Part 3: The Division, the Identity Crisis, and a Preference
George Washington 1796 farewell address….
“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.
“But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness;
“… that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
I went briefly through the Bolling/Cuccinelli and Cobb/Gruber rifts and mentioned the earthquake that was seen as Dave Brat beating Eric Cantor in the primary. And while many readers might be quick to condemn my opinions, it is in the humbled shadow of Washington’s words that I continue to request that the past be used to instruct the future.
While those nominating and electoral events did mark the seismic shift that had occurred within the RPV, I think it’s important to clarify the cause behind the outcomes.
Throughout my research for this series I have come to see, and even appreciate, the calculated brilliance of those that crafted their plan for the grassroots takeover of the RPV in 2012. If not for these efforts, the Coup would not have succeeded in making those events possible. The GOPu took control of the State Central Committee from the GOPr. And while there have been changes since then, the rift caused by the actions leading up to and including 2012 have a lingering residual effect that is still present.
One easy answer is a feeling of betrayal on both sides. However, there was no one thing that led to the SCC outcome in 2012. It was the culmination of several years of frustration and discontent. There were people throughout Virginia who had participated in their local and district committees, always answered when asked to help, but never felt they were appreciated and thought the rest of the RPV was more interested in their own control and the political gain of their preferred individuals in the party.
At times they were right, at times they were wrong, but their discontent was very real and, up to that point, generally, the RPV failed to make them feel as if they were valued members of the party or sufficiently address how their differences and ideologies were straining the unity.
In addition, multiple or abrupt changes in senior leadership can make communicating goals and priorities difficult in any organization. It did not help that the RPV itself had struggled through multiple changes in leadership, and with each change came a different set of priorities and principles. All of them, of course, supported the Republican Creed albeit in their own ways.
The State Party Plan is still the main governing document, but it caused problems then and it causes problems now, for reasons that we’ll cover later.
Obviously, the manner in which the GOPu achieved success in 2012 is easier to see now, although I do not think it would be quite as successful now as it was in 2012. I will proven right or wrong in 2020. They took a tactical approach that was initially driven by the grassroots that were conservative in different ways from the GOPr. In addition, they were able to unite and align themselves with various groups of differing ideologies and different political parties.
Several in that GOPu crowd were (and some still are) Tea Party Liberty Conservatives, some were Evangelical Conservatives, and some were Libertarians. It seems like their differences would be sharp enough to prevent them acting in unison toward a singular end; however, that is what they were able to do and their achievement should continue to be instructive. Their collective frustration and anger was at the GOPr … the Consultant Class, The Old Guard, and anyone else who fell under that umbrella that were, in their view, not conservative enough.
But there was also a fundamental shift in how they classified folks as conservative. While there are some exceptions, social issues became the focal point. Compromise was a word they refused to consider. They usually saw it as compromising their values. Their combined, continued frustration was the catalyst for their success as they considered those not deemed conservative enough to be nothing more than RINOs.
That view is still the same. There were many people in the GOPu who saw the changes they made in style and manner as the only positive actions that had been accomplished by the RPV in a long time. But.…
The differences within the GOPu itself also began to surface. For example, Libertarians don’t share all the common social values with Evangelicals. The Tea Party was supposed to be focused on being Taxed Enough Already. But no matter their differences, they were not GOPr.
The GOPr, in many cases during that time, found itself no less than flabbergasted. They were not about to just happily concede control over their party to people who they believed should have remained in their own party or at least exhibited interest in, and respect of the RPV and its ways without burning the house down to achieve their goals.
They were forced to bear witness to the intentional destruction of the very people who had spent years working, raising money, and governing conservatively. They watched as the manner and style of leadership they had carefully built over years gave way to the Bull in the China Shop method of leadership. So many things that “simply were not done.”
The GOPr were now the frustrated side of the party.
To someone looking at this entire situation from the outside, the RPV claimed to welcome all into the “big tent,” but actually that tent was only “big” if an individual was able to meet the test of “conservative,” based on whoever was doing the judging.
