President Trump’s rhetorical style is to preach to the converted, tailoring his words and policy proposals to members of his base.
Nicholas Langworthy, the new chairman of New York State’s Republican Party and a supporter of the president, does not have that luxury. Langworthy, elevated this week from GOP chairman in Erie County to the new post, knows he has to court new constituencies throughout this blue state to win over more voters.
We will no doubt disagree with some of Langworthy’s political priorities, as we do with those of the Democrats, but we wish him well in reinvigorating New York’s GOP. De facto one-party rule does not benefit our state in the long run. When one party is in charge, it gives the more extreme elements room to assert themselves, without the counter-balance of a moderate element needing to compromise to get things done.
In his speech outside Albany on Monday, Langworthy acknowledged the need to broaden the party’s base.
“We’re a party with a natural appeal to suburban and downstate neighbors, a party that includes like-minded Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Caribbean Americans – people of all religions, the poor and the middle class, homeowners and renters, private sector employees and those who serve our public,” he said.
Langworthy, 38, convinced fellow Republicans that he has the energy to revive the Grand Old Party, contrasting himself with his predecessor, the 72-year-old Ed Cox.
It’s more than a generational shift. Cox, a son-in-law of President Richard Nixon, was associated with an old guard of country club Republicans. Langworthy is more of a red meat and potatoes style conservative. He was an early supporter of Trump and served on the executive committee of the president’s transition team.
Langworthy embraces the president’s combative style.
“If we have learned something from President Donald Trump, it’s we have to be tough enough to fight back and be aggressive,” Langworthy said Monday. “ We are done playing patty cake in the New York State Republican Party.”
Langworthy knows he faces an uphill climb. Registered Democrats in New York outnumber registered Republicans by 3.3 million. Democrats have won every statewide election since 2002.
In the State Legislature, Republicans lost eight Senate seats in November, flipping the chamber to Democratic control. The result was a flurry of progressive laws and regulations passed in this year’s legislative session. Many of those were setbacks to conservatives, but they also give Republicans something to rail against to excite their base for next year’s elections.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are two favorite targets, and speakers at Monday’s GOP gathering went after both, calling Cuomo “drunk on power” and blasting Ocasio-Cortez’s “extreme liberal agenda.”
There are some advantages to being the party out of power. It allows you to toss rhetorical bombs at the other side without the inconvenience of having to govern.
Langworthy used sports analogies to predict a “New York comeback” for the GOP. Part of his presentation at the GOP gathering was a film clip highlighting the Buffalo Bills’ famous 1993 playoff comeback against the Houston Oilers, the New York Mets’ unlikely win over the Boston Red Sox in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, and the United States’ shocking upset of the Soviet hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the “Miracle on Ice.”
It may not take a miracle to make the GOP competitive in New York politics again, but Langworthy is convinced he can give the party a sporting chance.