George Carlin once had a very popular comedic skit called “The Seven Dirty Words.” In the Republican Party of Virginia, we only have four dirty words, though I imagine by the time I hear back from the people that read this editorial, I’ll be able to expand that list with the words I’ll be called. My “Four Dirty Words” op-ed will not be popular, but as the poster in my high school biology classroom read, “’What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”
I am making the following proposal to the State Central Committee, on which I serve, and on which I have twice voted for conventions. In exchange for a Presidential primary to be held on March 1, 2016, RPV will nominate our 2017 statewide candidates by convention. As part of this compromise, RPV will dedicate a percentage of the revenues received in 2015 and 2016 to fully fund the 2017 convention before the turnover in State Central seats in the summer of 2016, up to $200,000 and including deposits on convention space. This proposal is the only option available to SCC if we are to win Virginia for the Republican nominee in 2016 and elect a Republican Governor in 2017.
What are the four dirty words in the Republican Party? They are: 1) compromise, 2) statesman, 3) RINO, and 4) conservative. In the current Republican Party, a compromise is an abandonment of principle. A statesman is a person who abandons principles by offering compromises for political opportunity. In our definition, a RINO is a person who votes Republican, attends Republican events, donates to Republican candidates, volunteers for Republican causes, and has participated in an electoral primary and is not totally at war with the notion of doing it once again, as long as it’s a Republican primary. A conservative, in our definition, is a person who votes Republican, attends Republican events, donates to Republican candidates, volunteers for Republican causes, and has participated in an electoral convention and is not totally at war with the notion of doing it once again, as long as it’s a Republican convention. In this editorial, I am hoping to assert myself as the poster child for all four dirty words, because, once again, what is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.
In my effort to be a statesman, I have offered this compromise, knowing full well that I will alienate both RINOs and conservatives. But I believe the negative initial reaction that I receive will in the end turn out to be the saving grace for the party over the next two years, and that is why I’m willing to be criticized. In our recent litmus test years of convention vs. primary, SCC members have never been given a third option, let alone a third option that will work. This offer is that workable third option, and the best option.
This offer works because it will allow RPV to most effectively allocate the financial and human resources at its disposal. Put another way, RPV can carry Virginia in 2016 and 2017 by using this deal to gain the strongest financial position it has seen for almost 10 years, and by focusing the efforts of party leaders, party members, and volunteers on those two elections starting this summer. This position is where we need to be as a party for the next two-and-one-half years, and taking on any other issues is just a distraction from that mission.
This compromise accomplishes three goals: 1) It reduces the intra-party fighting that is bound to occur over the next 13 months; 2) It allows RPV and its units to focus their attention on preparing for elections; and 3) It allows RPV to raise funds, significant funds, by showing to the public that we are, for the first time in quite some time, able to work together and govern ourselves through prioritizing electoral success rather than party control.
- Reduction of intra-party fighting
The fight over the 2016 nomination will certainly pit the two major camps (RINOs and Conservatives) within RPV in a death struggle against each other. Our political efforts will be spent outmaneuvering each other rather than preparing for elections and building our units and bank accounts. To select anything other than a primary in 2016 will lead to nothing but guerilla warfare on issues of descending importance. First we will fight over the process chosen, and if it is not a primary, it will lead to fighting over the rules, then the credentials, who can participate, who can observe, and so on. And these fights will happen in every unit in the Commonwealth because the stakes of winning Presidential delegates are that high for the Presidential candidates. The recent history of RPV includes overturning mass meetings, removal of district chairs, and defending lawsuits. These negative events will be multiplied in a Presidential year. My proposal avoids these events in their entirety.
The camp that wants a method other than a primary for 2016 may very well have the votes on SCC to do it. For them to give up their preferred 2016 method, they need to receive something of considerable value, and that is a 2017 convention for nomination. Here is the appeal to guaranteeing the 2017 nomination process. SCC seats are up in 2016, and the people that currently control SCC may, or may not, have the votes for the 2017 nomination after the election. To give up control of the process in 2016, it is only fair that they retain control of the 2017 process, even without any guarantee of having the seats and votes to do it. Further, to prevent any reneging on the deal, good faith requires that the financial commitments necessary for a 2017 convention must be made while that faction of the party is in control. The deal requires a degree of trust within the party, funding the convention now is the verification of that trust.
