Now before my fellow Republicans read the title of this article and begin chastising me for such a gross generalization, please read the article first and comment all you want in the comment section below.
It is hard to generalize about institutional laziness when the subject is about such a diverse group of people, many of whom I know personally and have worked alongside for years. It is especially hard to lump together people under this characterization when many are fellow activists, including Conservatives, Libertarians, and TEA Partiers. The activists that I know give blood, sweat, and tears for the Republican Party in Virginia and do it out of love and devotion to their Constitution, Country and State.
The laziness I am referring to is an integral part of the DNA of the organization as a whole and as such it is hard, but not impossible, to change.
In my consulting practice this symptom exhibited itself in many companies. Usually, institutional laziness manifests itself in internal policies and procedures being used as immutable laws, personalities becoming sacred and immune to change, poor productivity becomes the norm, and important changes being deferred or postponed indefinitely. This lazy DNA is developed unintentionally over a long period of time. It is evident to me in many ways such as the poor organizational infrastructure I observe at the Unit level.
Units are generally elected/staffed by well-intentioned people, but they are not trained in managing a volunteer organization such as a Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) Unit. I can make this observation from a survey of all Unit Chairs that was done when I managed an RPV project to select Voter Relationship Management Software. Sending out 130 plus surveys and receiving 25 back, Unit Chairs thinking that their convention delegate count was the Unit’s membership limit, not knowing who their Constitutional Officers were, several either did not have access to email or did not know how to reply and respond to the survey. These were just some of the observations made after the survey was completed.
Other examples of our corporate laziness include:
– It is easier to ignore volunteering to be Election Officers and/or Poll Watchers and to trust Democrats to follow election laws. (This is particularly interesting when elements in the Party favor primaries instead of conventions).
– It is easier to reject true precinct organization on a continuing annual basis and instead wait until a top level candidate asks for volunteers.
– It is easier to rely on political consultants to determine Party positions; resulting in campaigns that are content free so candidates are not held accountable to base voters.
Currently, there is a controversy within RPV causing divisiveness, where lines are drawn primarily between Establishment and Conservative wings in the Party. This division has manifested itself in the nomination processes of Conventions vs Primaries. Prior to the Conservative awakening, RPV’s rank and file was content to accept primaries, believing the cost avoidance excuse of letting the state (taxpayers) pay for the primary election.
Once the TEA Party movement started focusing on the apparent Uni-party results in Congress, where Republicans were performing as Democrat light, it was determined that a quick fix of making Republican elected officials govern like they campaigned was to force them into a convention. Conservatives had advantages in the Convention arena, less so during primaries. The exception to that was the Brat/Cantor primary where the incumbent was so out of touch with the base that a new political process was born, called being “Cantorized.”
Further analysis of the Primary process as currently practiced, using a combination of state law and Party Plan, proves that RPV has over time developed this lazy attitude of easy re-election of incumbents. Below shows an analysis of these incumbent protection laws and rules that must be changed, so Conservatives can accept primaries or conventions knowing that accountability trumps incumbency.
PROBLEM: Incumbents determine method of nomination (a primary) instead of each District Committee as stated in the Party Plan.
DISCUSSION: This law was challenged in court to no avail. The Party must have the votes in the General Assembly and support of the Governor to fix the Incumbent Protection Act. This might be a good question to ask each Republican candidate for Governor.
PROBLEM: By law, Virginia primaries are open primaries so any eligible voter can vote. Since Virginia does not have party registration any voter can vote in any Party’s primary.
DISCUSSION: Primaries are by definition an internal nomination process carried on by a private organization. It is only when we require the state to finance and run “our” primary does it place itself under state law. RPV is not any different than any other private organization and as such can conduct its own private nomination process, similar to a labor union, where only members in good standing can vote. Being an internal function of RPV, the Party can then determine who can vote. This will remove any advantage the incumbent has, if the candidate were to encourage his Democrat friends and family to vote in our primary. (BTW: Virginia would probably have to cancel the Open Primary law. I am also not talking about replacing that law with a Closed Primary law that includes Party Registration with the state. Primaries are private organization functions; we should decide our candidates, not the public. Party registration with the state does not mean anything, in Maryland a person can change their party affiliation every other day).
