Here is what I understand about the Party Plan Amendment (PPA) being offered at the State Convention, but first a little contextual background.
Around the end of 2014, John Whitbeck was the 10th District Chair and we talked about the need for RPV to have a Strategic Plan. He thought that maybe creating one for the 10th District would show the Party that when it works for the 10th, the Party would be more willing to implement it statewide. We proceeded to put together a meeting of concerned party members inviting them to meet in Ashburn. We had 45 RSVPs but 75 people showed up. You could say interest was very high.
Before we formed a small team of activists (5 of us) to start writing the plan, Pat Mullins resigned half-way through his term and John Whitbeck became Chair of RPV. John decided for us to adjust our plan’s audience to RPV and we spent the next 6 weeks creating a 30 page strategic Plan for RPV. I was told by John that he agreed with almost all of the plan and we adopted his recommendation and postponed the section that gave John pause. We also added the section about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Following the Strategic Plan project, he asked me to project manage a software evaluation project that was statewide, comprised of sixteen incredibility talented people that took around five and a half months to complete the evaluation. The Strategic Plan and Software Recommendation never saw the light of day, even though many concerned people devoted many hours of their life gifting John with our best thinking.
This caused me to begin studying and thinking about RPV and the State Central Committee, especially in the area of governance and how hidden agendas influence how RPV operates, makes decisions, and over the last 8-10 years proceeded to lose elections beginning with Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, both Senators, several Congressional seats including the 10th, and now the House and Senate, as-well-as many down-ballot offices here in Northern Virginia.
Here are some of the things I have learned about the RPV and State Central Committee. If you have different facts, I would like to hear from you. These facts have influenced me to run for Delegate to SCC from the 10th District:
- There is a pattern in RPV where chairs run for a full term but they quit half-way through. This allows for Mike Thomas to be the power behind the curtain. Mike is an appointed Vice-Chair and has been in this position for 25 years.
- Currently, SCC has 78 voting members. Just slightly smaller than the House of Delegates. It also has adopted a 75% majority to pass any changes to the Party Plan (this is not the strategic plan by the way). The size and majority requirement make it impossible for RPV to respond quickly to the changing political environment that exists in Virginia.
- SCC has 40% of the membership that are appointed positions, they are not elected by the base, answer to no one, and serve as a blocking obstacle to elected SCC members when they try to get anything changed. The 40% barrier coupled with the 75% majority requirement makes for an ineffective and dying organization.
- In the Party Plan, there are restrictions as to the size of each precinct, which eventually plays out two ways. Smaller Unit size and Units that are run like an exclusive Country Club instead of a political party. When I first moved to Virginia, I heard the expression that the goal of RPV is to “keep it small and control it all”. This ludicrous restriction now makes sense. It is also a root cause as to why RPV is a losing organization.
- Another observation I have made is a dichotomy in itself. On-one-hand, the Party Plan has been written by lawyers and can only be understood by lawyers. Yet it also leaves so much room for interpretation that Unit and District Chairs are thrust into their jobs with no training and no education about the complexity of the job they have volunteered to do.
- The Party does not take a stand on issues. The Consultant Class has made the argument that positions on issues mean accountability of elected officials. And we wonder why so many of our campaign personalities embrace Conservative positions, only once elected to office, govern as moderates or liberals.
- The Party has been designed from the beginning to be a weak party structure. Weak parties will have trouble influencing their incumbent officials. Weak parties have trouble raising money and therefore are maintained just above bankruptcy, and weak parties make no investments in infrastructure, good management practices, and constantly ask for money when the base knows it will get next to nothing in return.
- Weak parties also do not support down-ballot candidates. This is not a particular money issue but incumbents know that down-ballot candidates become the farm team or the depth chart of the organization. Our voter data has been and will stay crap because the incumbents do not want to share data with their potential rivals from lower-level positions. No support means that many would-be future leaders never make it back to run a second time. I think the phrase used is “one and done”.
- RPV can not allow legislative seats to go unchallenged in any election. If it is true that 10 Senate seats and 23 House Delegate seats were not challenged, the left moved their money (estimated to be around 1.2 million) to more advantageous races where the Republican candidate was weaker. RPV has to be in it to win it!
- The House and Senate Caucuses soak up a large part of the money from lobbyists and corporations. The main purpose of these caucuses is to protect the incumbents and get them reelected. They have lost sight of the fact that the best way to get reelected is to govern for the people that put them in office.
- RPV does not have a membership database that can be easily shared between precinct volunteers up to District leadership or RPV Leadership. In this day and age, where world-class, cloud-based software can be inexpensively licensed, it is nothing short of benign neglect that RPV has not implemented such software.
- Ancillary groups like the Virginia Voters Alliance or Virginians for Quality Healthcare are doing the work that RPV should be doing. Eight years ago I discovered that the party was not training Poll watchers, not only that, but there wasn’t even basic training materials available to train Poll watchers.
