Our Fractured Republican Fairy Tale

The removal of RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick yesterday is the culmination of several years of Republican infighting between conservative and moderate activists over which side is to blame for the string of defeats that Virginia’s GOP has suffered at the ballot box. Both sides blame the other for the Party’s woes and, as the losses mount, each has become increasingly entrenched in their respective positions. What they have all sadly failed to realize is that it is precisely this reaction, the uncompromising attempt to assign blame and sever the guilty members from the Party, that has precipitated the Republican march to Minority.

Conservatives argue that recent losses are a sign that Republicans have abandoned their principles. They claim that the GOP has strayed from its roots and must return to the days when socially conservative Democrats and independents were persuaded to join our cause to fight against the decay of traditional faith, family, and community values. They are right.

Moderates view recent failures as proof that the Party has become too ideological. They claim that the GOP has strayed from its roots and must return to the days when fiscally conservative business leaders were persuaded to join our cause to fight against liberal meddling that proposed to send our fragile economy into further despair with higher taxes and more onerous regulation. They are right.

The point is that no one person or group of persons has a monopoly on what ideas or objectives are right for our Party. Indeed, that is the very purpose of a Party organization to begin with, to allow all ideas to be thrown into the pot, stirred around, and to allow the best ones to rise to the top. Sadly, that process seems to have been interrupted by bickering over who gets to do the stirring.

What is most damaging and destructive to our Party now is the unyielding certainty of each faction that they are right, that no one else can be right, and that everyone else is determined to exclude them from the process. As 6th District Chair Fred Anderson was quoted in the Roanoke Times saying after yesterday’s meeting, the issue is “In a word — trust.”

It is unfortunate that things have come to this point. It is true that there are some who never wanted Jeff Frederick as Chair. It is equally true that there are some who would have supported him no matter what the evidence. However, I think that many of those involved in this process have been somewhere in the middle, struggling with the recognition that our Party must change in order to reverse our electoral fortunes, but uncertain if Frederick is the person capable of bringing about those changes that will be best for the Party.

In the end the vote was not close. While procedurally, Frederick was one vote away from retaining his seat, the fact that Frederick had lost the confidence of roughly 3/4 of the State Central Committee makes the reality of the situation much different. I hope that Frederick and his supporters will understand this and will now seek to become part of a larger solution. I also hope that those who voted to remove Frederick realize that doing so does not eliminate all of the problems facing RPV.

Nothing will be solved until we can repair the trust within the Republican Party, until we begin to work together again in good faith to achieve our shared objectives. We are fortunate to have excellent candidates for statewide office this year. We must start working together now to ensure that they are elected. So long as we continue to impute bad motives to anyone in our Party who disagrees with us, we will only give the Democrats more opportunities to elect their candidates and pursue their objectives. I hope that we can agree that none of us desires to see that happen.

I encourage everyone to let this be an opportunity for us as Republicans to open our dialogue with one another, find common ground and move forward to victory. The future of our Party, our Commonwealth and our Nation are too important to allow petty differences to keep us on the sidelines.

  • Excellent post, Chris.

  • Aaron Evans

    Chris, this is very good. Very well stated.

  • Stonewall Brigade

    You make some decent points but you are way off. Yesterday was NOT a battle between moderates and conservatives. There are NOT 57 moderates on SCC. There are at least 4 that voted to remove Jeff yesterday that supported him in June over Hager.

    So long as SCC picks a known conservative for Chairman, the convention will vote to keep him or her in that position. Jeff should run for re election to his House seat if he wants to contribute to the conservative movement. Gary Byler who supported Jeff yesterday had it right, it is time for RPV to move on.

  • Ok, on some points I agree but, you leave out some very important facts.

