WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — June 24, 2019 — We all need a functional Republican Party. One-party rule never turns out well.
The trend lines in New York have been easy to see. For 20 years the GOP has been in a steady, inexorable decline. Its Assembly delegation is below a third of the house. Its Senate delegation clung to power through a series of deals with the governor and some Democratic senators until it was swept away in the 2018 election. It doesn’t come close in statewide races. It regularly loses suburban counties. Its Senate and House delegations continue to shrink.
Last week the Republican Party leadership shook off its lethargy and boldly proclaimed that it would … continue down the same path. Say what?
Erie County Republican Chair Nick Langworthy chased incumbent state GOP Chair Ed Cox from the field quickly and cleanly. While it’s hard to know absolutely what caused it, it’s fair to say that Langworthy successfully accused Cox of being insufficiently Trumpish and insufficiently conservative.
While these are perfectly fine grounds on which to settle an intra-party fight, it is equally fair to point out that this is a prescription for continued electoral decline. However well Donald Trump is doing in Utah or rural Cattaragus County, he is deeply unpopular with most New York voters, including a lot of Republicans. However attractive Langworthy finds the conservative bent of the Tea Party or candidates like Claudia Tenney, who lost a safely Republican district in the heart of the state, New York voters are infinitely more moderate and progressive.
Langworthy is plainspoken. He says he believes the Republicans can resurge if they emphasize abortion restrictions, cutting state taxes and reducing state spending.
As personal beliefs, he’s entitled to his opinion. As a prescription for electoral success, he is unconnected to reality.
Ideas matter. In New York there have been enormous generational and demographic changes. Voters are no longer anti-abortion. They are not in favor of bigger and better corporate tax cuts and giveaways. They want state government to address income inequality, mass transportation and affordable housing. They want functional public schools. Where does the new Republican leadership stand on these issues?
No one should abandon ideas or principles merely because they are unpopular. But the job Langworthy now has is supposed to improve the ability of Republicans to win elections. That simply won’t happen if he treads the path he talks about.
There is a growing likelihood that major segments of the old Republican Party will look elsewhere for political companionship. Third parties, nationally and in New York, look increasingly attractive to Republicans who don’t share the persistent turn towards Trump and hard-edged, reactionary social and economic policy.
Politics is not just technique and building an organization. Republicans, both leaders and voters, will eventually have to clarify their ideas and values. It would be better if that brought the state party closer to state voters. It doesn’t seem likely.
This Richard Brodsky Commentary was first published by TimesUnion
(https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Richard-Brodsky-State-Republicans-are-lost-and-13898189.php) on May 26, 2019.
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Richard Brodsky is a former New York State Assembly member.