Printer friendly version

June 3, 2004

The Form Call for Individual Effort

The editorial page of the Providence Journal, by far the best part of the paper, gave Rhode Island GOP finance chairman Robert Manning the space of a column to send out the call for candidates and volunteers:

The solution, we are told on all fronts, is to elect more Republican legislators, who will restore balance in the General Assembly, ensure effective debate, support Governor Carcieri, and begin to roll back the worst of the abuses created by years of unchecked Democratic power.

Simple, right? Well, no, it isn't. The reason it isn't simple is that the whole process for identifying, recruiting, training, funding, and supporting Republican candidates in the state atrophied badly during the 1990s. People just assume that we always have fully enabled political-party machines silently humming away in the background, ready to come to life every two years, with pre-minted candidates, who spout the party line, buy tons of media space to tout their personalities or issues, and serve up clear choices to the voters.

Well, it ain't so -- certainly not yet in Rhode Island.

I'd looked into the functioning of the party before, even going so far as to seek out its Web site, but this piece inspired me actually to make contact. At the end of it, Manning provided readers with a phone number and an email address. Choosing email, I spent a little while coming up with a concise introduction for myself and sent it off. A little while later, what looked like a form note arrived in reply, instructing me to call the number from the piece.

I will, probably tomorrow, but I'm hesitant to risk being roped into volunteering substantial time. Acknowledging something from the introduction I had made would certainly have accelerated my response. Redirecting people whose preferred method of communication is email merely makes the first impression one of disconnection. A person makes contact in certain way for a reason, and offering the option, while declining to accord, as much as is reasonably effective, with that person's area of comfort makes the effort feel more like responding to a pitch than joining a movement.

Manning's op-ed presented the Republicans as the rebel party, fighting back against the establishment. If its leaders wish to attract the individuals to step forward and stand against the odds, it would behoove them to develop, from the very first contact, a sense of community, camouflaging with personal interest the impersonal processes by which they operate.

Posted by Justin Katz at June 3, 2004 11:20 PM

I thought of responding, but given my family, work and school commitments, and my desire to keep all of them rolling along, I decided against it. Kudos for making the effort. I hope that the RIGOP will become more effective and take advice from those of us with new ideas. It appears as if they have taken a good first step in making this a statewide, rather than local, election. Perhaps they should completely follow the model of the famous House election of 1994 and the Contract with America. How about a Contract with Rhode Island? Or is that too much associated in the minds of the Democrat majority in this state to the national Republican party to be effective in garnering votes?

Posted by: Marc Comtois at June 4, 2004 9:05 AM