Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling is not my favorite person at the moment. The respect I had for him was greatly diminished by his handling of the 2013 nomination contest, and by his ensuing conduct around the general election. But he gets it mostly right when he talks about what our party needs to do to win.
I understand that, coming amid the palpable mood of schadenfreude after last month’s debacle, Bolling is being more than a little self-serving here (particularly after not lifting a finger to help the statewide ticket), but I have to give him credit for hitting the nail on the head…mostly.
From a Bill Bolling guest column at the Richmond Times-Dispatch today:
This weekend, Virginia Republicans will gather at the Homestead resort for their annual Advance. In light of the adverse results in the 2013 statewide elections, the focus should be on revitalizing the Republican Party and making it more competitive on a statewide level.
While there are many issues that must be confronted by Virginia Republicans, there are, in my judgment, five key things the GOP must do to regain its footing in Virginia.
I’m encouraged by the re-engagement in the GOP that this shows, but the man has a LONG WAY TO GO to re-ingratiate himself with the grassroots.
First, we must recognize that we have a problem, and that the 2013 campaigns did a great deal to damage our party and its appeal to a changing Virginia electorate.
If the results of the attorney general’s race hold up on recount, this will be the first time in 24 years that Democrats have swept all three statewide offices, and the first time in 44 years that Republicans have not held any statewide elected offices, including our state’s two seats in the United States Senate.
More alarming is the fact that Democrats have won seven of the past eight top statewide political campaigns in Virginia. The only such campaign Republicans have won since 2005 was Bob McDonnell’s campaign for governor in 2009.
We often debate whether Virginia is a red state or a blue state. We conveniently conclude that Virginia is a purple state. However, an objective assessment of recent election results would indicate that Virginia is more blue than red, and this trend will continue unless our party charts a different course.
Yes. Clearly we cannot continue doing the same thing and expect the results to be different.
Second, we must recognize that Virginia is changing, and our party must change with Virginia.
We cannot win statewide political campaigns just by appealing to conservative voters in the rural parts of our state. We must also be able to connect with more moderate and independent voters in Northern Virginia and rapidly changing suburbs in Richmond and Hampton Roads.
These voters will not be attracted to the Republican Party or candidates who are seen as being too ideologically driven, too focused on the most controversial or divisive issues of the day, or too combative and confrontational in their leadership style and demeanor.
This is not to suggest that our party should stop being a conservative party. To the contrary, we must learn to do a better job relating our conservative values to the issues Virginians care most about — jobs, education, transportation and health care. I believe a responsible conservative approach to these issues can still excite Virginia voters, just like it did in 2009 when Governor McDonnell was elected by a wide margin.
Yes, emphatically. It’s not the philosophy that is toxic, it’s the message. Poll after poll after poll show that a majority of voters in Virginia and elsewhere believe in the responsible, grown-up, conservative principles we espouse. The problem is a tendency to express those principles in a way that is too often easily caricatured as wacko or out of the mainstream of American opinion.
Third, we must recognize that the “changing face of Virginia” is rapidly moving away from our party, and in some cases being driven away from our party. An objective analysis of exit polls from recent elections shows that we are losing favor with three key demographic groups: women, young people and rapidly growing populations of Hispanic, Asian and Indian voters. We must change these trends.
With women and young people we have to more effectively communicate our views on important issues like abortion and gay rights, and with growing immigrant populations we must be open to responsible immigration reforms that show these new Virginians that we value the enormous contributions they make to our state.
While overcoming these challenges may seem impossible without compromising our values, I don’t believe that is the case at all — but it will require a willingness to listen and learn from those who hold dissenting views.
I heartily endorse this sentiment.
Fourth, we should never again nominate our candidates in closed party conventions. While such conventions might empower a few thousand of the most strident voices within our party, they effectively lock out other voices that should be heard. They too often result in the nomination of candidates who simply can’t get elected when judged by a broader Virginia electorate.
Instead, we should nominate our candidates in open statewide primaries, where hundreds of thousands of people with differing viewpoints can participate. Instead of being viewed as an exclusive party, we would then be viewed as an inclusive party that is focused on nominating candidates who reflect the diverse views of a changing Virginia.
No, a thousand times. This really smacks of self-justification of failure. Bolling twice opted out of contesting a convention because he felt he couldn’t win (or because his traitor advisor Boyd Marcus–who would make much more money in a primary–convinced Bolling he couldn’t win). But the fact remains that Bolling, prior to his petulant reaction to a challenge from Ken Cuccinelli, could have fared pretty well in a Convention, and possibly even won. Instead, the Convention electorate did indeed skew toward “the most strident voices” within the party. But that’s not because of something inherent in Conventions. Instead, it’s inherent when less strident candidates take their toys and run home instead of turning out their folks to vote. Look, Bolling had a lot of affection amongst grassroots activists. It was a mistake for him to throw that away instead of leading them and others to actually contest their views in a Convention (which, in contrast to a primary, actually allows ordinary Republicans to have meaningful input on who our candidates should be).
And finally, we must recognize that our party comprises many different voices, all of which must be valued and respected. We cannot win without “Tea Party Republicans” any more that we can win without “Establishment Republicans” or “Libertarian Republicans.” All have value.
If we allow our party to be consumed by an internal civil war, we will all lose. Instead, we must learn to work together for the good of our commonwealth. We must learn how to stand up for the values we believe in while being respectful of dissenting viewpoints and, above all, seeking common ground.
DING DING DING…And we have a winner!!! Bolling really hits the nail on the head here. We need all of the components of our coalition to win. Unfortunately, Bolling’s own actions/inactions in 2013 provide the greatest proof of this point. Had Bolling, et al, not helped cement the false “extremist” narrative by fostering prolonged schism within the party, we might well have made up the necessary 2.5% of the vote to have at least won two of the three statewide offices. Let this be a lesson to others: there is a time when you must contest your nomination process to ensure your part of the coalition has its voice heard. But when the party chooses its nominee, you must get behind the nominee whether that nominee is your guy or not. Otherwise, there is simply no reason to be part of a political party.
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Despite these criticisms, I commend Bill Bolling for these statements. I really, truly hope that they help heal some of the divisions in our party that have wanted for the leadership of a figure with the stature of our Lieutenant Governor. Overall, well done. More like this, please.