Bring back a grand party

We need the Republican Party back, the way we knew it, way back when. There’s been plenty of talk, much of it negative, concerning the party. The party has factionalized, with many in the party seeking to distance themselves from the eight years dominated by the Bush White House, many drifting further to the extreme.

The Grand Old party is struggling to shape itself, project itself in terms of upcoming elections and, in slightly less than four years, a presidential election.

Much of the yammering of late has centered on the assertion that a radio talk show host is now the voice of, if not de facto head of the national party. Opponents who find the absurd assertion an effective decoy have engineered much of this attention. Talk radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, in reality, speak to a minority of Republicans, and the majority has better individuals and ideas to follow. Who in their right mind would contemplate party leadership in the hands of a radio entertainer whose job it is to jack up susceptible souls when they can look to individuals such as Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal. (Yes, Jindal’s speech following the president’s address was less than stellar, but catch him in another forum — the man is bright, articulate and a force to be reckoned with).

There are many of us who remember the party as it once was: clear in its devotion to fiscal conservatism and capitalist principles, sometimes stuffy and restrained, but balanced, also including moderates of the northern ilk. It was not, as the party seems now, pulled by narrow agendas, distorted by the loud pronouncements of extremists.

While not affiliated with either party, we believe that each of the main parties, at the national and state levels, should be clearly defined, with broad platforms, that the voters must have real choices when it comes time to cast a ballot. Not simpleminded, ideological radiohead options, but choices given birth in the bed of sound principles. This is the way our system best works.

As for the Republican Party at the local level, we believe it can be safely said it is in no better shape now than the mother organization.

The local Republican Party has long relied on a large population of, primarily, retired people who relocate here. A fresh supply of those long dedicated to the partisan vote has been a political fact of life. While that trend continues to a degree, it does not mean the party has strengthened its position. It is, in fact, losing ground.

Take a look at the last decade of county leadership, ending with the problems faced by the county in the last year and a half. Republican dominated.

Take a look at the recent county elections. One Republican was elected, and one Democrat. The Republican candidate, while more than worthy, ran against fairly weak competition. The Republicans could not mount effective opposition to the eventual Democratic winner.

And take a look at shifting demographics: Democrat and unaffiliated ranks are growing. And growing in more than numbers.

While the local Republican Party shows no sign of becoming stronger. A former county commissioner, who managed only 7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary election, has been selected as party chairman, and other officers reflect the old business as usual. This party needs a genuine shot in the arm; it must find a way to attract younger voters into the ranks and, more importantly, find a way to convince qualified and younger party members to take key leadership roles and position themselves as candidates. This will be difficult to do, given the current state of the organization.

This matters: we have not had the good sense to move county politics to a non-partisan system and until we do, strong parties are where effective leadership begins.

Karl Isberg