Thursday, April 17, 2008

Word for Word: Henry R. Irving

[This is the first in a series of interviews I will be conducting and publishing on this blog. These interviews will collectively be titled "Word for Word"]

It’s tough being a Republican in Massachusetts, let alone Cambridge. If you’re lucky enough to survive the liberal messages broadcasted by the city’s universities and students, the state legislature is certainly stacked against you; 141 of 160 seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives are Democratic and there are few, if any, seats that even the strongest Republican candidates could hope to pick up.

Despite the challenge, Henry R. Irving has taken the position as head of the Cambridge Republican City Committee and has a plan for reestablishing the Republican brand name in Cambridge. In analyzing the current state of the City Committee in Cambridge Irving wrote in a recent memo:

“It [the Committee] is marginalized both by “Bush Hate,” however thoughtlessly, and by the record of the late Republican Congress, which undermined the GOP brand. The poor management and mean-spiritedness of the recent Healey campaign, compared to the upbeat brilliance of the Patrick campaign, make Republican efforts seem puny. Does Cambridge know the CRCC exists?”

I spoke with Mr. Irving last week and our conversation is transcribed below:


Cambridge is considered one of the most liberal cities in Massachusetts—does that limit or increase the importance of the Republican City Committee in Cambridge compared with other local Republican committees around the US? Are you a more vital group because of Cambridge's liberalism?

When I was going door-to-door in my 2006 State Rep campaign I was confronted with a contradiction. On one hand, the people I talked to were overwhelming Democratic and would not have voted for me if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, they were very concerned about how the Commonwealth was becoming a one-party state. Most said they very much appreciated that I was running.

Yes, Cambridge’s identity as such a liberal city increases the importance of the local GOP committee. Voters need balance. Providing voters with clear alternatives on key policy issues is the important thing and the CRCC can fill that role in Cambridge.

But please note what my team recognized as we worked through a marketing plan. The Republican Party can’t blame anything but itself for its weak position in Cambridge. It had a well-established brand name and it let it go. Rebuilding the brand is now our stimulating and vital challenge.

What goes into choosing which candidate the Committee will select to run in Cambridge on a given election year? Are you approaching the 2008 election differently than previous election years?

Good questions. I’ll answer the second first. We know that rebuilding the GOP brand in Cambridge is a long-term project. We won’t accomplish it by 4 November 2008. So I’d have to say we aren’t really “approaching” the 2008 election because achieving our objectives isn’t linked to it.

That leads into the first. Neither are we ready to choose candidates nor do we have any to choose from. When we are ready, we will look for candidates who hold conservative principles dearly. There are too many issues to consider and the idea of having “litmus test” positions on issues is ridiculous. Principles are our measuring stick. Note that the successful MA Republicans of the past – Messrs. Brooke, Saltonstall, and Sargent, for example – upheld conservative principles while taking progressive action on issues. (That’s “small p” progressive, as in making things easier so individuals can progress, as opposed to “Large P” Progressive, which is about telling people how to lead their lives.)

On both a local and national level, who stands out as a shining example of a politician who shares your vision for the Republican Party?

Right now, the politician who shares my vision for the Republican Party is John McCain. Thinking longer-term, the politicians I follow, among others I can’t think of at the moment, are Governor Jindal (R-LA), Senators Coburn (R-OK) and DeMint (R-SC), Congressmen Flake (R-AZ) and Hensarling (R-TX), and Rob Portman (US Trade Representative and Ohio Congressman).

If you could choose how the 2008 elections played out, what would ideally happen in your eyes? Who would you choose for Vice President if you were John McCain?

1) Ideally, John McCain would win.

2) If I were John McCain I’d choose Rob Portman as my running mate. I’d sound out John Bolton, too, because he’s objective, tough, and brilliant…but my political handlers would probably have a fit.

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