Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's Mine, Dammit! I've Had It For Years, And I Ain't Gonna Give It Up!

No, that headline does not reflect an actual quote. Not by me nor anyone else I know.

Instead, it reflects a general feeling that seems to be affecting way too many GOP Unit leaders in Virginia, (and perhaps nationwide).

Recently my friend Shaun Kenney laid forth an open letter to the RPV (Republican Party of Virginia), and he hit on many a problem (or potential problem). I endorse most of the thoughts he expressed in that letter. (Letter available here in PDF form alternately, it is also available here, and here as a Word document.)

In this document, Kenney suggests that change should begin at the bottom, and work up to the statewide group, RPV. I agree.
Experimentally, unit committees should consider reorganizing along the following lines and principles:

  • All unit committees must radically commit themselves to new media. That means a community blog focusing on issues pertinent to the locality in which they live, open to all the members of the committee (Democrats tend to use SoapBlox as their platform of choice; Drupal, Joomla, or even WordPress is suitable).
  • Chairman is elected as the lead community organizer. As a first among equals, the chairman co-ordinates as a garden-variety chairman would.
  • All districts and precincts are given a chairman. These individuals form the Executive Committee of any given unit committee, and targets the specific race (supervisor, city council, school board) under their jurisdiction.
  • The idea of "district and precinct chairman" should be expanded to advocacy groups as well. This means anything from minority outreach1 to youth advocacy, from Republican Womens’ units to Young Republicans, all the way down to Republican Liberty Caucus organizations or Taxpayer Alliances within a locality. Every group with a "tribe" should have a seat at the table.
  • The Executive Committee subsumes the role of Finance, Communications, and all grassroots activity. No vice chairs for finance, communications, membership, or any of the nominal. The Napoleonic dictum "Every soldier carries a marshal's baton in his pack" is the rule.
  • A strong focus on driving a narrative both within the online community and in the traditional media should be imperative. Perception is reality; MSM outlets are typically hesitant to challenge a strong new media culture. Moreover, strong alternative outlets for information attached to the unit committee are essential.
  • Surrender the message control. This is probably the most difficult thing for unit committees to learn, but increasing participation means a decrease in message control. Jefferson’s advice still rings true. "We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it" is wonderfully appropriate advice. After all, are we the party of free minds, free markets, and a free society – or are we not? It is far better to be bold (fortuna audaces juvat?) than it is to remain safe… and losing.

What is being advocated at the local level is a bold, spirited return to the principles of direct action and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Republican Party, and a direction away from the top heavy role imposed by an outmoded system of unit organization.
What exactly is Shaun saying here? My best interpretation is given in the headline above. Too many Units are "led" by people who have held their position for way too long. Long enough that they have developed a feeling of ownership of their Unit. Held so long they just "know" that no one else could possibly be more concerned for the good of the Party than they are.

Unfortunately, far too often, that leads to situations such as experienced last year by Tazewell County. And Augusta County, and Fluvanna County. And who knows how many that were never challenged or publicized.

Such tactics lead others in the community, others who could be strong workers for the GOP and conservative causes, to avoid the local Unit as though it were infected with a virus. When such attitudes begin to show, it could be said that Unit really has become infected with a virus. We are what people perceive us to be, I suppose. We need to work together, as individuals, as small groups, and as what Shaun describes as "tribes" in order to grow our Units.

Far too often the growth of the Unit is feared instead of encouraged. Too many people participating in a Mass Meeting means harder work getting re-elected Chairman, that cannot be tolerated.

Horse hockey! It must be tolerated. It must be encouraged. It must be worked for.

Thankfully, there will not be any change in the Henry County local Unit's Chairmanship during this critical election cycle. Perhaps that will allow Units such as ours to function as designed without any "looking over my shoulder" antics by our leaders.

In the meantime, I suggest Shaun's letter be required reading for all Unit Chairmen and other local leaders.

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