AN IMPORTANT GENERATIONAL CHANGE IN OUR COUNTRY, OUR PARTY, AND OUR ORGANIZATION
By MARTHA MARKS, Chairman of the REP Board of Directors
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Originally published in the winter 2008-2009 issue of REP’s The Green Elephant newsletter
REP was proud to endorse and support — with our grassroots efforts and our PAC dollars — Senator John McCain’s campaign for President of the United States. We also endorsed eighteen congressional candidates and provided good financial support to half a dozen of them.
Of our eighteen endorsed candidates, all won except one. We mourn the loss of Rep. Chris Shays (CT), a member of our Honorary Board and one of the very best pro-conservation Republicans in Congress. But at the same time, we rejoice in the victories of Senator Susan Collins (ME) and Representatives Mark Kirk (IL), Dave Reichert (WA), and a dozen other REP-endorsed incumbents. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Senator Norm Coleman (MN) will prevail. We’re also delighted that one of our own dues-paying members, State Senator Leonard Lance (NJ), bested his Democratic opponent to win an open House seat vacated by a retiring green GOPer.
Whether one likes the results or not, the American people spoke clearly. There was no ambiguity in the election results, neither for the White House nor for Congress. Republican leaders must accept the verdict for what it was: a sharp repudiation of the rigid, narrow, and divisive style of politics that has dominated our party for several decades. We cannot afford to heed the partisan radio bloviators who argue that McCain lost because he was “too moderate” or that the way back to political success lies in simply doing the same-old, same-old and hoping that the Democrats will mess up. I believe that if we follow that road, we will be the minority party for a generation or more… and we will deserve to be.
The Republican Party urgently needs new ideas — such as a renewed emphasis on conservation and environmental protection — and a more collaborative approach to governing. The vast center of our country, where elections are won and lost, is not attracted to an ideology designed to appeal only to hard-right partisans.
When our new — and very young — president takes office on January 21, he will face a mountain of national woes. For the health of our country, Barack Obama needs our goodwill as he seeks to solve the economic, environmental, energy security, and social problems that he will inherit from his predecessors. We at REP will do our part to promote sound conservative solutions to environmental and conservation problems. We’ll encourage GOP lawmakers to act in a constructive way.
A GENERATIONAL SHIFT IN THE COUNTRY…
It’s clear that this election signaled a generational shift. Not only is President-elect Obama of a different generation from the Democratic and Republican presidents who preceded him, but so was a big chunk of the electorate, who reflected the changed economic reality, social mores, and ethnic makeup of our country.
This is not our grandparents’ America. It’s a brave new world.
My fellow Boomers have to admit that our generation’s two presidents — Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — did not measure up to the Greatest Generation’s Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
I am willing to give the next president and Congress time and patience as they seek solutions to our problems. I believe that we Republicans must work in good faith with the Democrats where we can and oppose them constructively where we must, because our country cannot afford four more years — much less eight — of partisan gridlock and incompetent governance.
IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY…
It’s clear that the Republican Party must cultivate younger, fresher leadership if it wishes to compete effectively in 2010, 2012, and beyond. I believe that the best hope for our party lies in the talent currently being developed in our states.
The Republican governors who gathered in Miami after the election represent our next great generation. Some of them — Charlie Crist (FL), Jon Huntsman (UT), and Tim Pawlenty (MN) — are already out in front on environmental and conservation issues. We at REP look forward to working with each of them as they move forward into the spotlight.
We also will be encouraging their not-yet-so-green-but-up-and-coming colleagues — most notably Sarah Palin (AK), Bobby Jindal (LA), and Mark Sanford (SC) — to employ collaborative governing strategies, build appealing track records, and be open to new approaches to key issues — like the environment — that engage younger and centrist voters.
AND IN REPUBLICANS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION…
Just as the country and our party are bringing forward a generation of younger leaders, so too is REP.
Four new members of our board — Tina Beattie, Bill Graham, Sean Kean, and Scott MacCurdy — are in their thirties or early forties, bringing fresh ideas and energy, plus a focus on higher-tech forms of communication that should enable REP to appeal to younger Republicans.
We’re also moving forward with a leadership transition announced in our 2007 Annual Report (published last spring). Attentive readers will remember that among our goals for this year was (at my request) to split the job of “president” that I have carried out without pay since 1996 into two distinct roles: chairman of the board (still a volunteer) and staff president (paid). Our members approved the needed Bylaws change last summer.
All that remained was to find the right person to take over the complex role of president and CEO of REP. We had planned to conduct a national search this fall, but a “perfect storm” combination of a collapsing economy and a hyper-contentious political year derailed that. Instead, we turned our energies into politics and fundraising to ensure a REP presence at the Republican National Convention and maintain our ongoing operations.
Yet the need to begin a transition remained obvious to all. So, in the weeks before our annual conference, the board began discussing the idea of promoting Membership and Development Director Rob Sisson into the role of president and CEO, and Jim DiPeso and Dave Jenkins into new roles as vice presidents. Those promotions were approved by unanimous vote of the board on November 6 and will take effect in January.
Also in Orlando, the board elected me to serve as chairman… allowing for a smooth transition for a few months.
Rob is a career businessman and environmental leader with a wealth of relevant experience. He’s no kid, but his 49 years compare favorably to my 62. I’m certain that he’ll live up to the high standards that REP members have come to expect. And I look forward to more time for fun travel and wildlife photography.
Please join me in wishing Rob great success… and give him the same fine support you’ve given me!