GOP legislative leader lets party have it at Washoe GOP dinner

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey went after those trying to divide his party in a compelling speech Monday at the Washoe GOP dinner calling for an end to the "circular firing squad."

Ironically, the speech came on a night when Gov. Brian Sandoval, who tried to oust state Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, boycotted the event because of Washoe Chairman Tom Taber's Caveman Radio hosting stint.

If the Democrats are lucky, no one will listen to Hickey, who made a lot of sense. Here are his prepared remarks:

Question: Why is the gathering here tonight smaller than anticipated?  After all, Obamacare is falling apart before our very eyes. Folks ought to be flocking together on a candidate night like this as we watch the Democrats twist in the wind.


Answer: Too many other Republicans, along with many of our traditional supporters from the business community, are sitting at home tonight because they don't feel welcome here.


What is the reason? It's because we are in danger of becoming a "small tent party," not a large tent one.


To explain, let me give you the Webster definition of a "big tent political party:"


"A big tent party is a political coalition that accommodates people who have a wide range of beliefs in order to appeal to a broad range of the electorate."


Our problem as Republicans is, (whether it's the so-called "moderates" or so-called "conservatives" in control,) is that we like to practice what I call--"Pup Tent Party Politics," shooting at each other and trying to take out "our own" in primaries against Republican incumbents because they are not ideologically pure enough.


Some purists may actually prefer the "addition by subtraction" approach (the whole gets better by getting rid of undesirable factions)--but as far as an "election strategy,"--fewer volunteers, fewer donors, and fewer voters never quite lands you in the winner’s circle.


If the GOP wants to get back to the winners circle in 2014, and more importantly in 2016--we'd better reengage in our real heritage exemplified by RONALD REAGAN, in the practice of:


1.      Principled center-of-right conservatism, that is inclusive, not exclusive, like Reagan was.

2.      Clear-eyed pragmatism, instead of ideological purity--which means don't let the "perfect" become the enemy of the "good."


For the Republican Party to survive and prosper in an era where voters increasingly distrust politicians, despise political parties--and register in RECORD NUMBERS (in Nevada) as non-partisans and others--we are going to have do things that are not only "right,"but SMART! 


Like taking the advice Ronald Reagan's lived by, "Just because I'm your friend [only] 80 percent of the time, it doesn't make me your enemy 20 percent of the time [we don't agree]." (Believe me, Brian Sandoval, Dean Heller, Mark Amodei, Joe Heck, and Nevada's incumbents in the Legislature, many who are drawing primaries--are not your "enemies.")


We also should be smart when it comes to primary elections--we should listen to persons like William F. Buckley, the acknowledged founding father of modern American conservatism, who said,


"I am always for the most conservative candidate--who can WIN!" (It does not help the cause of governing to elect inexperienced persons in primaries, who play well to the base, but whose positions make them not viable in general elections.)


For the Republican Party to grow at this opportune moment when the electorate is looking for solution-oriented ideas to move more Nevadans back to economic health and a chance at the American dream for their children--we need to stake out the BIG TENT blueprint, and all invite Nevadans inside to tackle the crucial issues of our time like the economy, education reform and health care.


In that new Republican tent, we need--women and men who consider themselves--moderate, pragmatic, conservative, Tea Party, country club types, social liberals, social and fiscal conservatives, libertarians, pro-lifers, pro-choice advocates, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, American-Americans, or WHOMEVER. 


The point is to make them feel welcome, once they are inside.


Call them "Republicans in name only," if you want, but, "gather them together" in one big tent--that leads to the only thing that truly unites us as a party--and that is, winning elections!


Let me close with a local example. The story many of you read in the RGJ, of a young attorney, Luke Busby, who wrote that he changed parties from a Democrat to a Republican after his experience with both political caucuses at the last legislative session.


"Most Republicans I met with...heard me out in a fair manner, would ask engaged questions and were open to changing their minds. With few exceptions [I found] Republicans are much more sophisticated, independent and capable than their Democratic counterparts. The idea that all Republicans are racist, gay-hating evangelicals or tea party extremists is a pernicious myth, especially in Nevada."


Luke is now under the GOP tent. What can we do to attract more persons like Luke, and also keep them in order to score election gains in 2014 and beyond?


We can form a bigger tent, by no longer labeling each other as "true" or "false," but all as Republicans. As principled and pragmatic public servants, we can win elections, at a time when America and Nevada need us the most.