A vehicle, not a master

For the considerable discussion on this page over whether Virginia Republicans should have a convention or a primary in 2016, one of the new entrants into that contest, John Kasich, said a few words worth considering:

“Here’s the thing you have to realize, the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master”

The context is his decision to run with a bunch of old John McCain hands on his team. And, certainly, his embrace of Medicaid expansion plays into the statement, too.

But the “vehicle not master” idea is something Virginia’s Republicans shouldn’t ignore. Federal law and court decisions have hollowed out political parties to such an extent that they are, in national elections especially, pass through organizations with nice mail permits. Such entities are incapable of enforcing discipline on candidates and even less so on incumbents. The recent primary elections showed that most office holders do not need the party, or its constituent parts, to win. The apparatus can be useful. But it is not essential. And it is certainly nothing to be feared.

You want big campaign cash? There’s a super PAC for that. Need boots on the ground? A plethora of 501(c)(4) organizations are already making their plans. Technology got you down? The outside groups have that covered, and are getting better every day. Need the RPV? Please leave a message.

As for Kasich…well, good luck with the presidential run, Governor. I’m more convinced he’s in line to be someone’s ticket balancer. Ohio has been essential to Republican victory since Lincoln (save for Dewey in 1944 and Nixon in 1960). A favorite son might be able to deliver those electoral votes.

Republicans will desperately need them, because Tim Kaine, who has been auditioning for the Democratic VP slot or months now, has every intention of giving Virginia’s coveted electors to Mrs. Clinton. And Tim does have a talent for winning.

Virginia Republicans should keep that in mind, too. Unless they prefer to move on to discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin after they settle their convention-primary debate.

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