- In today’s business world most companies strive to implement best practices throughout their companies. Nothing like that exists in RPV or for that matter RNC. I talk to many Republicans around the nation and the party suffers from a lack of good professional management and best practice identification and implementation.
- The left uses the Judiciary as a cudgel to get their way when legislation or executive orders don’t work. I am not in favor of legislating from the bench, but RPV should have a strategy in place to hold Democrat office-holders accountable when they knowingly break or ignore existing law. RPV should recruit a stable of Republican Attorneys willing to go after the left on a pro-bono basis. The only fear I see is Conservatives afraid of what the left will do or what the media will say. We should be keeping Democrats awake at night wondering when and where the next lawsuit will be served.
- I saved a major problem until last, but it is certainly not the least. When Tim Hannigan took over the Fairfax County Republican Committee there was around 35% coverage of our 234 precincts with Precinct Captains. I’m not talking about a fully staffed and functioning precinct, I describing a one or two-person captaincy. Virginia needs to recognize the need for true precinct organizations throughout the state, where election officials, poll watchers, poll workers outside, phone banking, and block captains know the voters in their precinct. Without that extent of precinct organizing, we will not be winning elections anytime soon.
This explanation about RPV’s declining situation has gotten too long, unfortunately, there are many other failings of RPV and ultimately of SCC that would allow me to continue with the list. Many improvement areas such as Fundraising, Infrastructure, Branding, Accountability, Recruiting, and Training could be added to the list and discussed. We have witnessed the last three RPV administrations rule over an ever failing party. If anyone thinks this is an indication of an effective party or losing elections in Virginia is not our fault, you probably do not see why RPV and SCC need major changes.
I have been asked about the proposed Amendment (called the Party Plan Amendment PPA) being offered for consideration at the State Convention. Yes, I am for it because I don’t think SCC can address the major changes needed to reverse RPV’s slow decline to irrelevance without it. There are too many people on State Central that don’t do anything; there are too many appointed people on SCC that have no accountability to the Party’s base electorate; there are too many people that are beholden to other appointed members for their positions and are there to prohibit changes the old guard deems unnecessary. Coupled with a 75% majority required to change the party plan ensures that nothing is done.
The PPA amendment presented at the convention will reduce SCC membership from 78 voting members to 54 voting members. Yes, the affiliated organizations (VFRW, YRs, and CRs) will be reduced by one person each, but their voting strength will remain relatively the same. An easy way to look at it is, would you rather have 3 people trying to convince 78 people of your position or 2 people trying to convince only 54 people of your position. (BTW: The current Party Plan allows the membership of SCC to be expanded to a many as 90 members. The PPA will protect the voting strength of our affiliated groups.) The focus is moved from a top/down organization to a bottom/up grassroots responsive organization.
One last topic to discuss is the current argument being circulated is that the PPA Amendment is going in the wrong direction by making the SCC smaller and more responsive to the Electorate. We should be making SCC bigger not smaller; we are after all a “big tent” party. This makes sense on its face, Lord knows how many times Republicans have been characterized as being exclusive, whites only, fat cats. Let me explain why this is fallacious from the beginning.
We have a Representative form of government, not a Democracy. The left keeps insisting that we are a Democracy and many Republicans have fallen into that trap. We elect people to offices so they can represent us. Democracies have never worked. The old adage of Democracy is best illustrated where two wolves and a sheep are trying to decide, “What’s for dinner?”. This big tent idea should only be applied to the makeup of the Electorate, not SCC. This big tent idea is also the argument that Establishment Republicans use the keep RPV a weak Party. Let me illustrate.
Simply put, a group of six people generate a network diagram of 15 possible interactions with one another. If you don’t believe me draw a circle with 6 dots and draw one line between each dot and then count them. Below is a table of SCC possible interactions using the numbers we have been discussing previously. The formula used is (X) times (X-1) divided by 2. For our 6 person example that would be (6) times (5) divided by 2 equals 15.
|Number of SCC Members||(X) times (X-1)/2||Potential Interactions|
|78||(78) times (77)/2||3,003|
|54||(54) times (53)/2||1,431|
|90 (Plan’s upper limit)||(90) times (89)/2||4,005|
|What SCC number would you like to use?|
Notice that reducing SCC members from 78 to 54 decreases the number of possible interactions by more than half (3,003 to 1,431). Smaller work groups are much more efficient and effective when the number of potential interactions is smaller, because communications are much more effective. SCC functions like a Board of Directors of a company. I don’t know of major international corporations that have a BOD of 78 people. Such large sizes are not used for a reason.
The amendment approach is allowed by the Party Plan. It is ludicrous to think that 40% of the SCC membership will volunteer to vote themselves off the island. It will not happen, with human nature being what it is. I suspect that much of the vitriol and adamant responses by affiliated group’s leadership positions are also reacting to the threat a smaller, dynamic, responsive, and revitalized SCC effect on the status quo. I’m sorry about that, but without major changes, starting with a smaller but representative SCC and reducing the 75% majority threshold, I’m afraid that RPV will become an example of the modern-day Whig Party.