    “Moderates view recent failures as proof that the Party has become too ideological. They claim that the GOP has strayed from its roots and must return to the days when fiscally conservative business leaders were persuaded to join our cause to fight against liberal meddling that proposed to send our fragile economy into further despair with higher taxes and more onerous regulation. ” -Chris

    Moderates argue for fiscal conservatism? Since when? There are social conservatives that are also fiscal conservatives, ya know. Are they moderates too? Moderates don’t argue for fiscal conservatism. They argue for status quo or more spending/bigger government.

    Some people have problems with Frederick? Fine! But why mock his statement of not believing in the theories of Charles Darwin? You call that embracing social conservatives? Can’t you disagree with him without mocking his faith?

    What I call a moderate is a big spending, big government preferring, mocker of personal faith. A Democrat, yes…….a RINO.

    Lastly, you argue for love of party. You speak of a need to defeat Democrats and return success to the RPV. Where was that before? It is very easy for those attacking Frederick to now call for civility.

    “ok, now that I won, no name calling…….no fighting dirty.”

    I promise you, some people see it that way.

    The issue is “trust” as you said but, how will you build it?

  • NoVA Scout

    Well written but essentially non-factual. This was a clash between people who expect a minimal level of capability in running the Party organization and those addicted to the endorphin-like effects of a good, red meat slogan. Stonewall’s analysis is on the money. To cast this as a conservative/moderate split is to adopt the diversionary rhetoric that Mr. Frederick used to distract gullible folks from his own shortcomings. If analysts looking back on this perpetuate the static that this was an ideological feud, they do the Party a great disservice. Ideology was thrown up as chaff to defeat the homing beam of those who have minimal expectations of managerial competence.

  • Another Moderate

    NoVA Scout is correct, and while you article is factual, this removal had nothing to do with ideology, it had to do with competence and leadership. As long as the “Frederick 18” through out words like Tom Davis, and Moderates it kept the conservatives who believe in accountability from being able to understand the issues and reasons why Jeff was removed.

    I recently read an e-mail from one activist who spoke about how she was not going to do anything for any Republican candidate because of this. In fact, that is exactly what Jeff wants anyway. Frederick is so consumed with his own self-image that he does not have the Party’s interests ahead of his own. That, in and of itself is very telling about his Chairmanship.

    If Jeff REALLY cared about the Party he would issue a statement asking his supporters to move on past this and to help McDonnell/Bolling/???

    But why would he do that? That would mean that the spotlight would be taken off of him. Jeff knew this vote was lost on the morning of Saturday, it would have behooved him to resign to spare us ALL the wasted time. I would also like to point out that Jeff did not even stay in the room for the final vote, he left once he lost.

    So, is your article right: Yes. But not in the context it was written, this was not a debate between the moderates and conservatives, it was a debate between those who like leadership and accountability and those who don’t need that in a Chairman.

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  • Very astute comments, NOVA Scoout and A.M.

  • Chris, I agree with your analysis, but I have to agree with NoVA Scout and AM that this wasn’t a battle of ideology. Had Frederick been competent, moderates like me would have been more than willing to accept his leadership. I was more concerned with us losing in November because of him than having someone who agreed with my personal philosophy in charge.

    Britt, I disagree with your definition of moderate. I’m a moderate because I don’t buy into a lot of the divisive social conservative positions that many believe are core to conservative beliefs. I’m pro-life, but I’m not rabid about it. I don’t care about gay marriage. I believe that the best way to show my religious belief is through my own actions, not through legislation. But what makes me a Republican is my belief in fiscal discipline, low taxes, protecting personal freedoms, smaller and smarter government and belief in the free market.

    Many, many of the people my age (31) and younger are of that ilk. We don’t want to spend time arguing over social issues when there are much greater issues looming that have the potential to affect all of us.

    We have got to end this moderate vs. conservative debate. It doesn’t matter. Those are just labels. We are all Republicans. We need to work together, not against each other. Let the Democrats play the party purity games. We’ve got elections to win and a Commonwealth to turn around.

  • Brian, your point is well taken. I kinda did what I was ticked off about in the first place. Different people use the word “moderate” in differing contexts.

