Yankee Strategy

Darwin taught us that a species must adapt to survive, and political parties are no different.

Darwin taught us that a species must adapt to survive, and political parties are no different. An ancestor of mine represented Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate as a Democratic-Republican, but like the Whigs and the Federalists that party has gone the way of the Dodo. Now some argue the Republican Party is getting ready to pass into history. There can be a resurgence of the GOP, but it will require us to accept our regional differences. Yankee Republicans, the New England iteration of the elephant, used to be stalwarts of the Beltway. Fiscally spendthrift congressmen represented constituents whose ancestors came to the New World to live and worship as they saw fit. They wanted a government that provided for the national defense and left them alone to live as individuals. Today, New Englanders have just two Republican senators from Maine and one from New Hampshire—who fend off attacks from fellow Republicans more often than attacks from the other side—and zero representatives in the House. The national brand doesn’t work in New England. It never will. New Englanders are concerned with the environment—Republicans used to be. New Englanders believe in the power of the individual no matter their race, creed or color—that’s why the GOP was founded. New Englanders believe in the need for a safety net but also in a system that empowers people to rise from their despair. The GOP has opportunity for everyone at its core. We need to remember that historic platform when positioning 21st century candidates. “New Yankee Republicans” are fiscally conservative, believe in our nation and our troops but have little passion for social issues. “Live and let live… just don’t make me pay for it,” they say. “Leave us alone to make choices for our families, our businesses and our faith.” These voters lie dormant because they rarely have candidates who reflect their beliefs. That’s not to say that a candidate who is pro-life shouldn’t say so. The best message is one that a candidate can say with conviction. But in an area whose history is woven with rugged individualism, the focus must be on a strong message of liberty. The path to adaptation and survival runs through a “big tent.” Ronald the Great once said that “bold colors and not pale pastels” were the way to strength. Bold is good. To flourish in the Northeast again, we must be bold enough to embrace our regional differences. Jonathan Scott is president of the Liftline Group, a New England-based consulting and public relations firm. He is also the chairman of Ocean State Policy Research Institute. He can be reached at liftline.group@gmail.com.

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