THE GOP PUP TENT
June 25, 2014 -- In kowtowing to Conservative Party bosses by withdrawing its nomination of Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy as its candidate for the 13th Assembly District seat over objections to his having performed two same sex marriages, the Nassau County Republican Committee has completely abandoned the “Big Tent Party” ideal of the past and opted for a pup tent strategy – pandering to a tiny, narrow-minded element that is completely out of the mainstream on social issues.
With 88,000 registered voters in total, the 13th district’s 23,405 registered Republicans make up 26.5% of the electorate, while Conservative Party registration totals 620 or .7%. In other words, there are nearly 40 Republicans for every one Conservative. Nonetheless the GOP has chosen to grant equal if not greater power to the Conservative Party leadership in choosing candidates, and it appears that it has exercised that power to insure candidates conform to its extreme views on social issues. That should alarm mainstream Republicans, as it no doubt greatly shrinks the pool of highly qualified and electable candidates, many of whom embrace every other aspect of Republican orthodoxy. Even prominent conservatives Dick Cheney and Ohio Senator Rob Portman would be disqualified from receiving the endorsement of the Nassau County GOP because of the disproportionate power granted to Conservative Party leaders.
It appears that the GOP has chosen to concede the election to incumbent Democrat Assemblyman Charles Lavine by endorsing an ostensibly ideologically pure candidate who lost by nearly 30 percentage points the last time around, rather than offend an organization whose endorsement may be able to bring in an additional one or two percent of the vote in races outside of the more progressive 13th Assembly district.
There was a time when Republicans proudly promoted the ideal of the “Big Tent Party” – a party united by core principles, values, and goals, but one that also reached out to a variety of interests, and that welcomed differing points of view with regard to how those principles and goals could best be advanced. While the slogan may simply have been self-serving rhetoric, at the very least there was recognition that inclusiveness is an important American value, and that simply pandering to narrow interests is not a strategy for long-term political success. The difficulty in advancing such a political strategy is that it requires Big People to carry it out.
It’s time for Republican Party leaders within and around the 13th Assembly District, both elected office holders and appointed club leaders, to have the courage to publicly stand up for diversity of opinion within their own party, even if they don’t support same-sex marriage or Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy. If not, then their party truly is a pup tent party – big enough only for those with the narrowest of minds.