    From your description however, you sound like (to me) a fiscal conservative.

    “But what makes me a Republican is my belief in fiscal discipline, low taxes, protecting personal freedoms, smaller and smarter government and belief in the free market.” – Brian W. Schoeneman

    Being “moderate” in your active advancement of certain issues does not make you “moderate” in philospohy.

    I’m very fiscally conservative. I just get irritated when I get lumped in with certain Republicans that love to grow government, spend our money, and raise our taxes as a means to that end. Often they are reffered to as moderates or RINOs depending on the speaker.

    In truth, I probably agree with you and Chris more often than not. I apologize for throwing a label (or defining a label) on you that you feel to be inaccurate.

  • Britt, no need to apologize. We’re all on the same team, and the first step towards healing these rifts is for people to be willing to tolerate the views of others.

    This whole issue kind of reminds me of the whole African-American, Hispanic-American, etc. debate from when I was growing up. I never understood the need for those labels – what’s important is we’re all American, period.

    We have got to get to the point where moderates and conservatives, no matter how they define themselves, stop using those labels and go back to just referring to themselves as Republicans. That way we are focusing on what unites us, not what divides.

  • Britt, thank you for relaxing. I was getting the impression you were an uptight $#@%….
    But, as you’ve laid out your intolerance of those lacking fiscal conservative principle..I can relate. I can’t stand those who sit home thru the last election or this one…for any reason. That’s MY trigger, so I can easily comprehend yours.
    Having said that: I’m described as a somewhat moderate..mostly because of social issues being thrust to the front of the races over such things as fiscal discipline and taxes, free markets, etc…and my dislike of that practice.
    I am foremost concerned with the bottom line. I want taxes lowered, and government smaller and more frugal. My house has to live within my salary…and I cannot readily raise my salary on demand. This means that I sometimes must decide what to keep and what to dump.

    I also embrace the free market, capitalism and our Republic…which rose to the strongest nation on the face of the planet…due to that free market.

    I think we’re on the same page here, as I want McDonnel to win this year, rather than hand the office to a carpetbagger who has rubbed shoulders with all the truly liberal scum for years.

    So, can we-together, drop the Frederick matter, elect a conservative money-raising, delegating, well-respected Chair and get on with the main business at hand, friend?

  • And here I thought your trigger was Jeff Frederick. Go figure.

    Well, I’ve already been to one fund raiser for Ken Cuccinelli in Newport News. Don’t think I’ll get to the one (closer to home) in Chesapeake featuring Gov. Mike Huckabee on April 16th. http://www.cuccinelli.com/Huckinvite.pdf

    In some way, I’ll be helping Bill Bolling. He’s got Newt with him on the 17th in Richmond. http://www.billbolling.com/?page=main

    I’ll make it to the voting booth as always, even if I’m not working a polling precinct like I was last year.

  • Chris Obenshain

    First of all, I am pleased to read so many well thought and well considered responses to my post. Britt asked how trust will be built and I think one answer needs to be respectful dialogue among different factions within the party.

    I would agree with many of the critiques above and some of them are caused by the need for brevity in this format. The “moderate” label I used in this context probably would be more accurately termed “fiscal conservative.”

    Further, I completely agree that the vote against Frederick cannot simply be explained by a ideological split. I realize that the first line seems to make the opposite point, but I think if you read the body of the post, you’ll realize that I am arguing against defining Frederick’s removal that way. That is why I took pains to say that I felt most people involved with the decision were somewhere in the middle. Many of these are conservatives, some are even those who have supported Jeff in the past. My entire point is that defining this as a moderate v. conservative issue only exacerbates our Party’s problems and makes it that much more difficult to bring any resolution to them.

    Once again, thanks for all the great responses and I hope this is just the beginning of a larger, ongoing discussion.

  • The Frederick vote was based in matters of competency, not ideology. A competent chair could not have been ousted.

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