Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Plan to Transform the Leadership Culture of the Maryland Republican Party

            As Republicans in Maryland, we face tremendous challenges from a deeply entrenched and ruthless Democratic machine.  As our taxes rise, our liberties erode and our culture irrevocably changes, we struggle to organize a resistance that can turn the tide and restore our vision of a prosperous and free Maryland for ourselves and our children.

            A central part of this resistance needs to be a functional Maryland Republican Party that has the organizational ability to draw upon the strengths of all those who wish to oppose the Democratic machine.  A functional Maryland Republican Party is essential to accomplishing the electoral success needed to establish commonsense governance in Maryland.

            Unfortunately, the leadership culture of our state party has become increasingly insular and oriented far too much on the personal and parochial interests of individuals at the expense of our common cause.  This culture has promoted factional infighting, caused widespread disenchantment and spread distrust.  To turn the party around and to revive the spirit of common cause of all those in the Republican and conservative communities in Maryland, we need to transform the Leadership Culture in the Maryland Republican Party.

            This transformation starts by electing a different kind of Chairman.  We need a chairman willing to accept the responsibility for our party's failures and willing to spread the credit for success.  We need a chairman who has shown an ability to put their own ambitions to the side to serve a greater good.  We need a chairman who has no intramural agenda to help this faction or that group or this candidate. We need a chairman without future electoral ambitions who can establish the trust to mend fences and inspire the various groups within and around our party to buy into a plan that can translate into electoral success.

            This different kind of party leader can transform the culture of the party leadership in a variety of tangible ways.  First, by changing the way the chairman does their job.  Second, by changing the way the party raises funds. Third, by forging a working partnership between the state party, the burgeoning conservative media, Republican clubs, conservative organizations and tea party groups, to communicate the party’s message and publicize its candidates. Fourth, making candidate recruitment a collaborative goal which uses the diversity of our party as strength in promoting candidates.

            In these ways, we can make the Maryland Republican Party a functional organization which energizes all the stakeholders in our movement and empowers us to not only compete with but defeat the Democratic machine.


Organizational Structure

            The current state party leadership structure is not conducive to the collaborative communication necessary to make the party fully competitive.  The leadership is dominated by elected positions held too often by those simply looking to move up.  It is not oriented to having leadership focused on certain geographic or other areas of the party.  Moreover, it provides no inclusion for coordination with outside experts and movement leaders which can help facilitate innovative thinking and collaborative action.  Finally, it puts too much emphasis on a single person as chairman who, especially as a volunteer, can never have the requisite range of expertise and time available to handle all aspects of the job.

1.                  The “Kitchen Cabinet”

The chairman needs to assemble a group of individuals to serve as an informal group of advisors.  This group should consist of professional fundraisers, experienced campaign operatives, and leaders of various political groups throughout the state. The group would have a wide variety of expertise and can be drawn upon to assist the chairman in developing and executing successful strategies.  Moreover, this informal group can serve as a direct, albeit informal, connection between stakeholder groups and the formal party structure.

2.                  The interactivity of leadership.

The chairman, vice chairman and party staff should develop and execute a plan for interacting with both local central committees and stakeholder groups.  A series of regularly scheduled meetings, facilitated by conference call or other means, should be established.  These meetings would be kept rather small focusing on geographic areas of the state.  The goal is not just for the state party to communicate its plans but to listen to the needs and input of others in order to develop plans for which there is a mutual sense of ownership by the participants.

Fundraising

            While the party has improved its financial position in recent years it still suffers from systemic problems with its approach to fundraising.  Many of these problems are endemic of the insular leadership culture in the state party.  To improve fundraising, the party needs a plan that has both the cart and the horses.

1.                  A product to sell

A common problem with Republican fundraising in Maryland is the lack of faith of donors in the ability of Republicans to succeed and the party to function.  Donors need to be convinced not only that the party has improved but need specifics to which they can literally “buy in”.  This includes having tangible electoral goals to sell to potential donors.

One such goal is the “1914 Plan” a campaign roadmap to elect five more Republicans to the Maryland State Senate.  With 5 additional members, the Republican caucus could sustain a filibuster and stop harmful legislation from ever being passed. Such a plan would allow new and existing Republican donors to contribute directly to an effort with achievable goals and tangible benefits.

2.                  A transparent plan for fundraising

Within 60 days of being established, the new chairman of the Maryland Republican Party should issue a comprehensive fundraising plan which extends through 2014.  This plan should be developed with the improved organizational structure mentioned above, and its development should be transparent and collaborative to maximize a sense of ownership throughout the party.  A collaborative approach will also avoid scheduling conflicts with conservative groups and other stakeholders and allow greater cooperation.  An established long term plan allows for more time spent on execution and achievement of goals.

