Home > Analysis, Conservatism/Activism, Election 2009: GUV, Party politics > “What Do We Do Now?”–The Frederick Ouster

“What Do We Do Now?”–The Frederick Ouster

It’s the final in the seminal film about cynical politics, Michael Ritchie’s The Candidate. Produced and released during what could arguably be dubbed the most cynical of political periods in our nation’s history, the film starred Robert Redford as a candidate who started out with the grandest of ideals (albeit liberal ones) but was cyncially driven to become a shell of a candidate. At the very end of the film, utterly confused about what it means that he won while sacrificing his core values, he wonders just what it means to lead. 

This is the very same question that is now facing the Republican Party of Virginia with the ouster of Jeff Frederick. However, the outcome of this event need not be a cynical one. 

You likely noticed that I did not comment much on the events throughout the crisis of the last month. The reason for this is that I have friends on both sides and, as squishy as this may sound, can honestly see the arguments of each side. I was a supporter of Jeff’s last year at the convention. I honestly believed in his platform and his vision for the party. Honestly, I think that on many fronts he has made many massive improvements. RPV has opened up the battle on many fronts in new media, launching a text messaging service, getting on Facebook, and launching its own social network. I think that because RPVNetwork is based of Ning’s cookie cutter interface there is a far way to go to make it an effective tool for outside political action, but its a good start nevertheless. 

However, it was clear from the very beginning that there would be tension and the “old guard.” However, it is important to remember that when people speak of “party elites” managing a coup against the “people’s” leader, they seem to forget that the majority of the individuals on State Central are dually elected by the District conventions. Also, its important that these people came up through the grassroots–they may have risen to a position of leadership, but the grassroots needs leadership. The fundamental issue is reaffirming trust between the grassroots and State Central, which itself came from the grassroots. 

Indeed, even both Morton Blackwell and Kathy Hayden Terry were elected by the state convention (well, by those who bothered to stay after the chair’s race).  For those who object to the process, think about your own county organization. I don’t know how all the committee’s work, but I do that in Shenandoah the Committee has the right to remove the chairman through the process outlined in the State Party plan. Now, our committee doesn’t have as many members as most–precincts are allowed to elect one member for every 500 Republican votes cast in the last Presidential and Gubernatorial elections combined. Still, these individuals are dually elected by the Republican activists and voters who show up for our process. Don’t like it? Fight it. Elect new SCC members. Get a by-laws change. When these issues come up, bombard you SCC rep like nothing else. But this is the way it works–our dually elected individuals  have final accountability over our chairmen. Why? Can you really imagine attempting to gather everyone every time an accusation broke out over the chairmanship? 

But back to my original point about the “old guard.” The tension in the hall after the convention made it clear that there would never be a good, solid working relationship between the two factions. Were there some tricks and shadiness on both sides? Yes. As Jim Bowden, a man I deeply respect, said of yesterday’s morass:

There were no white hats in the room. None.

It really was a trainwreck. Even if one side planned it.

I’m troubled that more people weren’t bothered – enough – by what disturbed me so much about the process prior to today. Either I’m really spending my extra time in the wrong place or I’m precisely where I should be – and, frankly, I just don’t know right now.

At the end of the day trust between the Chairman, who has day to day control of the party, and the State Central Committee, which has final oversight and responsibility for the Chairman’s actions as well as their own, had eroded to the point of ineffectiveness. I won’t speak of the indvidual charges, although they did bring concern to my heart. 

But it’s done. 

One major problem throughout this process? Nobody has been talking about the next step. Clearly a large enough number of activists are upset over yesterday’s outcome that we have a major problem now with trust between the grassroots, which empowers the State Central Committee, and the SCC itself. The answer to this? One, it will be a long process of explaining that what happened needed to occur. And that, quite frankly, may never fully occur, but it needs to be tried. The next step is finding a chairman that empowers activists while maintaining trust with SCC. A major problem with the design of SCC is that County chairs do not have a seat at the table. Much of this may be due to the geography of the state–the far southwestern locales are closer to seven different state capitals than it is to Richmond. If we can figure out a way to bring county chairs to the table, then we may have a solution that prevents future coup attempts based on that erosion of trust between the three players (The chairman, the grassroots, and the SCC). That, however, is a discussion for a different time…..

For right now, we need to find someone that can reach out to the grassroots but also manage the party well, particularly with new media efforts. Right now, two names floating around are Sandra Liddy Bourne and Pat Mullins according to Too Conservative and the WaPo. Because of the pseudo ideological nature of this battle, Bourne is already suffering from rumors that she is pro-choice, or at the very least not “100% pro-life.” Also, I think Bourne suffers from issues related to her father. Do we really want a reminder of Watergate serving as our de facto leader? Pat Mullins seems to already be emerging as a consensus pick, as he has experience leading two committees in VERY different parts of the state (Fairfax in the early 90s and Louisa currently). He also fits squarely in the conservative camp according to those familiar with his work. However, the big question in my mind would be is he ready to pursue an aggressive new media strategy in addition to a massive fundraising push. 

