I was disappointed, but not surprised, at some of the reactions to my latest post calling on RPV Chairman Jack Wilson to resign. The most outlandish response came from Matt Hall whose writings really capture what is wrong with the Republican Party in Virginia right now.
Matt ignores all pretense of caring whether the actions of the 97th Legislative District Committee to cancel the convention and call for a primary were proper, or even legal. In his mind this is Jack Wilson standing up to the “extremists” and “laying down the hammer,” and this is the real problem. Matt does not see this issue as whether one side or the other followed the rules. He devolves this into a tribal issue of “us” vs “them.” In Matt’s mind this is his tribe of decent, upstanding Republicans versus those crazy “extremists” that want to “destroy the Republican Party.” When you view the conflict in those terms then just about anything is fair game in order to defeat such an insidious “enemy,” even if you have to bend the rules a little bit.
It’s not like the other side of this intra-party fight is innocent. There are plenty of people who think it’s perfectly fine to do whatever it takes to take down the “establishment” wing of the party that is “in league with the socialist democrats.” This little war has been going on for decades here in Virginia and both sides have plenty of blood on their hands. Recently, however, it has become incredibly polarizing. Both sides have dug in so deep that attending a Republican Party event feels more like a forced meeting of the Hatfields and the McCoys than it does a gathering of people who are all supposedly members of the same political party.
Debate is something that has almost ceased to exist in our party. People’s opinions are routinely discarded simply because of which side of the grassroots/establishment fence they are on. Instead of trying to rebut the arguments someone may make on an issue, we simply tear them down personally so that we can ignore what they say. Favor a primary? You’re an establishment hack. Favor a convention? You’re a radical extremist that wants to disenfranchise voters.
Aside from the hard feelings and distrust this level of tribalism creates, the worst aspect of it is that you find yourself excusing behavior by people in your tribe that you would never tolerate if it was done by someone from the opposite tribe. I expect Matt Hall would be apoplectic if this situation were reversed and the Wyatt camp had cancelled a scheduled firehouse primary three days before it was to take place in favor of a convention or mass meeting.
When faced with controversial actions from someone on your side, a good rule to follow is this: If you would oppose those actions if they were done by someone on the opposite side, then you should oppose them when done by your own side, and you should act accordingly. We have to police ourselves. That is the only way we will maintain accountability and our integrity, because we certainly aren’t going to let someone from the other tribe tells us what to do or how to act.
Contrary to what Mr. Hall may believe there are real issues with the way this 97th District issue has been handled:
- Is it valid and legal to appoint someone who is not a member of the Hanover County Republican Committee to be the official Committee Representative on the 97th Legislative District Committee? Dale Taylor had every right to replace Scott Wyatt, but must she appoint another member of the Committee to replace him? The answer to that question could completely invalidate everything that was done on May 1st.
- Can the 97th LDC select a firehouse primary as the method of nomination without first rescinding the selection of a convention as the official method of nomination? As I understand it no motion to rescind was voted on which means a convention is still the official selection method which would make the results of the May 4th convention the official results that should be certified.
- Does the 97th LDC have the right to rescind the vote to use a convention after the 30 day appeal window had closed and when so many activities have occurred that cannot be undone? Roberts Rules says “no,” and it is the governing rules for our Party Plan. If they can’t then, again, the results of the convention stand.
The issue has nothing to do with conventions versus primaries. It really doesn’t matter whether you think conventions disenfranchise voters or whether primaries let Democrats pick our nominees. Conventions are one of the three methods of nomination called for in the Party Plan. If you don’t like that, change the Party Plan. Until then, a valid process was selected, and you can’t just change it because you don’t like the result that may come of it.
The issue has nothing to do with whether Scott Wyatt was a member of the 97th District Committee. Aside from the fact that RPV State Central Committee has ruled that a candidate voting for his own method of nomination is not a conflict of interest, Wyatt did not vote on the method of nomination. There is also an appeals process in the Party Plan for exactly these kinds of issues. Chris Peace had 30 days to challenge that vote in an appeal but chose not to. When he refused to do so that issue became moot. Bringing it up now is merely an effort to deflect criticism from the actions of the Peace campaign by attempting to create some moral relativity for their bad actions. “Well Scott Wyatt rigged it first, so we’re rigging it back!” That logic doesn’t even work on the elementary school playground.
Based on Roberts Rules and the Party Plan the question of the validity of the 97th LDC’s actions would tend to lean against Chris Peace and in favor of Scott Wyatt and the results of the convention that was just held. That is why I have a serious problem with Jack Wilson’s behavior, and why I think they merit his removal as RPV Chairman.
Wilson’s actions were designed to deny the right of Scott Wyatt and other Republicans the opportunity to challenge the above stated actions which is their right under the State Party Plan. The actions of the LDC on May 1st are clearly controversial and their validity is in no way a foregone conclusion but Jack endorsed them, then tried to cut off any appeal by using the influence of his position to tell people the convention was cancelled. Had Jack Wilson been successful in preventing the convention from going forward there would be nothing to appeal and the actions of the Peace campaign would stand by default.
Jack Wilson allowed his own tribal leanings to sway him into abusing the power of his position and unduly influence the outcome of a nominating contest. The Chairman of the Party simply cannot do that. They can endorse who they want and even campaign for who they want, as long as they do it openly. What they cannot do is use the power of their office to bend the rules to benefit their tribe, NO MATTER WHICH TRIBE THEY ALIGN WITH.
We have two competing philosophies in the Republican Party of Virginia, and one set of rules. The only thing that holds us together at this point are those rules that govern how we select our candidates. We don’t have to like each other, but we do have to respect the rules that have been established for our Party, because the stakes are so incredibly high. Once we start bending those rules to serve our own purpose, and then justify our actions by claiming it was for the good of our tribe, we will cease to be a legitimate organization.