41: A Timeless Model for Connecticut Republicans
Former President George H. W. Bush will be remembered as a selfless patriot who put love for his country and family before all else. His many examples of placing bipartisanship and loyalty to his country above his political party are not only inspirational but serve as a roadmap that we, as Connecticut Republicans, would be wise to follow.
During his distinguished career as a public servant, President George H.W. Bush served as a Navy pilot, a member of the House of Representatives, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Vice President, all before he was elected the 41st President of the United States.
As Connecticut Republicans reflect on the lessons of the 2018 election cycle, there is a great deal we can learn from our 41st President. Almost immediately after this past election, some folks in our party began to point fingers, call names, and demand for tougher litmus tests and absolutism on where candidates stand on different issues. If we want to govern, we must win elections. To win elections, we must remember that we need candidates who will bring with them a broad-based appeal.
To quote G.H.W. Bush, “We are a nation of communities...a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” Setting arbitrary litmus tests for candidates loses sight of the fact that here in America, one of our greatest assets is that we are not just allowed to, but we are encouraged to practice a diversity of thought − even within our own party. As times change, so do the wants and needs of our citizens. We should welcome new ideas and diverse points of view without losing sight of our core values: limited government, low taxes, less regulation, and economic and personal freedom.
In terms of raw numbers, Connecticut Republicans have less than half the number of voters than Democrats. The same is true of unaffiliated voters. We as a party must remember that elections are about earning the greatest number of votes and we must begin to learn how to attract more people. Our focus, and the theme that unites our party at its core, is that government actions can have a myriad of unintended consequences, such as punitive taxes, and regulations that hinder progress. There is not a voter out there who would not agree with this assessment.
The lesson that we need to take as a party is that these issues are not always on the top of people’s minds and other issues matter to voters. However, they tend to matter in different ways for different areas of our state as ideology tends to be geographically diverse. Conservative candidates do well in conservative districts, liberal candidates do well in liberal districts, and moderate candidates do well in moderate districts. We must embrace this fact and broaden our party’s appeal to more voters. This point is critical in order to win on a statewide level.
As we reflect and mourn the loss of a man who showed us what it means to be a patriot and who so generously served his country, it’s important that we look to the model he laid out to gather a broad base of support. From evangelical volunteers to Wall Street donors, to grass-roots supporters in the cities, suburbs and rural America alike, G.H.W. Bush took no group for granted. He understood that in order to win elections, you have to appeal to everyone.
After all, he was not running for president of the Republican Party; he was running for President of the United States of America. If you need evidence of this strategy’s effectiveness, I would remind you that the last time a Republican won our state’s electoral votes, it was in 1988, and they went to George H. W. Bush.
Republicans can win statewide office in Connecticut, but not if we continue to point fingers, have circular firing squads, and allow ourselves to become the party of “no.” We must show the voters of this state that we have the solutions, want to work creatively to address everyone's problems, and are willing to reach across the aisle in order to implement those solutions.
Our 41st President showed us the way it can be done, all that is left is for our party to pick up his mantle and move forward.
Mark Boughton is the mayor of Danbury and was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in the 2018 Republican primary.