Some are also pushing George Allen. Certainly he would be a fascinating choice and strongly supported amongst activists. However, there would be PR problems from Day One. 

Another interesting choice? Shaun Kenney. Very conservative, also has experience with two committees (although in similar parts of the state), young, and very connected to new media. However, his ability to travel and aggressively fundraise would also be questioned. The point is, there is a defecit of both leadership and trust, and we need to move quickly to resolve this question. I have no doubt in the ability of Mike Thomas to handle RPV’s affairs in the interim period. Only one look at his resume on Facebook shows that the man knows what he’s talking about. In addition, I have worked personally with the man. I served with him on the Rules Committee. Although I was on the opposite side of him, he quickly came up with a compromise that satisfied both camps on an issue I won’t mention. He is a fundamentally fair man, and he’s been in this position before. I pledge my support, and I hope that others, during this interim period, will do likewise. 

The biggest task: finding a chair who, hopefully, will reaffirm the trust between State Central and the grassroots. Most importantly, this individual can prevent a floor fight and the end of May. Can this person be found? It remains to be seen. But these are heady days not just for State Central, or the grassroots, or party strategists, or even us humble bloggers. We’re all in this together, and we need to afford each other at least a modicum of respect and recognition of our common cause of putting people into office who best represent our values. 

And that brings me to the whole problem of conservatives versus moderates. I could write a whole book on this issue, but for right now, I think Krystle over at CCC said it best: 

Look, I learned a valuable lesson from 2008, when I (like many) stood against John McCain’s selection by the Republican Party to be the Presidential nominee. I did not want to be active in this race. In fact, I threatened to sit home and not work on behalf of the ticket. However, it took a talk with a good friend, who I worked with in 2006 and 2007 on several successful (and some not so successful) campaigns, to realize that it was wrong not to help the party. Maybe, I was placing my own principles on the table for the sake of the party, or it could be something that Ronald Reagan once said, “I may not agree with someone 20% of the time, but if I do agree with someone 80% of the time, then they are not my enemy.” I did some grassroots work on behalf of McCain by phone banking, and even though, we were not victorious. The lesson I learned was that you need to view it in the Reagan perspective, but then advocate on behalf of principle.

She hit the nail exactly on the head. Staying at home this year will lead to the election of one of three men, the dangers of which we have already discussed. Two would be an utter disaster on Second Amendment rights. All three are terrible on labor and life. 

Look yourself in the mirror and ask–are you really willing to risk all your principles to play this zero sum game for one man? 

That’s all I can say right now. I look forward to a hearty discussion, and I hope that those who supported Jeff to the bitter end do not walk away for the table. We need you. We need everyone. As Bearing Drift said:

The point is that no one person or group of persons has a monopoly on what ideas or objectives are right for our Party. Indeed, that is the very purpose of a Party organization to begin with, to allow all ideas to be thrown into the pot, stirred around, and to allow the best ones to rise to the top. Sadly, that process seems to have been interrupted by bickering over who gets to do the stirring.

What is most damaging and destructive to our Party now is the unyielding certainty of each faction that they are right, that no one else can be right, and that everyone else is determined to exclude them from the process. As 6th District Chair Fred Anderson was quoted in the Roanoke Times saying after yesterday’s meeting, the issue is “In a word — trust.”

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  1. El Pirata
    April 6, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I don’t understand why we wouldn’t have an experienced Chair who knows fundraising (maybe Pat Mullins), who then has an exec. director and communications person who understand new media and can help the Chair in that area. That seems like the right path to me.

    I would add that in light of recent events, the Chair needs to be a movement conservative, not a moderate from the Hager wing. Conservatives simply will not accept that.

    As for Allen, I’d offer a caveat on that idea — beware of having a RPV Chair with star quality that outshines the ticket. The Chair is supposed to focus on building the party, not being the news story. Hard as he might try, Allen would have a hard time avoiding being the story of an unfriendly press; and after 2006, that’s not a good thing.

  2. April 6, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    It seems that I wasn’t very clear. I wouldn’t disregard Mr. Mullins right off hand. I didn’t elaborate much upon it, but I think that his experience as county chair is key, as it offers that connection between the “grassroots” and SCC that we haven’t had in a long time. Who was the last State Chair who actually knows the problems of trying to put together a Lincoln Day Dinner, handle various factions, push for grassroots activities, etc etc.

    My bigger point is that it will be hard to find someone who pushes all the buttons. You are correct that the team will be important–however, as of this writing Louisa County only has a blog as their internet presence. I would hope that Mr. Mullins is a quick learner. Additionally, I am unsure of his age and career/financial status, so I’m just curious as to how much time he can devote to the position.

    I think you’re on the money with the fact that the chair will have to be a movement conservative. If we are going to keep the Frederick people (again, a huge “if” at this point.

    You said what I was trying to say subtly–Georg Allen is always going to be the story, not RPV. All because of one word that does not bear repeating.

  3. April 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Excellent post!

    I believe Mullins is retired – which is great, giving him time to work for the party. On the other hand, some people may see him as just another old white guy, and somewhat out of touch. From what I’ve heard he’s a hard worker with a good sense of humor, so he should be able to allay those concerns.

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