If the 2017 convention has been agreed to, and financially committed to, then the explosive in-fighting that will occur around the 2016 mass meetings, which control what persons go to district conventions, who in turn elect district chairmen and SCC members, will be noticeably reduced. Without doubt some seats will turn over, but the “shenanigans” that have happened over the past four years, including the horrendous 2014 slating, will have a significantly lower chance of occurring.
This compromise reduces the volume of two years of in-fighting. And with two years of refocused energy, RPV can turn to fundraising and winning elections.
- Preparing for elections
A nomination method other than primary in 2016 will entirely consume the political activities of units and districts in the winter of 2015-2016. Our unit chairs will be asked to run for re-election, plan the mass meeting, plan the presidential delegate portion of the mass meeting, and put it together between the Advance in December and the meetings held in late January. Skipping Christmas won’t just be a movie, but an actual political activity when the holiday season is spent preparing for a completely novel way of conducting the nomination method in the most important election Virginia holds. We are forcing our already-burdened unit leadership with taking on brand new processes that will be conducted under the microscopes of the media and representatives from the presidential campaigns. More importantly, given the number of unit mass meetings in 2014 that were overturned by SCC in 2014, we will almost certainly need SCC to fast track appeals to be decided before the actual Presidential nomination method is held.
At the same time, we will be using resources to plan these meetings when we can do two other things: 1) actively campaign for Presidential candidates in our units, and 2) start planning the 2017 convention to make sure that it runs considerably smoother than our 2013 convention did. Resolving the 2016 and 2017 nomination methods in the way I propose allows RPV and its leaders at every level to focus their efforts on the work that needs to be done to the highest level of care. There is absolutely no doubt that the 2017 Gubernatorial convention, funded in 2015, with planning begun in 2015, will be the paragon of all future conventions. There is also no doubt that with the 2016 Presidential primary, unit mass meetings and district conventions will be a much smoother, significantly less contentious process. The compromise enables both sides to show voters how well their preferred process can run.
This compromise allows us to deploy our resources in the most effective, most efficient, way possible. And when we are effective and efficient, we can get the best possible results, and in politics the best results means one thing: winning the damn election!
Chairman John Whitbeck, Pete Snyder, Curtis Colgate, and generous individual donors have done a tremendous job of strengthening RPV’s financial standing since the January 31 filings trumpeted by the press. My suspicion, however, is that a lot of money remains on the sideline because they think donating to RPV is a bad investment, and they think we cannot manage ourselves. Well, we can manage ourselves, and we’re beginning to prove that now. If we come together on this compromise, RPV will see significant inflows of donations. If party stereotyping holds true, then the business faction (“RINOs”) of the party will give because we have shown our ability to manage ourselves, and we have selected their preferred method of Presidential nomination. The grassroots faction (“Conservatives”), who generally prefers conventions, will give so long as they know they can earmark their donations to pay for a 2017 convention. Both sides will have reasons to donate money to RPV, and they won’t have the excuse of not wanting their money to go to the other side.
By choosing a Presidential primary, a process which costs RPV nothing, RPV can focus their financial efforts on developing electoral infrastructure, paying down debt, and generally strengthening our balance sheet through summer 2016. The Presidential primary both brings money into RPV, and frees up restrictions on RPV capital so money can be put to the necessary usages. Conventions do cost the party money and restrict capital. However, by setting up a separate fund to begin saving for convention expenses now, and locking those funds up for convention use only, the party will be able to assure a financially profitable, well-planned convention for 2017. In short, people on both sides of the party will be able to donate to the causes that align with their values, and RPV will benefit alongside with each faction’s success.
The SCC has been fighting amongst itself for the better part of the past decade. And just like with any longstanding feud, it becomes increasingly difficult to get either side to give even a bit to the other. My offered compromise asks the eighty-plus members of SCC to swallow their pride, check their egos, and give a victory to the other side. That’s a lot to ask, and it will take substantial individual maturity to do it.
But on the other hand, my offered compromise gives eighty-plus members of SCC the opportunity to tell the people who put them there that they delivered the guaranteed nomination method of their choice at the time they needed it most, and strengthened the party in the process. In the end, the members of SCC have one responsibility above all else: to advise RPV on how to be the strongest, most effective political party it can be, so we can win elections.
It may be hard to do this, but I’ve already shown my willingness to be all four of the dirty words at the same time, because someone has to make the first sacrifice. My idea may not be popular, but it is right.