Roanoke Red Zone: Phone Booth Republicans

Brandon Bell makes a fair point, and D.J. McGuire brings it full circle with the way western and eastern Virginians define what is important.

But I want to bring Bell’s finer point to light, because it’s worth mentioning:

Anyone who has been involved in politics for a while knows that these mass meetings are never perfect. They are run by volunteers. Not professionals. As a party leader, Kurt Michael (and others) knew that mistakes were being made. Instead of acting the statesmen and offering to help, they waited until they could take advantage of the parliamentary technicality and defy the will of the majority. Some leader, huh?

So you ask, is this the way to build a party? Is this the way to heal old wounds? We all know the answer. But I’ve come to realize something. Michael and crowd don’t care. They never have. And they don’t really care about ideology. What they care about is power. And they will do anything, including the destruction of their own party, to get it and keep it. Sadly, the same power grab is happening in the Sixth District Committee, with Jim Crosby challenging current Chairman Fred Anderson for the top spot.

Cast the names aside for a moment, because it doesn’t matter who the names are.

In the struggle between “big tent” and principle, what precisely is the long pole? What is the one unifying principle that motivates all of us to work together and beat the Democrats?

Any party, any association of like-minded souls needs to have that one brass ring that unites those who disagree on finer points.

D.J McGuire brings up excellent points as to how the east vs. west defines what is important — fiscal conservativism vs. social conservativism. I would probably hasten to overlay how the tactics are vastly different between more urbanized Virginians (NOVA vs. ROVA — but a variant thereof) living in the Golden Crescent and those outside of the economic boom.

Of course, without principles and without a long pole, there is no tent. So what you have happen is a battle over principles… and eventually, you whittle yourselves into a party that can fit into a phone booth. Isn’t this what happened to the Libertarian Party?

The battle for principles was lost the moment Republicans gained a majority and did nothing to reduce the size and scope of our government — plain and simple. Counties such as Augusta that are writhing in pain are doing so for lack of leadership, not for lack of principle and certainly not for want of trying.

Whether the process is natural or manufactured (or acerbated) due to personalities is something we’ll never fix. But at some point in time, leadership will not become a function of compromise. Rather, the leadership the Republican Party needs will be a function of principle — a uniting principle that brings fiscal and social conservatives together for a time no matter how brief.

Reagan did this. Gingrich did this. Goldwater almost did this. In Virginia, former Governor George Allen did this based on a platform of reducing the size and scope of government… and we have survived on the carcass for nearly 15 years.

Look around. The grassroots complain, but the remaining activists (who haven’t been pushed out) are lazy compared to the Dems. The leadership pontificates, but offers no real substance to the base. Voters listen, but have long ceased to care.

This is not a cycle that is going to end easily.

Keep this in mind too — the Democrats were in precisely this position in 2000, and found themselves in it again in 2004. What pulled them out? One principle: hating President Bush. Six years later, they took Congress.

That’s not much of a principle, and the Congressional Democrats have quickly discovered that it is not enough to govern (just what have they accomplished, anyhow?) and certainly not enough to help their nominee in 2008. Nevertheless, it was enough to grant them power for two long years.

Republicans won’t need much. We just need something we don’t have yet. When we find that principle, the big tent will be easy enough to bring back. Until then, expect good and bad people to fall by the wayside — in Augusta and elsewhere.

In the meantime, wise party leaders will continue to build the apparatus that will take the best advantage of the eventual upswing… and it’ll come.

There’s probably an excellent mathematical model for all of this, but there’s no need to bore folks with details. Suffice to say, this is all perfectly natural in any given bottoming-out process, and pendulums always swing…

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