I’ve been thinking…
This week we learned that the current Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), John Whitbeck, is planning to step down. John is a friend of mine and I thank him for his efforts and his willingness to serve in a very difficult job. I wish him the best. This is an appropriate time to share some thoughts about the state of our party, what we should be about, and some suggested guidance for selecting a new chairman.
To begin with, it’s time to acknowledge a simple fact. The GOP in Virginia is in huge disrepair. And before anyone is tempted to suggest this is a result of the election of President Trump (whom I support), I can assure you that our disorder far predates his election. Indeed, the Virginia GOP has been on the slide as early as Mark Warner’s election to Governor in 2001 but certainly as late as the defeat of Senator (Governor) George Allen in 2006. This is not a new phenomenon. Nor will it change until we address some fundamental concerns within the party I call “home”.
I’m a Republican, because I am a conservative, not vice versa. If the Republican Party weren’t the party of conservatism, I’d be gone tomorrow. For me it’s about faith, family, and freedom. That’s why I am a committed adherent to the principles that our Founders gave full voice in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. I’m also a supporter of the free enterprise system. Remember, everything that’s good about our economy has its roots in small businesses. They should be allowed to thrive. That is why less government, lower taxes, and more opportunity is the right path. Besides, a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you’ve got. These values are fairly represented in the Republican Creed. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction has obscured this fact from many people here in Virginia, who would be inclined to support us if our issues, not our rivalries, were at the forefront of what we do.
I won’t attempt to define every problem that besets us. That would take several chapters. But we do need to acknowledge that the primary purpose of our RPV organization and local GOP Committees is to elect Republicans, who are committed to our conservative and free market values.
First, we need to recommit to the core reason our party and local committees exist: to elect candidates who are duly nominated. We can’t do that if we are in a state of constant internal conflict and bitter rivalry between social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and free market “moderates” who chaff when we stand up for the social values essential to our culture, and ability to sustain our freedom. Once we have a candidate (even those we didn’t support for the nomination), we need to do our level best to see that they are elected. Period. If we do anything less, then we cease to be a party.
Second, it is not the role of the party or its committees to pick winners and losers. That is reserved for primary or convention contests. Candidates willing to step up are in a sense entering the free market of political ideas. They succeed or fail based on how they make their case to the people charged with selecting a winner. But when the party or committees “put a finger on the scales” in any fashion, they disrupt the process while damaging their legitimacy among all of us.
Third, party leadership is not designed to be a stepping stone to elective office. Persons who are entrusted with party leadership can’t serve two masters. It’s almost inevitable that a person set on being an elected official who is also a party chairman at any level will begin to set the conditions for future efforts. If you want to hold elective office, you should think twice before you assume leadership of a committee.
Finally, it’s not the size of your committee that is essential, it’s the size of your voter turnout. In that regard, the role of the party and its committees is to do work. That is to raise money, make phone calls, write letters, distribute literature door-to-door, put up yard signs, work social media, attend and support rallies, talk to neighbors, hold gatherings, and organize worship communities, small businesses, and community organizations to support our candidates, as well as man the polls, both inside and out. You do need a committee large enough to do that work. But don’t forget that the real work is outside the committee engaging voters to support our candidates. It’s not a social club to make you feel good about your politics, nor is it a debating society for your special issue. It’s a working organization and if you don’t have time for it, you should not take on the commitment.
I hope our new Chairman or Chairwoman will subscribe to these ideas. But the immediate challenge is selecting that person. So here are 10 suggestions for the State Central Committee from someone who knows a thing or two about elections.
1. Don’t select who anyone who is a current publicly elected official. (Essential conflict of interest.)
2. Don’t select anyone who is an “also ran” looking for a consolation prize. (This isn’t a game show.)
3. Don’t select a person on an ideological crusade. (Encourage them to pursue that elsewhere.)
4. Don’t select a person who is an ally of any current office-holder or current candidate for public office. (See “1” above.)
5. Don’t select a person based on their ability to give a rousing speech. (Go for organizational skills, not rhetorical flare.)
6. Do pick a person who can raise money. (Can’t do your essential work without it.)
7. Do pick a person willing to keep the party between the bright lines of the Republican Creed. (This is a must.)
8. Do select a person who understands their job is to advance Republican Party principles, not to advocate for any candidate prior to an official nomination.
9. Don’t select a person to defend the outlying positions of any candidate, when those statements or actions fly in the face of the Republican Creed.
