of thinking adheres and advances limited government, local control, and individual liberty. Social conservatives should not be treated as outcasts or cast out, either. The "voice" allows for some freedom on the values (what each person wants, and what the party wants), yet the core mission of the party does not have to change.
With the unified voice and the aligned and defined values, the Rhode Island GOP will get the votes that you need, and these principles should define not just the head but the spirit of the statewide party.
Consider this parable from the early 1970's, in which President Richard Nixon chased after votes by denying his voice and his values, compared to Elvis Presley, he kept his voice, chose his values, and got more than he imagined.
Republican President Richard Nixon enacted a massive Southern Strategy, which integrated the former "Solid South" toward the Republican Party, yet at the same time he did not trample on the civil rights issue. Yet when Richard Nixon lost his voice, gave up his values just to get the voice, he lost the popularity of the people, and the votes to stay in office in the face of growing scandals about his executive staff.
Then there's Elvis Presley, whose name, some claim, is derived from the Greek work "elpis", Greek for "hope"(also the motto for Rhode Island). "Hope" is a confident expectation of good, by the way, one in which a man keeps his voice, retains his values, and gets the votes, or the popularity, without striving.
Nixon and Presley met in 1971. While "The King of Rock and Roll" was making millions, going places, doing great things, selling and wowing crowds, he also liked to collect police badges. One evening, he decided to call on President Richard Nixon and ask for a Drug Enforcement Agency badge, which would allow him to help President Nixon prosecute drug offenses. Hopping on a red-eye flight to Washington, he penned a letter to the President, sharing his respect and offering to assist the President. Within days, the White House staff arranged a meeting between "the King and the President." Photos of this unique meeting showcase Nixon admiring Presley, not the other way around, then a handshake, and Presley got his badge.
Just for the sake of power, Nixon gave up his voice and values. He sold out to win, and he ending up losing. Presley was graced with a great voice, which he refused to give up, a voice which he had from the beginning (just like the GOP). Presley knew his values (what he wanted), and he sold out concerts and made millions. He often got what he wanted, too, which included an audience with the President of the United States.
The Republican Party, like any party, must stand for something, or it will end up falling for anything. Instead of letting the culture shape the party, the Republicans in Rhode Island have the opportunity to start shaping their culture once again, which cannot happen if they do not choose the voice (who they are), or decide their values (what they want). The "Christie" Principle applies just as well to the status of the GOP in Rhode Island: "Real leaders change polls, not follow them."
Stay with the voice of free markets, free enterprise, and free people. Argue for the values that you want: a thriving Rhode Island where everyone has their own cart, instead of the few pushing the many in only one cart. Then start singing, and get the vote!
Rhode Island GOP: Know who you are, know what you want, and then get out there and win!