Kyle McDaniel and the Virginia of 2018

I don’t personally know Kyle McDaniel, but when I read his resignation letter this week, my eyes filled with tears.  It takes a lot these days, after more time than I’d like to admit in the trenches of politics, to touch my hard heart but this one really did. 

How sad is it that the very stellar young people we want involved in the process feel like they have no alternative but to leave the party?  While I disagree with his decision, I didn’t have to read between the lines to hear his pain.  I get it.  I really do.  More importantly, no one has a right to judge when an individual has had enough in any situation sitting next to some card-carrying asshat whose views on humanity make the skin crawl. 

My husband Jeff and I have discussed many times a change in how he runs for office. In 2008 in a blue county, he was the first Republican ever elected on the Caroline Board of Supervisors. Instead of at times answering for the ugly and the stupid in the form of some actions by fellow Republicans at the state and national level, running as an Independent could bring a welcome relief in some years.

The main reason we hang in here is the fact that the majority of our state Republican Party, as everyday Virginians know, are pretty good folks. Everyday Virginians don’t know or understand the party hierarchy.  They are more likely to know the party through the very real people they have met face to face in the community, like their supervisor, delegate, senator, and congressman, who have made us a priority here in Caroline over these many years.

Although I have strongly disagreed with every one of our Caroline representatives at one time or another, I have come to know their hearts and have seen their good works on behalf of our citizens.

Senator McDougle, Delegates Ransone, Fowler, and Orrock have been a blessing to our county.  There are way too many good folks in our General Assembly to name them all, but check out the following this year: Senator Bill Stanley fighting for the humane treatment of animals; Delegate Glenn Davis who is working on legislation to jump-start local economies for real; Senator Jill Vogel, who will never give up the fight for our 2nd Amendment rights; and Delegate Nick Freitas who never met a liberty loving idea he did not embrace. 

Our leaders, like all good leaders, aren’t throwing in the towel.  They are leading right now in a very difficult situation, and we need to make a solid wall of support behind them.       

Easy for me to say; right, Kyle? I don’t have to sit in the room with some of the “Twillight Zone” characters in those State Central Committee meetings, do I?  

My point is, however, that neither does the average Virginia voter. Honestly, at the local level, and no offense to any particular member of SCC, but the average voter does not have a clue who you are or what kind of policy you make for RPV, good or bad.

I give a report at every local committee meeting on what’s happening there in the way of Party Plan changes, nomination methods, or whatever and our folks politely try to hide it, but their eyes glaze over. Not one could tell you who is the chairman of RPV, or even who our 1st District Chairman is, namely Bob Watson, who is one of the most honest and decent people ever to serve on SCC.

Only activists know what Fredy Burgos says in an SCC meeting and, even if it makes the newspapers, the average Joe Citizen does not care. They are busy making a living, and taking their kids to after-school activities.    

In Caroline we kept our eyes on the prize and in a decade turned a 100-plus-year blue county red at the local, state, and national level. We did not do it with committees, or district committees, or SCC meetings. It has no bearing on anything that eventually happened here, although the fights on convention vs. primary didn’t bless us at the local level. 

Candidate X who thinks he can take over Committee Y and win a convention just eats up local time and resources, and reinforces the idea that long-time committee membership holds no benefits. If only we could understand that committee members don’t equal convention goers, nor are large membership numbers necessary for successful elections.  

Until conservatives learn the simple reason why we have a party structure (just like the Democrats), which is to provide the very necessary infrastructure for proper election processes and forget the drama which has become the Republican legacy of Ken Cuccinelli, we cannot elect conservatives statewide. If you use your common sense and powers of deduction, it will tell you even when committees on any level and SCC are either taken over or experience an orderly change of leadership, it makes no difference to our Republican numbers. 

If you think a Pat Mullins, as jolly and able a front man as he was during the Bob McDonnell years elected Republicans to all three offices, think again.  The amazing hard work of those candidates and their ability to connect with communities all over Virginia elected them.

Bill Bolling spent his years as a senator traveling Virginia before he ran for Lieutenant Governor, visiting not just committees but the communities in the way of salt fish breakfasts, Ruritan picnics, fairs, and parades. He was so well known that he won his first Lieutenant Governor’s race when both the offices of Governor and Attorney General went to the Democrats. He did it with a rock solid voting record and without giving up any principle. He did it by making his state race “local” and based in the communities of Virginia.

In the Virginia of 2018, as much as things have changed, many basic rules still remain. Committees will never be big enough or have enough reach to add the necessary numbers.  Those additional votes are still in the community where most busy people are not interested in attending meetings once a month or giving up Saturdays to travel and serve on District committees or State Central Committee. 

Successful candidates will still find those citizens at community, not party, events, a concept local elected Republicans have long known. To be successful, State Republican candidates need to look for community leaders, not committee chairmen. People who come out to vote for a local election and have felt the difference in leadership in their lives are more likely to be convinced that the state elections matter. The election of Dave Brat is an example of a community movement in a primary of all things, not a party decision or an off-the-wall opinion from anyone on SCC leadership.       

As fun as social media is in the discussion of politics, it has been the death of a real understanding into the priorities of the average voter. Most real Virginia voters, and potential voters, cannot (and will not) spend hours on Facebook reading long diatribes.  Only activists do that and they are the minority. So we tend to judge what is happening in the state by our circle on social media. 

Most activists have their little social media group and then, of course, there is the group who opposes, right?  How good do we feel when our posse gives us agreement or even one of the opposition halfway sees our point of view on an issue? If you knew how finite that number was, that feeling would evaporate.

As the wife of a Caroline supervisor and a community (not political) activist in my own right, I have over 1,000 facebook friends in addition to my political network.  I can count on one hand the times per month when state politics is a subject for discussion among those households. If I offered a thousand dollars, not one would know who Fredy Burgos even was. They do, however, want to know when Harris Teeter, our newest business, is going to open up for employment opportunities, and if we are going to fix the bridge on XYZ road which they need to travel on to get to work on time.   

If anyone has read my writing the last few years on Bearing Drift, they know I write about what actually happens at the local level with real people. I call it a “view from the basement.”  Others might call it that oft misused word “grassroots,” but it’s, in all honesty, a level below that. It’s no less disappointing that my story falls on deaf ears. I do, however, routinely draw for comments a few angry, friendless, frustrated liberal trolls who hate that I write about my personal experience (even when it’s just posting recipes) and have to try and alter my story, as if it belongs to them. 

While flattered that the lonely trolls live vicariously through me and have no personal stories of their own to relate, there is a reason I write this way.  A wise person once said, “Write about what you know.”  So, I write about life as I know it day to day, and care little if it supports either party narrative.  More importantly, I write about real situations in the hope that potential candidates will look at the Virginia of 2018 and what actually happens in real life at that grunt level and understand a better way to elect conservative candidates.     

As to Kyle’s resignation, I say thank God we have people like him with enough character to speak out so eloquently. This kind of letter always gives courage to others to speak up as well. My guess is we have not seen the last of Mr. McDaniel in leadership.  Judging from his letter, he is the kind of man who can inspire and draw people to him in a big way. 

Hear me on this too, though:  I have plenty of great Democrat friends and some reach in those circles, too.  Locally, if it were not for crossover votes, there would be no conservative Caroline.  We don’t hear this drama and elevation to a ridiculous level of party leaders coming out of Democrat land.  They have their wing nuts, too, and keep those wing nuts to themselves for a reason.  

In the meantime, folks, circle those wagons.  Virginians, not the party, need you.