PROBLEM: Primaries allow incumbents to win with just a simple plurality of votes.
DISCUSSION: Pluralities allow incumbents to divide up voters for potential challengers and when coupled with open primaries and cross-over Democrat voters makes it an easy win for the incumbent. Unless a run-off is required to determine a true majority winner, our Republican nominee will continue to be a candidate with the majority of voters not wanting that person. Not a winning strategy. (BTW: Conservative egos are sometimes their own worst enemy, when we run multiple, good candidates against the incumbent).
PROBLEM: RPV has a limited view of its membership, which really exists only at the Unit level.
DISCUSSION: Currently, membership is maintained only at the Unit level. A state-wide organization should have in place an enterprise wide Membership Information System that would be available to the State Executive, District, Unit, Magisterial Districts when required, and at the Precinct levels. Identifying our base and harnessing its deep talent resources should not be a hit or miss exercise.
PROBLEM: The petition signing process favors incumbents.
DISCUSSION: The petition signature collection is a barrier for challengers to overcome that definitely favors incumbents. There should be a barrier, perhaps a higher filing fee paid to the Party since we don’t want 50 people throwing their hat into the ring because it would be fun to run. But signing petitions and not checking each signature for legitimacy is an exercise in futility and favors incumbents by utilizing prior petitions and constituents’ requests during time in office.
PROBLEM: Gerrymandered districts insure incumbent’s re-election for both Parties.
DISCUSSION: When Republican gerrymandered districts are coupled with open primaries, it makes sense that Democrats in those districts know that their best option is to cross-over and vote in the Republican Primary, usually voting for the most left leaning candidate. When the plurality “winner” then runs against a further left leaning Democrat in the General Election, Conservatives are left with the option of holding their nose and voting for the lessor left leaning Republican candidate. And we wonder what is wrong with the country and Congress. We do not have to tolerate gerrymandered districts. It is not allowed in Mexico, where districts are defined using mathematical models with no regard to party voting patterns. There are options here that do not include Democrats and Republican office holders’ horse trading precincts that will guarantee their re-election.
PROBLEM: Unlimited fundraising for state elections favor incumbents.
DISCUSSION: Assuming there is a limited amount of money available for state-wide campaigns, one of the best ways to keep RPV financially weak is to dry up donations during non-Federal Elections. Adding insult to injury, the next two problems complete the draining of available funds so RPV remains weak and financially unstable year after year. State Parties that have donation limits generally have no trouble having cash on hand to help candidates up and down the ballot. By placing minimal restrictions on donations such as individual and corporate limitations on the Caucuses and PACs as-well-as prompt transparent reporting of all donations, RPV would find itself financially stable and stronger.
PROBLEM: House and Senate Caucuses exist to re-elect incumbents regardless of voting record.
DISCUSSION: These two caucuses not only drain the coffers of special interest money, they are designed and exist only to re-elect incumbents and insure lock step voting on issues, and in fact one of their websites makes no bones about why they exist. There is no concern about voting record, governing like they campaigned, or adherence to the Republican Creed, just so we keep the incumbent in the General Assembly club house is all that is important.
PROBLEM: Dominion Leadership PAC provides resources to favored candidates.
DISCUSSION: And if the well isn’t dry enough already, we have the House Speaker’s PAC (Dominion Leadership PAC) that is designed to make the Speaker the “King Maker” for Virginia. It works like this, if you want to run for a house seat, only Republican Vacancies or Democrat occupied territory are considered and the Speaker thinks you have a reasonable chance to win, guess what, the cash rolls in. So if/when the election is successful, the new Delegate in not beholden to the voters that elected the candidate, allegiance and committee assignments are bought and paid for by the Speaker of the House of Delegates (Del. Bill Howell). This financial arrangement is not only successful with Delegates, but also down ballot candidates who are willing to play ball and be controlled by the Speaker as they climb the ladder of personal political success.
