â€œWe have a sizable collection of elected officials, former officials, and Party apparatchiks who have never been conservative other than by their own definition, with a long history of seeding chaos and fighting conservatives.”
The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) emphasizes personality and party loyalty over ideas and integrity â€“ and relishes personal position over winning elections.
It has never grown out of its early years as an outgrowth of the Byrd-era machine.
Itâ€™s ironic, that the emphasis on personality and party loyalty becomes the very vehicle for our collective defeat both in politics and the culture in Virginia, and now nationally to a large extent. Since Reagan, there has been the rise of the â€œsound-biteâ€ or faux conservative, where real ideas are subordinated to the bromide of the moment just to win an election. So we have politicians saying that they are for â€œlimited governmentâ€ or that they â€œwonâ€™t raise taxes,â€ but never engage in the heavy intellectual lifting to promote the moral or practical benefit of those ideas or policies.
The best Virginia example would be the faux conservative former Governor, Bob McDonnell and his $6 billion dollar tax boondoggle. Or nationally, George Bush (41) and his â€œread my lips, no new taxesâ€ disaster.
You can follow the bread crumbs of how this dismissive attitude towards serious issues, ideas and policy works its way into refusing to engage in serious discussions, or â€œissuelessâ€ campaigns. This shows up in strange ways. Only a few nights ago, I was surprised to hear a County Chairman say we â€œallâ€ had deeply held views, and strong principles, but we had to be careful about how we discussed those in the contentious politics of a very diverse Northern Virginia. I left scratching my head in wonder; how can we win elections if we canâ€™t articulate our deeply held principles, or they arenâ€™t important enough to fight for?
The recent deliberate, coordinated stacking of Republican County meetings with Democrats and county employees to thwart conservative victories, the rejection of long standing Party practice, and the cheering on of a group of individuals who are in direct opposition to the Partyâ€™s pledge and long held beliefs, is simply the latest in a long train of personal and organizational abuses that have stymied and chocked off what should have been robust growth of the RPV over the last generation.
To demonstrate just how wedded that â€œestablishmentâ€ of the RPV is to personality and party over ideas and winning elections, especially conservative victories, allow me to reach back to 2008.
Within weeks of being elected to the State Central Committee (SCC) of the RPV in 2008, I attended the state convention held in Richmond which was picking a new RPV chairman. The election featured a young upstart, Delegate Jeff Frederick from Woodbridge, taking on the sitting RPV chairman, former Lt. Governor John Hager (who also served in the Democratic Warner Administration!). I had run and defeated a sitting SCC member on the basis that the Party needed to be shaken up, and that it needed a huge dose of conservative principles to win elections, a position Frederick was espousing. I jumped into his campaign with both feet, still too green to know that the old guard of the RPV looked at Frederick like a chicken farmer looks at a fox.
Frederick ran a brilliant campaign and delivered a massive victory over the hapless Hager. Frederick was more than an exhilarating breath of fresh air; he was a direct threat to the established old guard, led then â€“ as now â€“ by the longtime RPV First Vice-Chair, Mike Thomas. I was standing on the floor of the convention, with two SCC Executive Committee members standing right behind me, and with the convention crowds still cheering, I heard this threat, â€œThis election will not stand.â€ I was dumfounded to hear Party officials openly talk about taking out a new chairman â€“ the first chairman actually elected instead of appointed in some time – and the election had not been over five minutes!
And from that day forward, the engineering of Frederickâ€™s removal went into high gear. Spearheaded by then candidate and now disgraced former Gov. Bob McDonnell, the old guard of the SCC Executive Committee and Thomas destroyed Frederick within months. Ironically, they came up with a list of vague, largely unsubstantiated â€œchargesâ€ against Frederick that at the end of the day amounted to poor communication skills on the part of Frederick.
By the time they were finished, you would have thought Frederick had done what McDonnell actually did!
A group of conservatives teamed up to defend Frederickâ€™s being voted out by two-thirds of the sitting SCC. I was proudly a prime ring leader of the defense, and took part in a â€œsecretâ€ meeting in Charlottesville, just days before the SCC meeting was to meet to fire Frederick. The meeting was called by Thomas and few other members of the old guard to bully and threaten Frederick into stepping down instead of having an â€œimpeachment trialâ€ by the SCC. Frederick refused, and ended up before the SCC, getting 18 votes in support, just one short of saving his chairmanship, and the old guard had to resort to extra-ordinary rules to oust him by that one vote.
Sadly, that is the way the RPV and many of our elected officials still work as we just saw recently with Eric Cantorâ€™s money and Thomasâ€™ leadership in the 5th and 7th Districts. The end justifies the means â€“ anything goes.
The pushback by grassroots conservatives in the 5th and 7th Districtâ€™s this year was heartening. But, just like the battle over Jeff Frederick in 2008, the old guard will not give up.
We have a sizable collection of elected officials, former officials, and Party apparatchiks who have never been conservative other than by their own definition, with a long history of seeding chaos and fighting conservatives. Conservatives can expect more of the same – just imagine if the establishment fought Democrats as hard as it does conservatives.
There is only one answer, of course. Conservatives â€“ real Reagan style conservatives, not the faux conservatives we have in abundance in both Washington and Richmond – must become a hammer to the old guard nail.
We need to hold politicians and Party leaders accountable for what they do, not what they say they do.
And, somehow, we need to raise money as a collective movement to provide the funds required to drag the Party into the 21st century world and de-emphasize personality and Party loyalty in favor of ideas and integrity.
That wonâ€™t be easy. It would mean that a mature conservative movement would have to become engaged continually in our local Party if we are going to be heard in the statewide Party. It means in the future, state delegates and senators who vote for a $6 billion tax increase pushed by a faux conservative Governor will not be rewarded with an uncontested primary. It means that a politician who claims the mantle of conservatism, yet funds party division, pushes amnesty, increased taxes, increased government and decreased liberty, such as Eric Cantor, needs to be confronted intellectually and politically.
All of this is hard. But if not us, who? If not now, when?