With the election of a new chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party just hours away, I thought Patch readers might find my New Hampshire Journal article on the race interesting:
This Saturday, New Hampshire Republicans will gather to select a new chairperson of the New Hampshire Republican Party. Both candidates are good people and whether Jennifer Horn or Andrew Hemingway is selected, the new chair will confront enormous challenges.
The new chairperson is inheriting a political infrastructure suffering from a lack of continuity. Horn or Hemingway must immediately improve fundraising, ground operations, unite the party, and begin recruiting viable candidates.
Refurbishing the state GOP will not be accomplished without first establishing a conservative message that is unifying and resonates with the public. The new chairperson must partner with Senator Ayotte and legislative leaders to actively promote GOP principles while constructively contrasting them against state and national Democrats.
I am not ignorant of my own experiences assisting to craft an effective message. During my time in legislative leadership I found that when we stayed true to inclusive conservative themes we were successful in communicating what we hoped to accomplish. When we strayed, myself included, we lost message clarity.
Crafting a clear conservative message is easier said than done. Opponents are constantly working to unfairly define the GOP. However, the next chairperson would do well to look to, perhaps, an unconventional source for guidance, Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower enjoyed enormous popularity throughout his successful presidency which, I believe, is attributable to his message strategy. Domestically, Eisenhower stuck to a few broadly conservative themes that resonated across the country.
These themes were: Fiscal responsibility, small but responsive government, individual enterprise, and future opportunity. Together they framed the Republican Party as effective, inclusive, and forward looking. Ike said, “The Republican Party is the party…which concentrates on the facts and issues of today and tomorrow, not the facts and issues of yesterday.” It was a message that attracted Republicans, independents, and discerning Democrats.
The new chairperson would do well to mirror those themes.
Fiscal Responsibility: Ike was a deficit hawk before it was vogue. He repeatedly warned against deficits and deficit spending. In his first State of the Union Address he declared: “The first order of business is the elimination of the deficit.” Ike was conscious to “avoid passing on to our children an impossible burden of debt."
With state revenues lagging, the new governor and legislature are going to face difficult choices. The new chairperson must stress the importance of a truly balanced budget and attack any budget gimmicks, taxes, or unrealistic revenue estimates that were responsible for historic deficits under Gov. John Lynch. Families must balance their budget, so must their government.
Small but responsive government: New Hampshire has changed demographically and is not as conservative as it once was. While Granite Staters do not support big government, they expect government to be actively responsive to problems.
The new chairperson’s message must strike the balance between small government and promoting solutions to problems in health care, education, and economic development. As Ike summarized, “Republicans have proved that it is possible for a government to have a warm, sensitive concern for the everyday needs of people, while steering clear of the paternalistic "Big-Brother-is-watching-you" kind of interference.”
Individual enterprise: Ike understood that America’s economic strength rested on innovation and creativity. It was also the path to social mobility and the freedom for each individual to pursue their dreams. Promoting the values of entrepreneurship in terms that every citizen can understand is critical, especially since small business is critical to New Hampshire’s economy.
Individual enterprise is not achieved through government interference but “by releasing the illimitable resources and drives of our millions of self-reliant individuals and our thousands of private organizations of every conceivable kind and size--each of these is consecrated to the task of meeting some human need, curing some human evil, or enriching some human experience.”
Future opportunity: Any successful political party must have the ability to perpetuate itself. For Ike, that meant attracting youth into the GOP: “We call to go forward with us the youth of America. This [GOP] cause needs their enthusiasm, their devotion, and the lift their vision of the future will provide.”
The new chairperson must make attracting youth a priority by crafting a message that resonates with the challenges they face. They must also highlight those areas where the GOP is finding innovative solutions that aid in creating future opportunities. For example, the new chairperson should highlight State Senator Chuck Morse’s work on a new program to help students pay for college.
While tackling the challenges facing the New Hampshire GOP will be difficult, if the next chairperson successfully taps into Eisenhower’s strategic messaging they will be in a strong position to help refurbish the party infrastructure and put Republicans on a path to long-term electoral success.
Ike was right, “We must have the vision, the fighting spirit…to sound a note of promise that out of our time there can, with incessant work and with God's help, emerge a new era of good life, good will and good hope for all.”