You can’t blame John Whitbeck for everything.
I mean, you can try – but a close look at how the Republican Party of Virginia works makes such perpetual attacks on the Chairman look somewhat ridiculous.
In Virginia, the Republican Party is governed by an elected State Central Committee. The SCC decides, according to the party plan, whether or not we’ll have primaries or conventions, while The General Assembly decides whether or not there will be party registration and “closed” primaries.
The Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia’s job, is to execute the will of the SCC.
Since moving to Virginia, I have listened to endless griping about the RPV Chairman. In most cases, their consternation appears utterly misplaced. The Chairmanship is an executive position. Like a CEO or a President, the Chairman does not determine the rules or the organizations overall direction. His job is to advise and faithfully execute the will of “The Party” which is determined by the members of the State Central Committee.
A Chairman should be judged by how effectively he executes the direction handed down to him by the SCC.
The State Central Committee bares some of the responsibility for the vibrancy and success of the Republican Party.
According to The Party Plan, the State Central Committee has six specific duties:
- The State Central Committee shall formulate and provide for the execution of such policies, plans and measures as it may deem conducive to the best interest of the Party and in conformity with the State Party Plan.
- It shall determine whether candidates for statewide public office shall be nominated by Convention, Party Canvass, or Primary.
- It shall call all regular and special State Conventions and make arrangements therefore, including the basis of representation, the time and the place.
- It shall have general supervision of all statewide campaigns. Neither the State Party nor the State Central Committee, however, shall be responsible for the financing of, or any financial obligation resulting from, such campaign, except to the extent that any such obligations may be approved and assumed in writing, in advance, by the State Central Committee.
- It shall prescribe such additional duties of the State officers and shall appoint special State Central subcommittees as it deems appropriate.
- Whenever the State Central Committee shall determine that a District or a Legislative District Chairman has failed to function as such, then the State Chairman shall appoint a new Chairman to perform the duties provided in the State Party Plan until a successor is duly elected by the applicable Committee.
According to The Party Plan, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia is responsible for the following:
- The State Chairman shall be Chairmen of the State Central Committee and of its Executive Committee.
- He shall issue calls for State Conventions and Party Canvasses, and shall preside until a temporary organization is effected.
- He shall be responsible for sending a copy of the proposed annual budget to all members of the Committee no less than three weeks prior to the meeting at which it will be considered and adopted.
- He shall convene the State Central Committee when the needs of the Party so demand, but in no event less than once during each four month period and he shall preside at the meetings of the committee. He shall be responsible for sending written notice of the call for a State Central Committee meeting to all members of the Committee and to Unit Chairmen, which shall include the agenda for the meeting.
- He shall issue, upon request, to Unit Chairmen and Unit Committeemen a commission signed by him and countersigned by the State Secretary, after notification of their elections as such.
- He shall be responsible for the operation of State Headquarters, including hiring such personnel as he may deem necessary. He may appoint any personnel as may be required from time to time with such duties as he may prescribe. In no case shall the total salaries of the employed personnel exceed the total amount for the salaries as set out in the budget adopted by the State Central Committee.
- He shall, acting in the name of the Party not less than ninety days prior to the end of the fiscal year, engage a firm of certified public accountants to perform an annual independent review of the Party’s financial records and affairs as of the end of the fiscal year and to report the results of such review to the Executive Committee and to the State Central Committee.
In truth, the Republican Party of Virginia is a very small operation and it isn’t all that powerful. RPV is an instrument for getting Republicans elected. That’s about it. RPV should be focused on getting local committees and candidates quality data, easily organized and sorted. Local Republican candidates shouldn’t have to wait an eternity to get targeted lists helpful for going door to door.
The real power in the Republican Party is found in our local committees. If Republicans are losing elections, it is worth asking ourselves just how hard our local committees are working. How much money are they raising? Are they putting politicians in front of the voters? Does the local committee make sure to have enthusiastic and informed volunteers working at the polls? Are Republicans being sought after, encouraged, and groomed to run for local or statewide office? If not, why not?
What kind of fundraisers are our local committees involved in? Do we have just one snazzy Reagan Dinner where wealthy Republicans get to eat steak and listen to their Congressmen crow? Or are there fundraisers and events for the average Republican? In fact, how effectively are our committees engaging with the average Republican in their area?
I would imagine that in most counties in Virginia, our local Republican committees are practically invisible. Committees may look more like book clubs or fight clubs, but only to the few who actually know these committees exist.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the local units and committees had more of a presence in their communities? How many local committees volunteer in their communities? How many young people attend committee meetings and are young people encouraged to attend?
Are committees meeting because committees are supposed to meet, or are committees meeting for a reason? What exactly is being accomplished? Why should people attend their local GOP committee meetings?
These are simply some things to think about before we begin to blame all our problems on one Chairman, who is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent. Maybe instead of looking at a party chairman as a tool for our factional battles, we could use him to help support increased efforts at the local level.
For those who believe that the State Party is some swanky elitist organization, I’d encourage you to take a trip to Richmond and see their offices. See how few people work in that building. Maybe then you’ll see that the impression that the RPV is a big organization that accomplishes little is backwards. RPV is a tiny organization that accomplishes a great deal.
99.99% of the people participating in the Republican Party of Virginia are doing so through their local units and committees. If we need to do better as a Party, that’s where we need to start.