For a couple of years, the party was in such a state that even some candidates for office found it difficult to navigate the party infrastructure. It was especially difficult for state-wide candidates because Virginia is very politically diverse, and depending on location is like night and day within the same party. A 2015 Washington Post  article quoted a couple of people viewing the RPV from a national perspective.
“If the party is split 10 ways until Sunday, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for the Republican nominee to come in and organize,” said Chris LaCivita, a Republican strategist in Virginia who is advising Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on a possible presidential run.
“It’s absolutely vital that the party unify sooner rather than later,” LaCivita said. “The more time Republicans spend fighting themselves — not Democrats — is time lost that we can’t get back.”
Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who was an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential
campaign, said the GOP has “little room for error” in a “crucial” state such as Virginia.
“The last thing any presidential candidate needs is to drop into a battleground state and have
the state party folks going at it like the Hatfields and McCoys,” Madden said. “Every ounce of
energy used fighting internally distracts the party from the real opponent.”
So there it was. The RPV had divided itself in such a way that it could not win a statewide election.
Despite everything else … all of the positive attributes of both the GOPu and GOPr … each of the issues that can be easily overcome … the GOPu and GOPr have one issue that, in my opinion, is still is preventing the possibility of their marital reunion.
But what is it?
Is it ideology? Too many Type A personalities? Too many control freaks that are unwilling to compromise? Possibly, but these are not insurmountable. Could the continuing disagreements be a result of the current State Party Plan and organizational arrangement? Possibly, but this too can be fixed. Is there anything that I can point out to show just one example of why unity has been difficult to achieve?
Ah … yep.
There are a few issues that are large enough to keep a division going, but they can be addressed, as I will detail in Part IV.
But there is indeed one central issue that continues to fan the flames between the GOPr and the GOPu more so than most others. It has caused problems from the unit level all the way up to the SCC. It has been the reason for the most conniving, despicable strategy I have ever seen. It has been the rotting root of shattered trust. The question itself is not that difficult to address, but as with most marital divisions, the broken trust must be restored.
My father used to tell me that it takes a long time to develop real trust, and only a second to destroy it. When it comes to the VA GOP, I believe that by addressing this issue, the trust will find its way back. And it is nothing more than a preference for either a …
… convention? Or primary?
This question of nomination preference has been the cause of so much division and broken trust that it is hard to fathom.
Those of you who have spent any significant time in any manner, either GOPr, GOPu, or neither of them … please take a moment to reflect on your experiences, step away from anything personal and ask yourself: how much time, energy, resources, and sweat have I seen focused on this one question? If the same time, energy, resources, and sweat were used against opponents rather than against each other, the RPV would be hard to beat.
Sobering, isn’t it?
How is it possible that something as seemingly simple as a nomination preference could ever be as important as those on either side of the question have allowed it to become? For an education on the various methods of party run nominations, see the RPV website  and click on “Handbook for Mass Meetings, Conventions and Party Canvasses.”
Primaries are not a party nomination method because they are conducted by the Commonwealth, under current law. The handbook overview explains it well:
“A primary is open to all registered voters and is conducted by the Virginia Department of Elections. The Code of Virginia defines the notice, filing requirements, deadlines and other procedures for holding a primary. There are strict deadlines with a primary and in some cases a primary is the required method for re-nomination of certain incumbent Republicans.
“The State Party Plan sets out the basic requirements for the methods, and controls the process, when a primary is either not called or not required. Unlike a primary, these other methods are conducted by the Republican Party and may be used simultaneously to nominate candidates for public office and conduct other business such as electing Party officials. Each method is discussed in more detail on the pages that follow. A simple description is provided below.”
I could not help but notice the Handbook has 72 pages of information. The RPV’s governing document, the State Party Plan has 39, but I digress….
Rather than begin a list of pros and cons for each method of nomination, I want to add a survey to the series. There is quite a bit to ponder in the process of reconciliation. I know what I think. I want to see what you think. Maybe your opinions will change mine.
I’m willing to be open-minded … are you?
I will post it as soon as it is done and share the results in Part IV.