The part of the conservative grassroots takeover of the RPV’s State Central Committee in 2012 that annoyed the Washington Post the most, was the move to conventions- which tend to empower high-information, grassroots activists- rather than open primaries in which Democrats may vote.
The Post- never a bastion of conservative thought- has never forgiven the conservative grassroots.
So when Republican moderates held a closed-door meeting to discuss how to wrest power back from the conservatives in the party, the WaPo naturally rejoiced.
Now, to be clear: I have worked with a number of those moderates and there is room in the party for them. When I was a unit Chairman in Spotsylvania for three years, I made it a point to make sure all parts of the part were invited and felt welcome. Not everyone always got what they wanted. But I set a big policy goal- Spotsy’s first tax cut in 36 years- and it unified the factions. And we won 15 elections out of 18. So there is space in the party for moderates.
Generally speaking however, that space should not be in the driver’s seat.
Why, you ask?
I could start with the efforts by these same establishment moderates to slate out conservatives in the 2nd, 7th, and 5th districts last year. This does not speak to “unity”. At the time, RPV Vice-Chairman Mike Thomas said he “had no problem” slating out conservatives in Campbell County.
Or I could point out the rank hypocrisy in wanting to “expand the party” in a closed-door meeting excluding the party’s base. So let’s be honest: this was not a meeting about unity. It was a meeting by one faction to drive the other faction out of power.
But I think this passage from the WaPo article sums it up nicely:
“Ron Headlund, a Brat volunteer, said he was blocked from the suburban Richmond Doubletree where the meeting was held.
“I’m assuming that the Eric Cantor machine is working to drive out the grassroots from the Republican Party,” he said.
Thomas rejected that characterization of the meeting and said the party is big enough for establishment and conservative coalition supporters.
“We can disagree on tactics or personality or what have you,” he said, “but unity means everyone sees what the goal is and is committed to walking toward that goal even while maintaining differences along the way. People who might want to engage in griping about grievances or engaging vendettas were not invited today.”
Herein is the issue: What exactly IS the goal?
The entire focus of this closed-door meeting was winning- ie, achieving power.
But to what end?
Can you name one policy or philosophical issue Eric Cantor ran on in his loss to Dave Brat? No, of course not. He lost because he was focused on power- tearing down Brat with untrue and viciously negative personal attacks. That is why Cantor lost.
George Allen? Mitt Romney? Can you name a single new idea or policy goal either one of them proposed in 2012?
THAT is why Republicans lose. A focus on power for power’s sake, with no great purpose.
Power is all this faction knows or cares about. They don’t have it, and it stings. But they are unwilling to be brave and do the hard work of outlining significant policy goals driven by a coherent philosophy- because after all, that might offend someone.
You don’t win elections by being timid and weak. You win them by being brave and clear.
Without being clear, there is confusion- and confused minds say no.
Margaret Thatcher used to say, “First you win the argument- THEN you win the election”.
That one line could have saved those establishment moderates a whole lot of trouble in assembling on Saturday.