Steven Kurlander: Real grassroots transition required: Rebuilding the GOP
So far, if you were to sum up the Donald Trump team transition, it’s pretty disappointing in terms of delivering important changes in how Washington works that the president-elect promised during the campaign.
For the most part, the present transition period is dominated by insiders from the Grand OLD Party, threatening the promise of a freethinking Trump White House and the promised change that America yearns for.
Trump’s victory was rooted in a hope for true change in not only in the way Washington governs, but also in terms of changing the political system to be more responsive and representative of the true majority of American people.
That included remaking and revitalizing a stratified and lethargic Republican Party that not only did everything possible to thwart his candidacy, but has proved incapable of truly connecting with a majority of Americans nationwide.
If one thing is certainly obvious, it’s that President-elect Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election by putting together a truly grassroots populist campaign that won the hearts and minds of disillusioned Americans.
These voters, many of whom had never voted or stopped voting, came to the polls to vote for Trump, or against Hillary.
What defined this Trump swing group? These were the voters that both the Democratic and Republican parties had forsaken or taken for granted over the last two decades.
Trump and his loyal, core staff ran a brilliant guerilla-style campaign, using unorthodox messaging and strategies that reached a 21st-century silent majority.
Nowhere was this more true than in the make-or-break battleground of Florida.
There, they fought with limited financial resources a victorious three front war against both the Democrats and Republican parties as well as the mainstream press, too.
In fact, Florida was ground zero in that regard for Trump, whose team lead by seasoned political operative Karen Giorno and self-funded by the candidate not only knocked out former Florida Governor Jeb Bush before March 15, but leveled Senator Marco Rubio in his home state primary by winning 66 of 67 counties in the GOP primary.
The agile, lean and mean Florida methodology crafted by Giorno became the populist Trump blueprint for victory in November as she was elevated to national coalitions and grassroots operatives, as well as the Director of Women’s Engagement and took the show on the road to North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
It worked, carrying these states for Trump on Nov. 8 and gaining unheard of percentages in Democratic strongholds like Palm Beach County.
“Karen Giorno understood how to win Florida for Mr. Trump and she did just that. Then she took that playbook to the other battlegrounds states. She’s a winner,” said former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez, who strongly supported Trump.
But after such a brilliant victories in Florida and other states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the fear of the new Trump coalition has the GOP striking back — and leaving Trump loyalists like Giorno scratching their heads wondering how the RNC is taking credit for a victory they had very little if nothing to do with.
Instead, the GOP that Trump conquered is now getting an undeserved second lease on life. They are also now rewriting the election narrative to claim sole credit for his win, especially in Florida.
More troubling? you don’t hear anything at all about making changes to the Republican Party.
In order for the GOP to survive, the achievement by Trump’s campaign of fusing the GOP faithful with independents and disenfranchised Democrats must be taken further to move the nation forward with a durable coalition.
In addition to delivering on his campaign promises on trade, immigration and job creation, Trump also must “shake up” the present GOP party apparatus by bringing his original campaign and populist political philosophy into a new, rebuilt populist Republican Party.
More importantly, unless Trump remakes a “Grand New Party” as his own brand of new American political reality, and includes members of his original “Trump” team from the campaign, he will quickly lose the goodwill of those that elected him to office.
What looks right now like a “Bush-league” GOP domination of a Trump Administration certainly won’t result in making American Great Again, much less than ensuring a doomed presidency from the start.
Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary and writes for FloridaPolitics.com. He is an attorney and communications specialist living in Monticello, New York.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.