Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Slow Death of the Utah Republican Party

In this debacle surrounding SB54 and CMV, things are quickly reaching a boiling point. Will the UT GOP choose deep change on its own terms, or slow death by an increase in voter apathy and a continued decrease in membership?

A few years ago, I left the Republican Party when the door was open. Now, just when I think I'm ready to come back, I find the door being slammed shut. This makes me sad, not because of a lost opportunity for me, but because I clearly see a lost opportunity for the party. I'm beginning to realize the party is actually closing the door on itself. 

Robert E. Quinn, an organizational change expert, in his book Deep Change, stated, "Organizations are coalitional. The dominant coalition in an organization is seldom interested in making deep change. Hence, deep change is often, but not always, driven from the outside." 

While Quinn's research in organizational change may inform the party leadership's behavior, this issue is not a dichotomous battle between the party and the state, between the "inside" and the "outside." There are many competing coalitions involved - the state, the voters (no matter their affiliation or ideology), and the party's officers at various levels. In reality, the dominant coalition just has to meet a new and wider set of expectations.

But, without those who vote for Republican candidates (whether in the primary or general election) the party effectively ceases to exist. So, voters demands and wishes ought not to be ignored. But the party need not lose control either. 

As long as die-hard Republicans are framing this issue as a one-or-the-other debate, they will prolong the battle and perhaps never reach a favorable resolution. So, which will it be? Change from within? Or a coercive change from the outside? Either way, the process will be painful. So, which one is more likely to help the party maintain its integrity and viability?

Deep change can be painful. It requires us to challenge closely-held assumptions and creates uncertainty. But the choice of deep change over slow death brings more rewarding outcomes and opportunities than can otherwise be anticipated.

I hope the Utah Republican Party chooses wisely.