What’s wrong with the Republican Party? Some critics say that our messaging is too conservative and some say that our messaging is too moderate. Some think our candidates are too conservative and others think them to liberal. In my opinion, both views may be correct.
California is a large and diverse state and San Diego County is a large and diverse county. Republican voters in Alpine are different from Encinitas Republicans. It should follow then that candidates and messaging will differ in this large and diverse County.
This is not to say that we should abandon our CRP platform, far from it. The CRP platform is a great document which lays out our views on the economy, social issues, immigration, school choice, foreign policy, and the role of government. An Ocean Beach voter however, might weight the CRP Position on the Second Amendment less than a Fallbrook voter might. How then, do we get a values voter, to work alongside a Log Cabin Republican, to elect a fiscally conservative County Treasurer?
The solution is to remake our party organization into a true grass roots party. Our current system of tax-payer funded elections leave voters choosing six people from a list of strangers. Central Committee members rely on slate mailers to win the committee elections rather than personal contact with the voters. Reorganizing the way we elect RNC delegates, CRP central committee members, and county committee members, gives us an opportunity to broaden the appeal of our party by bringing its governance to the precinct level. As former CRP Chairman Shawn Steel said, (when he suggested this idea) “We want to create a movement”.
Creating a movement should be appealing enough but a delegate/caucus model might also be a survival tactic. The folks who brought us Prop 14 are already working on a plan to eliminate our party Presidential primary elections. Combine that with the recent Legislature action, which changed the bi-annual central committee elections to once every four years, and it’s easy to see that our existing taxpayer-funded elections model is in peril. It makes sense. After all, if labor unions don’t use the Registrar of Voters to elect their officers, why should another private organization (which is what the Republican Party is)?
Politics is Local
It starts on the precinct level with a Precinct Captain (PC) election. Local county parties can host a signature petition ballot for Precinct Captain. Candidates would file their intent to run by May 1 of the even number years. The county party organizations would verify the PC candidates’ voter registrations and issue them a signature petition ballot. Each PC candidate would be required to get at least 25 signatures, from registered Republicans in their precinct, to win the PC election. If there are two or more candidates from one precinct, the PC candidate with the most signatures wins.
This gives our state and local candidates a captured GOTV work force for the June elections. PC candidates will be doing exactly what we need PCs to do—identify, meet, and speak with Republican voters. As they petition local Republicans for their vote, they will be simultaneously promoting our candidates for the June elections.
These Precinct Captains Elect County and State Leadership Committees
The County County Committee would be reorganized into five Congressional District Caucuses. Each CD Caucus would have a bi-annual convention and monthly meetings. Congressional District conventions should be held within 14 days of the June election. There, PCs will take their oaths of office and spend a day electing: (a) County Central Committee members (b) CRP Central Committee members and (c) RNC delegates (if it’s a Presidential election year). Each PC will be voting for each of those three positions.
Those PCS will elect a CD Caucus Chair and Vice-Chair from the elected county committee members. Those elected Caucus leaders will then serve on the County’s Executive Board. The elected County Committee members will then attend a County convention and elect the Executive Board of the RPSDC.
Moves from a Consultant-Centric to Volunteer-Driven Party
Political party organizations perform a number of functions: (a) recruit and vet candidates for office (b) raise funds to get those candidates elected (c) register voters (d) communicate with Republican voters (e) recruit and train volunteers. Our current system places far too much influence on raising money. Hence, political consultants have an overemphasized influence in the party. Oftentimes, the important “block and tackle” functions falls upon a small number of county committee members, scrambling to field a decent volunteer team to perform the other functions. This process sometimes leaves local Republican voters disconnected and volunteers feeling disenfranchised.
Movements start with “buy-in”. Empowering the local PCs with county, state, and national party governance permits them to debate issues, interview delegate candidates, and find common ground. When values voters, tea party activists, libertarians, fiscal hawks, foreign policy wonks, and Second Amendment supporters, gather at a local level and forge a consensus about governance, it leaves everybody feeling like they have a stake in each candidate from the top to the bottom of the ticket. When PCS feel a sense of “buy-in”, they will “own” their precincts, know every Republican voter within that precinct, and make sure that each is voting to elect Republican candidates.
We need an army of volunteers in San Diego County. We need grass roots activists to take ownership of their communities and have an active voice in the recruitment, selection, and endorsement of those local candidates. We don’t need a Republican “Party” rather…
…we need a Republican “movement” and the best way to do that is to decentralize. After all, decentralization of power is a Republican principle.
San Diego County has some 1500 voting precincts. Imagine regional monthly meetings, attended by 200 PCs, volunteers, and activists. Now imagine a monthly County meeting, attended by 1000 or more of the same. Those wouldn’t be meetings–that would be a movement. Elections would no longer be nail biters—elections would be Republican landslides.