Whitman sees chance to rebuild Republican platform
By Joe Van Der Bogart
The Daily Targum (Rutgers)
February 3, 2009
A large crowd of University affiliates gathered in Trayes Hall of the Douglass Campus Center yesterday to hear former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman
The Democratic Party took commanding control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate and presidency on Nov. 4, leaving the Republican Party “Standing at a Crossroads.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman spoke last night to a large crowd as a part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics speaker series, “Because Politics Matters.”
Whitman’s speech, “Standing at a Crossroads: A Vision for the National Republican Party,” which centered on the idea that American politics is at a perfect time to rebuild the Republican platform, was held in Trayes Hall of the Douglass Campus Center.
“If you were at the Mall on Inauguration Day and you didn’t see a sea of change in American politics, you weren’t really looking,” Whitman said. “The worst thing we could do now is step back.”
Whitman said the election of Democratic President Barack Obama and the now complete control of both houses in Congress by the Democrats might show Republicans are losing their appeal in the new political landscape.
Republicans need to return to being the loyal opposition and need to be able to cross the aisle on more issues, she said.
“I see this as a good opportunity for the Republican Party to rebuild,” Whitman said.
Whitman used her time at the podium to touch on many negative issues surrounding partisan politics. She said it is important to maintain competition between the two parties, but not at the cost of losing bipartisanship.
“Let’s agree to disagree civilly,” Whitman said. “The only way we can get issues solved is with bipartisan support.”
The note of working together in politics to help ensure what is best for the United States struck a chord with many in the audience.
“To me, I always thought that politicians were supposed to have us in their minds when working in their offices,” said University College junior Chris Hutzelman. “What [Whitman] said about having to overcome party stubbornness in order to secure votes is particularly important, especially at times like these.”
Whitman said one of the important ways to redefine the Grand Old Party was to be able to appeal to more people while still sticking to being loyal. She said the national party began losing its connection by being too narrow in its membership and favoring hard-line ideology over core party principals.
“For me, the loyal part was always to your country and your constituents,” Whitman said. “We’re not all the same. We have to be able to appeal to different people.”
The Republican Party needs to focus on minorities and women, she said.
Whitman said a positive direction for the Republican Party was the recent choice of Michael Steele as the first black GOP chairman, which is showing that the party understands it must evolve.
Whitman said if a man and a woman have the same principles and are equally qualified, a voter should side towards the woman to ensure more diversity in American politics.
“I think it’s not only important but a necessity to have more diversity in politics,” said Rutgers College senior Jenna Moreno. “If you look around you, you don’t see that we’re all the same people. We’re all different and have different values and needs. Our representatives should reflect that.”
Whitman said the most important thing is for citizens to stay involved with politics. The only way to be heard and to see change is to get out and vote and contact your representatives, she said.
Whitman cited the Terri Schiavo case, where a poll showed 75 percent of Americans didn’t agree with Congress’ intervention, but proved the point that the 25 percent who did agree held the power because they were the only ones that reached out to their representatives.
She said it is important for voters to stay informed, and it is equally important for politicians to help inform people. She said the style of campaigning where politicians attack each other doesn’t answer the questions on what is really at hand.
“We need to have clean campaigns,” Whitman said. “We need to stay with the issues. People know when you’re BS-ing them, so clean campaigning should be how the platform goes.”