First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

First Principles header image 2

Remind Me – What’s the Purpose of a Political Party Again?

October 25th, 2011 · 18 Comments

The purpose of a political party is to get as many members of that party elected to public office as possible.


So why is it that so many members of Nevada’s Republican Party seem to care so little for their central mission?  Why are a large minority of them seeming to act against that mission?


When I say, “The Party,” I’m of course talking about the actual, formal organization, not regular rank and file registered voters who declare themselves to be “Republicans”.  To a lesser extent I’m talking about the county Central Committees, but mostly I mean the state Nevada Republican Central Committee, of which I am in full disclosure an elected member.

This last Saturday, as most people know, the NRCC met for a regularly scheduled meeting to elect some new officers to the board, and also to discuss some issues regarding our caucus procedures.

It was one of the most frustrating meetings of any kind I’ve ever had the displeasure of taking part in.  And I’ve been to a lot of crappy meetings.  There were plenty of annoyances, but the fundamental problem that caused me so much consternation was the steady realization that a loud minority of petty, clueless, and enormously selfish would-be “revolutionaries” seemed to have decided that the one job of a party structure should be the last thing on their mind when they meet.

Let me ponder again – if you aren’t at a Republican Central Committee meeting to figure out how best to elect Republicans, what the heck are you doing there at all?  Anything that loses focus on that ONE mission is at best a waste of time, and at worst a gift to Harry Reid and Barack Obama.


The NV GOP has been making some serious strides forward lately.  After years of ridicule, dysfunction, and being aggressively and probably deservedly ignored by most Republican elected officials, (and suffering the electoral results one would expect from such a situation), we were finally professionalizing.  We hired paid, full-time staff, money was starting to flow in, and senior elected officials were getting more involved in the party organization side of things.  Most importantly, voter registration numbers were starting to tick up, and it looked like the party was starting to build some real credibility with regular registered Republicans, major donors, and even the media.

The showed some muscle and willingness to use it, successfully litigating and winning their case against the CD2 “Ballot Royale” which would likely have ended with Congresswoman Kate Marshall in Washington.  Then the party efficiently chose their candidate, and then in spite of a few ninnies who thought Mark Amodei of all people might be a secret RINO or something, got behind that candidate with their full might.  The result was a crushing, national momentum-making victory for the Republican candidate.

That credibility as a serious organization dedicated to winning elections cannot be overstated.  Most people who donate money to such things, whether they’re small dollar single donors or big check writers, won’t bother without some chance of a return on their investment.  Why would they?

With an understanding of their true mission, the executive board of the party continued to press their advantage.  The next target was, of course, President Obama, and Nevada was poised to be be a pivotal state in the nominating process for the eventual GOP challenger.  The board acted boldly to help really make the upcoming caucuses a big boost for the party, while at the same time trying to deal with the absurdities of other states along with feckless and spineless national party leadership.

The reward for those efforts should have been universal acclaim.  Instead, sadly, it was just a lot of knives in a lot of backs, giddy Democrats, and an arrested momentum that only a crash test dummy could truly appreciate.

Large and rapid changes in your momentum will generally have pretty much this effect. Damn you, laws of physics!


You Had To Be There to Believe It

I won’t air more dirty laundry than necessary (not that it matters, it was of course done in full view of the press), but suffice it to say that the meeting very quickly devolved into bickering over the finer points of Roberts Rules in order to embarrass the Chair, attempts to change the debating rules midstream and otherwise, and even an attempt to formally adopt a rule that would allow for official personal insults upon one another (seriously).  (Bob Hastings has another great rundown, too, which is well worth a read.)  With each attempt to deviate from the agenda came melodramatic sanctimony about “the voice of the people being heard!”

(These cries rang out from the same people who killed the planned debate on same-day caucus registration.  Many of them also rang out from the same people who were determined to silence the 86% of Nevada Republicans who didn’t vote for Ron Paul back in 2008, too.  But then, intellectual honesty is often in short supply in any political endeavor.)

There were veiled and not so veiled accusations of various fraud and perfidy against sitting board members and various GOP elected officials – all without evidence, of course.  I’m sure that – not unlike the car I saw after the meeting in the parking garage of the Venetian which displayed a “Ron Paul 2012” bumper sticker prominently beside his “9/11 Was An Inside Job!” decal –  they just wanted to “ask the questions,” and hey – what harm could there be in that?

"To be fair, most of the NRCC Executive Board DID fly down to Vegas in black helicopters..."

The group had effectively killed a planned panel debate on the issue of same-day voter registration ahead of time – it was taken off of the agenda in an attempt to appease the mob.  But they then made a motion to bring it up again just so they could kick it – without allowing any actual debate on the idea, of course, before moving on to some other perceived grievance.  I went to go get some more caffeine at that point, but I think by then they were blaming the poor guest parliamentarian for getting the 16th Amendment passed through various forms of deceit and treachery under the direction of the CFR, the Bilderbergers, and Colonel Sanders himself.

