Against my better judgment, and against my wife’s continued advice, I posted the following comment on Facebook this week. The post received a good bit of attention, and I’m pleased to be asked, in this my first blog post, to explain what I meant. Here is what I wrote:
“OK, I’m officially done with term “establishment” and “insider” when it comes to politics. We actually DO need people to work, serve on committees, and take leadership roles. Now some (who don’t do those things) think they are clever to label these active volunteers, who then run for office, as “establishment” or “insiders.” It’s a weak, pointless, empty, illogical criticism. If you can’t argue the issues, then I guess name-calling will just have to do. That is all.”
Having served in the military my start in politics was a little delayed. Once a civilian, I started doing little tasks to help the GOP here in Mt. Vernon. Then in 2008, dismayed with the direction that our country was going, I upped my game and ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 44th District. I lost, but I think I moved our shared Republican perspective a little down the field. Following that experience I wanted to be more involved, and frankly to pay back the many people who had helped me during my campaign, so I volunteered to serve two years as the Vice Chairman for Budget and Finance for the FCRC, working under the dedicated and talented Anthony Bedell. I was then honored to be elected as Chairman, and served two eventful years, being then succeeded by the able and admirable Matt Ames. It was a pretty quick move from outsider to part of the “establishment.”
During this time I met many elected officials, party officials and great volunteers, people who give their time, their talents, their money, their energy and their total dedication to trying to win in the never-ending argument that is politics. I did not agree with all of them on every issue, some I agreed with less, some more. The vast majority, however, cared about their country and their community, and they did the work that must be done if we are ever to correct our nation’s course.
And thus the reason for my post. I fear that the indiscriminate and thoughtless use of this term “establishment” or “insider” as an accusation against these good people hurts our party, making it more difficult to find volunteers, build a high-performing party team, leverage experienced people, and win elections. I understand it may be fashionable, and it may even be an effective way to win a nomination. But it is not helpful.
Is someone “establishment” just because they’ve spent years working for the party? Or because they happen to know leaders in the party? Or because they understand the policies and procedures of the party? Or because they are able to garner endorsements, should they decide to run, from other people in the party who know and appreciate the work they have done? In a way I guess they are. But someone please explain to me why that is a bad thing.
We won’t win elections if people don’t lead, serve on committees, know the party processes, run for office and do the work. It should not be a badge of honor to have not done these things. It should not be a mark of dishonor to have done so.
It is great that we have a renewed activist spirit in our Republican Party. I was, and remain, inspired by that spirit. It is also great that we hold our leaders accountable for what they do once elected. I absolutely support party nomination processes as the way to get us the best candidates. Sometimes an incumbent will lose in this process, and honestly that is ok. But people should work to understand the process, and not, based on misinformation or ignorance of the procedures, attack anyone who has actually done the work as “establishment.”
There is a great deal of suspicion about back-room deals and “picking” of candidates and the like by people who are outside the party looking in. Those suspicions are unfounded. There is no reason to be outside looking in! For gosh sake, come on in!
There are well-defined and open processes for influencing the party, choosing candidates, and running the organizations that support our efforts. All you have to do is come on out, volunteer, do the work, understand the rules and procedures and participate. If you don’t like what you see, then run for Magisterial District Chair, State Central, or County Chair, or Congressional District Chair, or Congress or whatever. There is no guarantee that you will win, or that your opinions will prevail. But they might. That won’t make you “establishment” – it will make you a teammate.
If you don’t like a candidate, party official, or policy, that’s fine. Just say why, factually, respectfully, constructively. Yelling “establishment” is nothing but empty sloganeering. How can that possibly help?
So let us not use “establishment” or “insider” as an attack. Let us instead build, improve and expand the party, by making it honorable to serve in it. Let us then openly and respectfully discuss policy positions and candidate qualifications, select the best candidate for the job, and the time, in open and vibrant processes, and get to work winning elections and saving America.
That is all.
Jay McConville Former Chair of the Fairfax County Republican Committee