PROBLEM: RPV does not take positions on controversial issues, which makes it hard to hold office holders accountable.
DISCUSSION: We send our elected officials to Washington with no positions on major issues. Yes, we have the Republican Creed which is good as far as it goes. It is not granular enough to address specific issues that are important to Republicans, such as Common Core, Education Choice, Obamacare, Agenda21 (2030), Trade Agreements, Immigration, etc. Our elected officials need to know where the Party stands and that they will be held accountable to those positions when voting on legislation and not sell their vote to the lobbyist with the biggest checkbook.
PROBLEM: The focus is only on upper ballot elections; little to none support for lower ballot offices.
DISCUSSION: By focusing only on the upper ballot elections we are forsaking the farm team that will be our bench for new candidates. Incumbents know this and by not providing support to the down ballot candidates, they know that many potential competitors will become frustrated and drop out. This insures their re-election by forcing challengers to run for an upper ballot position with little or no experience in lower ballot elective offices. RPV has a long track record of “one and done” campaigns.
PROBLEM: The cozy relationship between District Leadership, especially the District Chair position, and the incumbent Congressional Representative is designed to serve the incumbent.
DISCUSSION: There should be an arm’s length relationship between the District Chair and the incumbent. The Committee is the nexus of accountability between the Congressional Representative and the voters. Hopefully we will see a decision between the District Committee and the incumbent where the Committee decides not to support the official’s re-election because the voting record of the incumbent is out of sync with the positions of the Party. It would not take many meetings, where the incumbent’s support is withdrawn, before behavior by the elected office holder would change. Accountability is a wonderful thing.
PROBLEM: District Committees are populated with the incumbent’s family and employees to insure control of the Committee.
DISCUSSION: This influence padding of the committee should not need any discussion. It is further proof of the laziness that infects RPV. The Party Plan should not allow this to occur.
PROBLEM: RPV kept small, inefficient, and under financed.
DISCUSSION: All of the above problems have the effect of keeping RPV a weak Political Party. This weakness is evidenced by consistently being under financed, membership limitations either real or imagined, and inefficiency by going to sleep after elections and waking up in September to repeat the same mistakes made in the prior election. We try and cram a year’s work into two or three months right before a General Election. There is a much better way to run the Party but it would require changing the way things work and accepting the fact the holding people accountable is not easy. (BTW: where in our history did the Party decide that having major internal elections of Party Chairman, State Central, District and Unit Chairs, etc. was a good idea during a Presidential Election year. Folks this practice is a really stupid idea and needs to be changed, quickly.)
Is it any wonder why we have such a dysfunctional Republican Party in Virginia? I have heard from respected friends of mine in other parts of the country that similar and worse problems are found in many other states. Until the grassroots realizes that the Republican Party has some serious problems that have evolved over a long period of time and develops the will to overcome the organizational inertia and laziness that prohibits changes we need in Virginia, nothing is going to improve. It makes little difference who runs RPV or if we continue to argue and fight over primaries or conventions. Institutional laziness is the root cause, not the superficial fight over the nomination process.
The Democrat Party has been on a long march for hegemony in America. For sixty – seventy years they have fought for every vote, legitimate or otherwise. They have also moved their agenda forward by any means available, including legislating from the judicial bench or padding the Federal bureaucracy with leftists to enact their agenda thru the bureaucratic state, our fourth and unconstitutional branch of government.
The Republican Party, both nationally and state-wide, must get their act together, recognize the inertia and laziness that infects us as a Party and adopt an activist agenda. They must fight for each vote and do whatever is necessary to save our Country and Constitution. This includes implementing changes to each organizational unit, including and involving the base membership and holding our elected officials accountable, whether they are nominated by a primary or convention, or both.
Before critics begin saying that this article is nothing more than an anti-incumbent screed, it is not. Yes it removes many of the artificial support systems that have built up over time making it easy on the Party and the incumbents. But my contention is that if incumbents are truly doing their job and adhering to Republican principals and the Party’s positions on major issues, the incumbents have all the advantages needed: an excellent voting record that represents their constituents, the voter base.