Talk to any Republican moderate, conservative, or libertarian in Iowa and they will all tell you that the Party needs to be more inclusive if they want to win elections. The problem is while they are all saying pretty much the same thing; it means different things to different people.
So while we could sit around a table and debate what part of our party platform we should ignore, I propose that we look at getting people involved in areas that they are passionate about, and build our party that way. There is so much that Iowa Republicans need to accomplish over the next 21 months, we need all hands on deck, everyone must help in the Reconstruction effort if we are to be successful.
The first step in building a more inclusive Party is for the State Central Committee (SCC) and its new Chair, and Co-Chair to recognize that that they need to let more people be part of the process. A strong organization is built through activity and increased participation. Let’s use a church as an example of what I’m talking about. If the members of a church only show up and talk to other members on Sunday’s that church has a hard time growing and attracting new members. Every church I’ve been to understands this, and thus put a premium on its members being part of a small group. These small groups often meet and socialize outside of the church and are formed on either a shared interest or similar set of circumstances that the members are facing.
Small groups are an easy concept that’s been right under our nose for a long, long time, but the only small groups that exist for Iowa Republicans are either County Central Committees or the State Central Committee. We have failed to use issues, events, and projects to grow our Party through small groups.
Build Small Groups via Issues
We all know there are people in our Party who are passionate about one particular issue over another. Some quick examples that come to mind are Life, Traditional Marriage, Immigration, Taxes, Economic Development, Health Care, and Renewable Energy. We should be pooling our best and brightest talent in each of these areas. A group like this could be tasked with a number of things like suggesting legislation, providing talking points to our supporters and activists, and encouraging other people who share their passion on a given issue to get involved with our Party.
Build Small Groups via Events
While I think getting more people involved in small groups will help the Party fundraise, when I say events I’m not talking about things like the Lincoln or Reagan Dinners. I’m talking about events like the Caucuses, Straw Poll, and other potential opportunities to earn media coverage when they may arise. Iowa Republicans will once again host the First in the Nation Caucuses in 2012 and probably a Straw Poll in 2011. I think it would wise to create some small groups that look for ways to make these events better and more successful. We have a wealth of political talent in this state but we don’t utilize it like we should. Additionally, issues arise where we should make sure our voices are heard. For example in a few days the Iowa Supreme Court will begin hearing the case against traditional marriage in our state. It might be wise to for Iowa Republicans to organize a rally at the judicial building. It’s an easy way to have our point of view heard and a good way to bring more people into the fold.
Build Small Groups via Projects
Let’s see, we seem to have a problem with our absentee and early voter program, not to mention same day voter registration. Instead of complaining about it, we should find people who are passionate about these issues and let them come up with a plan. No matter your opinion of Rep. Christopher Rants, he is very passionate about these issues and we need to find a way to use it to build and grow our party.
Our goal for a new Republican Party should be one that engages the activist and gives them ownership in the process. Some people get nervous when the term “Big tent” gets thrown around, but if everyone has a job, or responsibility, we are less likely to bicker over the 5% of things we disagree on. The Janet Metcalf’s and Joy Corning’s of the world feel like they don’t have a place within our party. Sadly they are correct. Now they must understand that the Party isn’t going to compromise on some core principles they might not agree with, but we desperately need their help on those things that that motivated them to get involved in politics in the first place.
The SCC and Party Leadership must change they way they operate. Currently our flock only gathers at a monthly County Central Committee or a quarterly SCC meeting. We must find a way to break that mold if we ever want to grow.
I’d like to know your constructive thoughts on this or any other ideas you may have.