I’m a Republican and I’m tired. Granted, after working in New York politics and government for over 20 years anyone would be, but what I’m tired of is being called “a reasonable Republican” and hearing the refrain “if only more Republicans were like you,” and so forth.
The truth is most Republicans are, among other things: reasonable, thoughtful believers in taking care of those in need and, yes, advocates for fiscal restraint. It’s true that being a Republican operative in New York, especially in New York City, is a special challenge and requires a certain combination of determination, optimism and a bit of craziness. Thankfully, around the holidays I am reminded that I am not alone.
Between the holiday parties and all of the “catching up after the campaign” get-togethers, you see folks you haven’t seen in ages, and you get a little nostalgic for the times when Republicans enjoyed big wins—and even hit the trifecta from 2001 to 2005 with a GOP mayor, governor and president (though, to be fair, President Bush was not victorious in New York). Sure, Republicans felt pretty good back then, but we never forgot how we had to work across party lines and at times overcome the national tide.
But the last several years have been tough, especially for those who believe that solid Republican principles can be upheld while finding compromises to fix our fiscal problems. We do not need a new approach; we just need to stop letting the tail wag the dog. Think back to Rudy Giuliani; he turned New York City from the Rotten Apple to the Capital of the World, and he did it by working with others.
Today we need look only across the river to Gov. Chris Christie to see the effectiveness of this approach, not just with Christie’s fantastic response to Superstorm Sandy but with—of all people—the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, in regard to merit pay in Newark. Last month on Morning Joe Christie said, “What we’re doing is we’re showing that I didn’t abandon my principles and Randi didn’t abandon her principles.” He continued, “We found that boulevard of compromise that exists, between compromising your principles—which neither of us would ever do—and getting everything you want, which you’re never going to get.”
This explanation should be a huge wake-up call to all Republicans: Don’t be afraid to lead and govern! Currently far too many Republicans are concerned about challenges on their right—and, frankly, there are not enough Republicans willing to publicly support those who make the tough choices.
A perfect example was the recent primary for United States Senate in which the winner would face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Rep. Bob Turner, who won his congressional seat against all odds—and with the support of the Conservative Party—decided to run for the Senate. For more reasons than I have space to write, Turner should have had the overwhelming support of both the Republican and Conservative parties, but he didn’t. So there was a contentious primary.
While I support the primary process, I was still surprised by its outcome because Turner was head-and-shoulders above the other two candidates. And here’s the rub: Turner’s opponents attacked him for believing that, during a time of national economic crisis, raising taxes should be on the table in negotiations over reducing the country’s budget deficit and debt. Sadly, this tactic worked, and Turner lost the primary. To add insult to injury, the primary winner, Wendy Long, went on to get crushed by Gillibrand, receiving a mere 27 percent of the vote.
As the talks about our fiscal problems continue, it is critical for the silent majority of Republicans who believe we must find reasonable, practical solutions to our nation’s challenges to stand up. We need not compromise our principles to do so. We only have to demonstrate to those Republicans brave enough to do the right thing that we have their back and won’t let extremists take over our party.
Susan Del Percio is a New York-based Republican consultant and founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies, a full-service strategic communications firm.