I can definitely be a firebrand at times, and someone who aggressively holds politicians accountable. However, I also believe just as strongly in the importance of building bridges. As a party we need 50%+1 statewide to win. If we are not building coalitions to accomplish that, we are keeping ourselves from accomplishing our primary goal as a party.
Principles matter because they define what we stand for as a party, but ultimately the Republican Party is an organization created to ELECT Republicans. For those who would argue that there is no difference between the Republican and Democrat parties, imagine the gun control bill that would have passed if Democrats controlled 90% of Congress. Would we have been able to audit VDOT, pass necessary health regulations on abortion clinics, or other common sense legislation of the last four years if Democrats controlled the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion? We tried to pass many of those same pieces of legislation before, and were stopped. Have we been burned by Republicans on the state and federal level at times? Of course. However, 90% of Republicans are better than 90% of Democrats.
Over the last five years, I have seen some interesting pendulum swings in terms of who controlled the Republican Party. From 2008-2011, the McDonnell/Bolling forces largely controlled the Republican Party, an systematically worked to remove those who disagreed with them. You saw the election of Jeff Frederick as Party Chairman and his removal within one year by State Central at the insistence of Bob McDonnell. The story of the 6th District at that time is also important to remember. At the 2008 Republican Advance, Bill Bolling met with a number of conservative party leaders from the 6th District. He told them to support him for LG, or he would work to remove them from their positions. They refused to be bullied, and he followed through. In the Spring of 2010, conservatives were systematically removed from the 6th District Committee at unit meetings, and the district committee. In what was a fairly balanced committee, conservatives were left with a couple unit chairs, and one vice chairman by the end. The two bright spots in 2010 occurred when Northern Virginians united to defeat one of the most corrupt and heavy handed District Chairs in the state with the election of Howie Lind as 10th District Chair, and the election of Bill Stanley as 5th District Chair. In a move that made little to no sense since everyone knew Stanley would win overwhelmingly, Bolling tried opposing Bill Stanley’s election as District Chair.
In an effort to pass the Governor’s Mansion from McDonnell to Bolling, the vote on the nominating method for 2013 was held incredibly early, in 2011, and a primary was selected.
In the Spring of 2012, State Central and many of the District Committees were transformed. This enabled a reversal of the 2013 nominating process on June 15th to a convention.
While many conservatives came to power in this wave, what we saw was a systematic effort by Ron Paulers, or self described “Liberty Activists,” to win every State Central and RNC Delegate position available. In the middle of the process, Chris Stearns, the head of the Ron Paul movement in Virginia, made the movements intentions crystal clear.
“We want to change the Republican Party,” said Chris Stearns, the Virginia state director for the Ron Paul campaign. “We are making sure our people get in positions of leadership — in the nation, in their state, in their county and city, all the way down to the grass roots level.”
Should Ron Paulers have a seat at the table in the Republican Party of Virginia? Of course. But it makes very little sense that the Ron Paulers should win 15 of 24 RNC Delegate positions through the first 8 District Conventions in 2012, and finish with a disproportionately large percentage of the final delegate count. Honestly that looks more like taking over the table, than having a seat at it.
Now there is talk of amending the party plan to either eliminate conventions or only allow conventions at the May state convention. Either move would have incredible blowback if pushed through.
Here’s the thing. We need to be growing the party, not driving people out of it. Driving social conservatives, tea partiers, Ron Paulers, establishment types, the business community, etc out of the party is stupid. We need to be thinking strategically about what it takes to win in November. Nominate the most conservative person who can win a race, and actually build the coalitions necessary to elect them in November. Statewide in Virginia, that winning coalition is challenging to create when the business community and Richmond establishment are not part of the equation, just like it is challenging when social conservatives are essentially told they are unneeded.
Should grassroots activists of different stripes fight to make sure we have a seat at the table? Definitely. But when it reaches the point of driving those we disagree with completely out of the party, we have to make sure we really are in the business of actually getting Republicans elected in November.