Friday, November 16, 2007

GOP conservatives want a place at the leadership table

Insightful post today from Norman Leahy concerning moderates vs conservatives within the Republican Party.

He points to the Manassas Journal-Messenger piece by Zachary Moore who is an aide to recently-defeated Sen. Brandon Bell of Roanoke. In the article Moore blames party infighting as the reason for our recent losses.

An explanation of that "infighting" is needed.

Those GOP losses can be directed to the very senators, including Sen. Bell, who ignored their base and voted with two Democrat governors to raise taxes even as the voters were asking them to cut spending.

The roots of the recent losses, in my opinion, took hold in 2004 when Republican senators led by Chichester and Potts battled with conservative Republicans and the House, and sided with Democrats to produce a win on taxes for then-Governor Mark Warner.

It was the beginning of Mark-Warner-the-Rock-Star in politics. Mark Warner was held up by his party nationwide as a shining example of reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans because they backed his largest-ever tax increase in Virginia history. He was able to convince the Virginia General Assembly, which was controlled by the GOP, to side with him. A star was born....

At that time I spoke with my senator who was leaning toward backing the tax increase and asked him not to vote for it, pointing out that, if successful, the democrats could use a win to their advantage in future elections. He voted for the tax increase.

Today we are facing Mark Warner as a senatorial candidate and many are saying he is unbeatable. He is, they point out, the Rock Star of the Democrat Party, Independents, and even some Republicans. We all know who helped make him that rock star.

Norm goes on to say:
... what Moore's piece does not address are the reasons why incumbents were challeneged in the first place. The specifics vary from contest to contest, but in general, all the challenges reflected dissastisfaction within the GOP base. Conservatives were upset. And they took it out on incumbents using a process that is both perfectly legitimate and tragically under-used.

I do not look upon primaries as a bad thing. They are usually highly partisan affairs, but they also tend to be clarifying. And clarity is good, it is useful, and, yes, it can also have painful consequences.

Will conservatives shy away from primaries knowing that their challenges could cost the party a seat in the general election? I suspect not, in part because they consider themselves conservatives first, and Republicans second.

And from that perspective, no amount of "moderate" clucking will prevent them from waging additional contests in the future.
In the 24th Senatorial District where Emmett Hanger was challenged by Scott Sayre (who was endorsed by almost the entire grassroots leadership of the 24th), the bickering is on-going from Hanger supporters who continue to chastise Sayre backers even thought the Sayre supporters publicly endorsed Hanger for the general election which resulted in his winning by 60-some percent. Even as dems and the Libertarian candidate tried to drive a wedge and ciphon off Republican votes, grassroots leaders held firm in uniting the Party.

A particularly contested point involves the Hanger supporters who feel chairmen must remain neutral in Primary battles. However, even the State Party Plan, while stating that Units themselves should not endorse one Republican candidate over another in a primary, allows -- in fact, encourages -- individuals to actively work for the candidate of their choice.

The wife of a former Staunton GOP chairman -- one of the Hanger supporters -- has been especially harsh and critical about the grassroots backing Sayre during the primary. When told of the Party Plan, she stated that leaders should not be able to use their titles in endorsing candidates.

O-kay. So candidates would end up with a list of names only which is practically useless in statewide elections. It is ridiculous to think candidates would ask for leadership support and then not use their titles.

What the Republican Party is going through is a "correction" ... growing pains ... we have had them before and will have them again ...

... and what conservatives are looking for is a place at the leadership table.


Anonymous said...

The likes of Chichester, Potts, Bell, Hanger, etc. made Warner the Rock Star. If they held their ground like Obenshain, Cuccinelli, etc. Warner would not have been as "powerful" today. I knew at the time if Warner got his tax increase he would be trouble for the Republican Party.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Agreed. It is convenient to pass along the blame for "infighting" and recent losses to the grassroots ... but this began with the moderate Republican leaders themselves who ignored their Party and bolstered the dems. This has been in the making for a long time.

Anonymous said...

You need to correct your post. Bell did not vote for the 2004 tax increase. He did vote to raise taxes for transportation in 2006. All this hysteria over one vote. It's just crazy.