10. Don’t select a person incapable of standing up to political nonsense or agendas that weaken the appeal of the GOP to Virginians.
State Central has a big task. I hope they choose wisely. The new Chairman must be well-versed in campaigns, politically wise, understand public policy, have a heck of a good rolodex, and be willing to spend a great deal of time raising money for party voter outreach and effective advocacy for our candidates.
Finally, this may seem counterintuitive, but beware of folks who want the job really badly. That person may well be the wrong choice. I suggest you seek a reluctant warrior with the skills to do the job as it must be done. Maybe instead of waiting or advocating for candidates to show up in front of you, you might want to put together a search committee of people you trust to find that person or persons. Then the hard part will be convincing the chosen candidate to take the job. Remember, you’re not picking an elected official, you are picking your CEO. Approach it that way and don’t be surprised when things are functional and we start winning—again.
I pick Scott.
I think the bio for Scott is a bit dated. It suggests he remains in the House of Delegates, a term that ended in 2018.
Problem #1. In today’s politics, no one trusts anybody.
Problem #2. The Incumbent Protection Team is happy to sit around the country club bar, and wait for their new day in the sun.
Problem #3. Half the GOP incumbents today think they are Dems.
Problem #4. Who would want to be a party leader at a time when “the mob” would rather abolish parties altogether. Bread and circus is increasingly failing to trump dollars and sense.
Less than a year ago there was put forward here on TBE another assessment for the RPV’s future:
What say you today?
My how things change in a year, eh?
Not sure what this has to do with the leadership of RPV.
We do not share the views of all of our posters. Many of us didn’t support Jill Vogel for the nomination for LG.
Jill stabbed us in the back and it won’t be forgotten.
It simply says things change quickly, There should be less faith in leadership and more focus on grass roots membership. Leaders change quickly, grass roots membership does not. Bottom up over top down.
BTW, agreed on the Vogel deception in the primary. I do not vote in primaries of any party but had I taken a ballot it would’ve been for Bryce, who I thought was unjustly maligned. He may have lost the battle but for those with good memories he won the war.
Jill Vogel? Say what?
1) The Republican Party stabbed America in the back for 7 years by not doing the promised R&R on Obamacare.
2) Trump stabbed America in the back by not keeping his promise on taking care of everybody regarding healthcare.
3) Trump stabbed America in the back regarding Mexico paying for the wall.
And all you got to talk about is Jill?
Very nicely put, Scott. The RPV Chairman needs to have demonstrated the ability to do what you outline. Essential CEO skills. Not just lovely rhetoric or lofty ideas.
One point to add is the Chairman must recognize that the rural areas are the heart of VA and are just as important as NOVA, VA Beach, etc., and he has to work to enable those units too.
I’d love to see you run again. If you and the other conservatives had had the full support of the RPV / SCC and had won in November, would we have gotten the gigantic budget with medicaid expansion? Thinking not. Much of the blame is rightly nailed to their foreheads.
I am thrilled Whitbeck is gone. Many others on the SCC need to go too ASAP. Clean out the swamp and build a robust, vibrant Republican party that adheres to the Creed.
Organizational skills. We must have someone (actually everyone in RPV) who actually knows the nuts and bolts of winning campaigns. Like you say, not just a rousing speech. But a tactician and mechanic. We have an RPV built for the 1950s. WE have had an Alfred E. Neumman “WHAT ME WORRY?” approach to getting serious. The RPV is designed as if Republicans expect to lose, and it doesn’t really matter. The RPV has been designed as a HOBBY not as a fight for preserving the future of our country.
Studying their behavior, many RPV leaders would rather have Dems then small govt. conservatives. Dems spread more the money around and increase governance. And the RPV can fund raise off of it too. They are all part of the same club.
Others have succumbed to “battered conservatives syndrome” (a term coined by The Conservative Treehouse, an excellent blog). As you said, they have lost for so long they don’t know how to spot an opportunity to win and go for it.
Brilliant, simply brilliant. Should be distributed widely. The power is in the individual committees, which should get hold of their own bootstraps and stop blaming RPV for their own failure to organize and flourish.
RPV, and the SCC board of directors ARE the Republican Party.
Special interest and identity groups dominate the makeup.
The units are the hosts, the candidate/consultant party apparatus, the parasite.
Was this written by Jonathan Swift? It has more than a little “Modest Proposal” going on.