This is a long series so let me summarize it before we start to talk about how to reconcile irreconcilable differences.
In the first installment, I posited that the Republican Party of San Diego County’s (RPSDC) celebrated “San Diego Model” was, in fact, not being followed. The comments that followed suggested early endorsements alienated people in the primaries, causing them to “drop out” of the general elections.
In part two, I offered that the most important person in our party was the neighborhood volunteer precinct captain (PC). I discussed how most successful county party committees relied on the PC for both Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts and party governance. One commenter reinforced the importance of a neighborhood communications strategy and another suggested that the failure of our party comes from the committee leadership ignoring the will of registered Republican voters.
The third installment is when the discussion got interesting. I tried to explain that Prop 14 and the loss of Mary Rose Consiglio were the reasons we lost our vibrant neighborhood precinct captain network, aka “The San Diego Model.” I suggested that donors have an overweighted influence on our committee (and its endorsement decisions) than do the volunteers. I also recognized that the cornerstone of our party, Pro- Life and Traditional Marriage voters, left the coalition that is RPSDC. Commenters affirmed two things: (1) the endorsement process alienated many voters and (2) some Republicans are frustrated that the party platform isn’t being followed.
Part Four was my attempt to define those most likely to join the coalition that is the local party organization. I asked people to define their “vote moving issue,” and the conversation reverted to the platform. In a sense, I wondered if we might find consensus in the comments and the opposite happened. This brings me back to two thoughts: (1) the RPSDC process is broken, and (2) none of us are ever going to get everything we want in the coalition that is RPSDC.
This (part 5) may be the most important installment (to me) because it will define if this committee is even worthy of reform. I still think it is. I was elected to a four-year term on this committee and I intend to honor my commitment, but in thirty years of political activism, I can say, without a doubt, that the RPSDC is the most irrelevant county central committee for which I’ve volunteered (and I’ve been elected to three county committees, in three different states). This is why I resigned from the Executive Committee. Some of this may be a function of the times, some of it may be a function of campaigning in a hostile climate (California is not a hotbed of conservatism), but the RPSDC county central committee is, for all practical purposes, irrelevant.
Let’s start here; the cultural conservative movement to campaign against Carl DeMaio was a horrible idea. I understood that some voters wouldn’t, on principle, vote for a candidate with his positions on Life and Marriage, and I accepted that. But when the leaders of the pro-Kirk Jorgensen volunteers actively campaigned against DeMaio, they put themselves at risk of not being taken seriously. Pastor Jim Garlow’s “strategic defense” theory did more damage than good. They campaigned FOR a candidate with intrinsically evil positions with the hope that a more conservative candidate could defeat the Democratic candidate in two years. Here’s the rub — that “more conservative candidate” doesn’t stand a chance if he or she doesn’t have local party support.
Cultural conservatives can try to advance that candidate in the local Democratic Party but they’ll be in hostile territory there. If cultural conservatives want to champion a candidate, they will have a better chance to do it within RPSDC, but the scorched earth approach they took makes them suspicious to the RPSDC faithful. Cultural conservatives have some work to do to regain credibility. I want to foster an environment to help them do that, but confrontation won’t work at this point.
The “New Generation” meme was a bad and is now a discredited idea. I don’t know which consulting firm focus-group tested that, but to intentionally attack the “white, middle-aged male” is like McDonald’s advertising that overweight people shouldn’t come to their restaurant. I know, I know…the idea was to be more inviting and inclusive but even SUGGESTING that the church-going, gun-owning, Desert Storm veterans are myopic, explicitly or implicitly makes no sense. In the beginning, I thought the idea was to highlight more libertarian ideas, but the message turned into some kind of class warfare battle, pitting high-propensity Republican vs. right-leaning Decline-to-State voters.
There is room in this party organization for cultural conservatives, libertarians, and social liberals, but it’s not going to happen if we focus on our differences rather than to rally around our similarities. We need to “reconcile irreconcilable differences.” Let me offer a few things to consider:
1. Stop calling people “RINO’s”. If you checked the R box on your voter registration, you’re a Republican. You may not be a Christian, you may not be a conservative, you might even support gun control, but you’re a Republican if you checked that box. I have always thought our party was the party of ideas so I don’t mind that you think differently than I do. I believe that if you hang around me enough, you’ll start thinking like me, so I’d rather engage you at Republican party meetings than fight you as a Democrat.
Understand that political parties are just meetings of like-minded people. If you have disagreements with people, be thankful that you’re in a party organization which encourages debate and dialogue. Consider this advice (comparing our coalition to a marriage):
These are irreconcilable differences. They will not change. Our personalities are a study in contrasts, thank God. Imagine how boring our marriage would be if we were exactly the same. Our differences strengthen us, both individually and as a married couple, challenging us to accept each other “as is.”
2. We are going to argue, I EXPECT us to argue. We are freedom loving individuals with strong personalities. We were attracted to the Republican Party for SOME reason(s) and I’ll bet most of us share a reason for that registration we chose. Sometimes, that’s going to require a sort of compromise on candidates. Some of those candidates will go against the written platform and that will drive you nuts. If you focus on complete compliance, you will be left with too few candidates for the close to 1,000 elected offices in San Diego County. Consider this from the same article:
But sometimes our irreconcilable differences lead to arguments, and sometimes those arguments can be heated – voices raised, feelings hurt. (It seems stubbornness is a trait we actually have in common!) It can be extremely difficult to be the first to step back and really listen to the other’s complaint, be sensitive to it, respect it and honor it. For me, it is very hard to cast aside my natural “my way or the highway” tendencies and put on the cloak of unselfishness. But no one ever said marriage wouldn’t involve hardship or sacrifice. We promised for better or for worse.
3. RPSDC has to do a better job at fostering an environment to hash out those arguments. Our Chairman is famous for saying “don’t reward bad behavior.” While I sometimes disagree with his definition of bad behavior, I can agree that suggesting someone is bigoted for holding a platform belief or openly campaigning for Democrats are bad behavior. I sense that the empowerment that the party endorsement brings, or the frustration that the endorsement looks “rigged,” causes people to act in a divisive matter. If that schism is irreconcilable for future elections, leave. I think you’ll find, like Nathan Fletcher did, that you’ll be in a no-man’s land where few if any people trust you in the world of political activism. Stated differently, if you chose to leave the RPSDC last year, it’s going to be hard to criticize the actions of the people who are doing the work today. Conversely, if you intend to insult people because they became Republican when Ronald Reagan was President, you’re defeating the purpose of political party associations.
4. Our State Party Platform is a consensus document, not the US Constitution. It’s a statement of shared beliefs but not a litmus test for candidates. I disagree with that document in a few places and I know my Republican neighbors disagree with other parts of it. I have often said that the garden-variety Republican, in Alpine, is going to view that document differently than my Republican neighbors in Solana Beach. This is a big county, perhaps too big for one party committee, but this is how its organized. Quoting the party platform, scripture and verse, to play “gotcha” ain’t gonna win elections. Promoting “your” candidates, within a committee of people who respect you, will.
I recognize that the Republican Party of San Diego County has to reform its ways. I know our endorsement process alienates people. I know we have lost vibrant, excited volunteers. I know we have to expand our influence among younger voters. I know we have to do this now, as in the next month or so, or suffer the indignity of ceding more parts of the County to the Democrats.
I want to make the changes we need to make and I hope you’ll see fit to be part of the conversation these next few weeks. I appreciate the comments, feedback, phone calls, and e-mails from many of you. I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas because I celebrate it and hope that, whatever your holiday celebration is, it’s blessed and joyful.