3.                  Move away from internal sources for fundraising

One of the most patent affectations of the insular culture of the Maryland Republican Party is the near total reliance the party has on internal sources of fundraising.  The party draws far too much on its own central committee members, elected officials and candidates as financial contributors and no where near enough on outside sources.  This reliance on internal sources for fundraising limits the potential growth of the party’s donor base and it takes resources away from the missions of the very groups and individuals the party is seeking to support.  A greater emphasis on external sources of funds and concomitant methods of fundraising, coupled with the specific types of electoral fundraising goals outlined above can help the party move away from its reliance on internal sources of fundraising.

Communication

            A central mission of the Maryland Republican Party should be to coordinate and transmit the party’s message.  Presenting an alternative vision of governance is Maryland is critical to electoral success and organizational improvement.

1.                  Take advantage of new media

Throughout Maryland for years, conservative and Republican activists along with growing ranks of citizen journalists have developed a burgeoning new media.  This media communicates a conservative and Republican message and often exposes the excesses of Maryland Democrats in ways traditional media cannot or will not.  It is a resource with little cost and rapidly expanding value and yet the Maryland Republican Party has never sought to work collaboratively with it or use it systematically to promote its message.

As a critical part of a communications strategy, the party needs to forge relationships with new media.  Regular conference calls, personal meetings and distribution of messaging ideas should be the first step.  Further, the state party should employ these platforms as a way to promote the dozens of Republican candidates throughout the state who often have little or no opportunity for coverage by traditional media. The state party should also facilitate interaction with new media and Republican elected officials, particularly during the General Assembly session, to coordinate message and create exposure of overlooked issues and arguments.

Candidate Recruitment

            Another glaring example of the party’s dysfunctional leadership culture is the failure to recruit Republican candidates in all of its races, most notably, the failure of the state party in 2010 to have a Republican candidate for Attorney General.

1.                  A universal goal to “fill out the lineup card”

The party should take as its goal to have a Republican candidate in every race throughout Maryland.  In times past, the party has acutely failed to accomplish this especially in jurisdictions where the party is thought as weakest.  The failure to recruit can no longer be viewed as a local issue or the failing of a particular local central committee.  We must endeavor to make having candidates in every race everywhere a universal goal and encourage all of our stakeholders to take ownership of the goal.

2.                  No adjectives for candidate recruitment other than “Republican”

With the goal of universal recruitment, the party needs to stop limiting the types of candidates it may seek to promote.  The diversity of our party is a resource best employed to encourage Republicans of many different kinds to run for office. 

Conclusion

            Our party has tremendous talent and a plethora of resources at its disposal.  The elections of 2014 can be even more successful than those of 1994 and 2002.  What is needed as a first step to the transform the leadership culture in our state party and create a functional and unifying organization that can maximize Republican electoral success.  The ideas in this document are not comprehensive and they are drawn from a wide variety of individuals and sources.  They represent the beginning of a new path for our party toward a bright, free and prosperous future for all Marylanders.

            With no illusions of the challenges, with no doubts about the stakes, I live in the faith that the activists and leaders of our party can succeed.

3 comments:

Luke said...

Greg, this is an interesting piece that deserves more thought. Thanks for writing it.

I agree with you that we must draw upon the strengths of all and revive the spirit of common cause. I believe that the Republican Party will remain irrelevant in large swaths of Maryland until it welcomes all Republicans into (and back into) the tent. Many of we "old timers" have been driven out of the party by the Johnny-Come-Latelies who self-identify as Tea Party before Republican Party.

“Moderate” may be a dirty word in the reddest of Red States, but it cannot be in a state that hasn’t had a blush on its face since 2006. And don’t forget that Governor Ehrlich would never have won without his moderate positions. We Old School Republicans welcome the Tea Party, so long as they are working toward the same goal: winning elections. The opposite is not often true.

Maryland is a Blue State. We won't turn it Purple by excluding moderates who can win soft Dem votes. By only putting Tea Party candidates up in Republican Party slots, the party will waste the money that your plan will help us to raise.

I think the first step that the state party must take is to identify its single, shared goal. Is it to win elections? Or is it to enforce an ideological purity amongst a dwindling, monoculture membership?

dwb said...

That was very well said, but the beyond putting up a good AG candidate (against soft-on-crime Frosh, who makes me sick) there also has to be a real commitment to empower republicans and citizens in liberal bastions like BC and Howard and PG County.

The face of the party in Maryland will not come from the red rural districts, it will come from the urban areas sick of being forgotten, taken for granted, where crime is out of control and kids don't get a 6th grade education, and the corrupt Dems just like their pockets with circle-jerk re-elections.

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