This post contains two documents obtained by The Bull Elephant. These documents show how the Richmond-area GOP establishment around Eric Cantor prior to his defeat were not only oblivious to the coming Dave Brat tidal wave, but were convinced that their upcoming slating maneuvers in various parts of the state were going to secure them great victories in their efforts to reclaim power they had lost in 2012.
(To avoid silly semantics arguments, note that we use the term “establishment” here in the way that it is commonly understood).
Upfront, I should say that I have no objection at all to people organizing around common principles to win party offices. That’s a good thing, as it helps engage more people in our processes who agree with the rest of us on the vast majority of the issues. I mean this sincerely.
Further, a lot of the folks involved in the Virginia Conservative Network are good and decent people who are genuine conservatives and/or dedicated Republicans who conduct themselves with honor. I cast no aspersions in the direction of such people.
However, the documents we’ve obtained show that the leaders of the VCN embrace a rather cynical view of politics, and a disdainful view of conservatives.
The first document is an email exchange from April 2014 involving former 3rd Congressional District GOP Chairman Mike Wade, RPV First Vice Chairman Mike Thomas, former 7th District GOP Chairman Linwood Cobb, former Lieutenant Governor John Hager, and Chesterfield GOP Chairman Donald Williams. This exchange shows that its attachment was authored by Wade, and edited by Thomas, before Wade then forwards it to former Del. Tom Gear, indicating that Wade is being paid for the work he is doing (the bit about Wade being paid is important to note for later):
And this [sic] the almost finished letter. let me know what you think? [sic] Btw I woke up to you [sic] text. Sorry for being so lost but this letter is key to me seeing reserves
(Emphasis added). Then comes the attachment.
Entitled, “Restoring the Republican Brand,” the document attached to the email is a tactical and strategic roadmap for what was to become the VCN.
Their goals? Some nice sounding words about improving the party’s image (which they and their allies Ray Allen, Eric Cantor, and others were in the process of trashing across the state with slating). This was going to be accomplished by building a “grasstops” (not grassroots) organization and social media presence across the state to promote their “center-right” philosophy.
But to what end, really? To this end:
To begin to change the leadership of the RPV at all levels to a more center-right philosophy.
To re-unite our Elected Officials, Party Leaders and Grassroots Activists as one team, strengthen grassroots support for our elected officials, and increase involvement by Elected Officials in local, District and State GOP committees.
To “re-unite” elected officials with the party machinery…but only after throwing out what they regarded as the conservative barbarian horde that stormed their castle starting in 2009. This is where slating and the 2014 mass meeting season comes into play.
The strategic plan was written in April 2014, well after the slating scandals had begun—but well before they had been undone. Hence, the plan’s crowing about their “direct efforts” (i.e., organizing slating campaigns) paying off in the Second District (Virginia Beach FAIL), Fifth District (Campbell FAIL and Fauquier FAIL), and Third District. These efforts were planned to be fully realized “over the next 30 days” from the third week of April.
Except that didn’t happen. Their plans backfired. In the Third District, the slating efforts were focused on Richmond (where it worked) and Henrico, where it failed famously, and began the acceleration of the establishment’s 2014 tailspin. So heavily invested had this crew been in successfully slating in Henrico, they were then completely shocked when 3rd District Chairman Christopher Stearns was re-elected to the seat formerly held by the then-disgraced Mike Wade, and did so with a 2-to-1 margin.
What DID happen within those next 30 days? A seismic event within the Virginia GOP: the 2014 7th District GOP convention where Cantor’s right hand man, Linwood Cobb, lost to Fred Gruber with the help of a network of grassroots conservatives led by Russ Moulton.
I encourage you to read the document for yourself. Lots of interesting inside baseball stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here are some interesting additional tidbits:
– Claiming as a victory the election of John “Slater” Ferguson, who not only at that time had actively opposed Republican nominees in Campbell County, but did so again after he was ousted for inviting Democrats to come and elect him at a Republican mass meeting.
– Celebration of the (soon-to-be-overturned) victory in Fauquier of folks who actively invited “Democrats, Progressives, Independents, Libertarians – all registered voters in Fauquier County” to participate in the election of the Republican chairman and members of the Republican committee.
– Cheering as a “positive change” the replacement of the conservative Del. Brenda Pogge with Del. Jackson Miller on the State Central Committee.
– The active cooperation of 6th District Chairman Wendell Walker, despite his representations to others that he was a faithful member of the Conservative Fellowship.
– Establishing a “New Media Team:”
“This Team is being formed and will include bloggers and new media guns to help shape messaging and build a favorable media perception leading up to and continuing through 2016. ” Hmmm…I have no idea what this could mean. Really, I’m just stumped.
“This Team will activate other individuals who will respond en masse to blog posts and comment to diffuse or refute the opposition.” Sound familiar?
“By showing a dominant presence in the world of the blogs and social media we will be able to change the dynamics and strengthen the message of members of our team, especially Republican legislators and elected officials.” How’s that ‘dominant’ thing been working out?
But here’s my favorite nugget, where the plan is to encourage more active participation in local unit committees by members of the House and Senate Caucuses. I agree this is a good idea. Just not in the way the proto-VCN folks do:
This is very important not only for 2016, but more importantly for 2015. We need vibrant local committees in order to win elections for the General Assembly in 2015 and, in some case, to forestall as many primary challenges as possible.
(Emphasis added). Folks, that’s the money graf right there. It’s a fundamentally different view of the role of a political party. On one side you have folks who have banded together because of shared ideas and shared principles who want to see those principles carried into representative bodies. On the other side you have folks who have banded together to enjoy and protect their proximity to power, so they protect friendly incumbents at all costs and without regard to the principles they claim to hold. (Yes, I realize that’s unfair to many people, but I’m really only talking about a certain set…you know who you are).
Read the whole thing below, and stay tuned for our next installment!