GOP must be the change it wants to see

By SAM REED, Secretary of State of Washington State and a REP member

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: The following op-ed was published on November 19, 2008 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 

PRE-ELECTION 2020 NOTE: REP sees a direct parallel between the ideas expresed here and those in some future, post-Trump era.


In the aftermath of the Obama Tsunami, Republicans at the state and national level are digging out and correctly spending some quality time analyzing what happened and how to move forward with rethinking, rebranding and repositioning for the days to come.

As one of two statewide Republican elected officials left standing (the estimable Attorney General Rob McKenna is the other), my hope for our Grand Old Party is that party elders, activists and donors resist the ultimately self-defeating instinct to move toward narrow ideological dogma, negativism and unhelpful government-is-bad rhetoric.

I hope the party that I have loved all these decades increasingly will be the idea-rich home of pragmatism and reform, the welcoming party of inclusion and the creative party of can-do problem-solvers. We are, after all, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dan Evans. We have succeeded for 148 years by championing individual freedom and responsibility, equal rights and opportunities for all, fiscal conservatism, strong local and state governments, a vibrant free-enterprise system, conservation of our natural resources and a strong national defense. To cant away from such mainstream American thought and away from the practical, common-sense middle is precisely the wrong approach.

I am quite certain Washingtonians and most Americans are ready for a new generation of post-partisan problem solving. Olympia has had some stellar examples of across-the-aisle cooperation and when Republicans have been at the table on such issues as water rights, construction projects and streamlining government regulations, everyone has benefitted. With the state facing a budget crisis and pressing needs in education, transportation, the environment, jobs and social justice, Olympia needs bipartisan cooperation more than ever.

Yes, Democrats have won the White House, the governor’s mansion and legislative majorities. But the election is over and America and Washington need to put politics and division aside and get on with the collaborative and creative act of governing.

Voters expect and deserve results, not sharp elbows and rank partisanship. People want solutions, government that works. A number of Republican governors, including the chief executives of Louisiana, Hawaii and Minnesota, admirably demonstrate this approach. If you look at the common thread of McKenna and myself — how we approach our duties and how we campaign — it is that we stress excellence in delivering services and solutions to people, all the people, and not pursuing rigid ideological agendas, bashing government or excluding entire constituencies.

In many ways, our state party is strong and well organized and managed to re-elect our three members of Congress and to increase legislative majorities during the Obama surge. But to grow stronger and to broaden its appeal, the party must provide real solutions and offer a voice for opportunity for all, including women, people of color, gay people and any who have been excluded from full participation in public life and economic success.

Republicans must have something to offer the broad middle class, as well as speak to the aspirations of the less fortunate. We must be “green.” (Emphasis added.) We must offer positive ideas for jobs and the economy, health care, energy independence, better schools and transportation, environmental protection and social justice. As Gandhi wisely observed, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

If history is any guide, Republicans are not consigned to permanent minority status and will rebound. Republicans’ fortunes will be assisted by positive attitudes and helpful contributions to this state and nation.

Sam Reed, a Republican who served three terms (2000-2012) as Secretary of State of Washington State, is a former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. He opted not to run for a fourth term, and retired in January 2013. REP has always been proud to count him as one of the members of our Washington State Chapter.