The only thing that didn’t create any controversy was probably the one thing that should have spurred more debate – the actual date of the caucuses.  (The prime worry of these folks seemed solely that we could have lost half of our delegates, something which hasn’t mattered for over three decades and won’t matter this cycle, either.  The only rational explanation for this is if the Ron Paul folks hope to pull the same junta-esque convention stunt this year that they did four years ago.  God help us.)

And finally, when their attempt to take over the entire Executive Board failed when Amy Tarkanian’s expected challengers realized they didn’t have the votes to unseat her (and would, you know, actually have to accept responsibility for something if they won), they started a little impromptu (and false) conspiracy theory of their own that held a certain mark on a ballot could be considered a “no” vote and then we just wouldn’t have a chair at all!  That would have certainly shown Obama.

And that doesn’t even count the stuff that they weren’t able to accomplish.

The lunatics started taking over the asylum, and the NRP’s budding credibility laid in tatters by mid-afternoon.


We need a secret back door deal to stop all these secret back door deals!

All of this was actually planned in advance, ironically, via secret E-mails and conference calls.  One might even describe it as a “back room” conspiracy type deal.  Fortunately, several people who found themselves on the lists and are equally frustrated with the insanity on display forwarded them to me.

One of the E-mails sent to this group afterwards was an after action report.  It’s the most interesting for it’s utter paranoia, and also for it’s admissions of dishonesty, perfidy, and promises to continue along this path for the foreseeable future.  (For example, we learn that while former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald publicly declared he wouldn’t challenge Tarkanian for the chairmanship out of friendship and unity, he’s secretly just “biding his time.”)

It is a promise of division and cleansing.  It is a screed of subtraction.  And the veiled and hushed-tone accusatory statements against the current executive board members resembles nothing so much as a bad post-apocalyptic movie where crazed “revolutionaries” are reading show trial charges against former low level government officials right before they get shot in the head in the middle of a soccer stadium.

And it was sent in the name of “TRUNC” – that’s right, that group that claims “Uniting” right in their name.

Oh, the sweet, sweet irony!


One would think that after Sharron Angle’s campaign strategy based on stoking paranoia of “RINOs” underneath every bit of sagebrush failed to beat one of the nation’s most unpopular and vulnerable politicians, these people would sober up and get a clue.

I never attribute to malice or conspiracy what can be blamed on incompetence or stupidity.  But honestly – if these TRUNC folks were getting paid by Harry Reid to infiltrate the GOP and sow confusion, hate, and discontent, is there anything they’d be doing differently?


Nobody with a brain could possibly think any of these shenanigans could help get a single Republican elected.  Nobody with said brain would trust this group to get a group of cub scouts in a canoe, much less help choose the policy makers of the state.  There were multiple elected officials in attendance, and I very much doubted a single one was ready to trust their reelection fates to this crowd.

So what was the point of it all?

I found the answer summarized perfectly in a blog comment on Elizabeth Crum’s Nevada News Bureau’s E!! Politics blog:

My take is that this vote had little to do with any “perks” and more to do with sending a message to the politicians who thought they could usurp the authority of the State Central Committee.  I hope this message was heard loud and clear.

So politicians are there to serve first and foremost this small group of party insiders who have found clever ways to manipulate arcane rules of procedure?  The party apparatus has “authority” over elected officials?  Funny – I thought this was exactly what the tea party movement was supposed to be against.

Is it that we don’t want successful, conservative senior elected officials like Governor Sandoval or Senator Heller to help grow and maintain the party structure that helps keep them in office as opposed to a Democrat?

Apparently none of that matters as long as “we” send “a message” to “politicians” that they can’t tell “us” what to do.

The real irony is that for these people – who should not be confused with the wider tea party movement – the motivations are indistinguishable from the Occupy Wall Street loons.  It’s fundamentally about a perspectiveless and hugely selfish sense of entitlement.  The only thing they cared about in this meeting was having their voice heard, and for everyone else’s voice to be silenced.  They cared about exercising their own power just for the sake of wielding it, without any consideration for the ultimate consequences of their actions or the other people they were trampling all over.

They were children throwing a very well coordinated tantrum.


What ISN’T the Purpose of a Political Party

The sad thing, too, is that I think a lot of these people think that they’ve accomplished something in government by taking over a political party.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

The NRCC doesn’t vote for a single tax cut.

The NRCC doesn’t vote for a single spending reduction.

The NRCC doesn’t vote to simplify or eliminate a single business-stiffling regulation.

The NRCC doesn’t vote on a single unnecessary traffic law.

The NRCC doesn’t vote on so much as a single budget line item.

The NRCC doesn’t vote on any military action.

The NRCC doesn’t vote on immigration policy, nor can it enforce it.

The NRCC doesn’t approve contracts with public employees or their unions.  They don’t have any say in how public infrastructure is contracted or funded or priced.  They don’t chair a single legislative committee, or introduce a single bill.

Only elected officials can do any of that.  And only Republican elected officials will possibly vote the way conservatives want most of the time.

So if these guys actually cared about policy instead of their own egos, you’d think they’d be focused on the sole mission of their party organization.

It’s almost as if they don’t really care that much about policy at all, so long as they can beat their chests every few months.  It’s almost as if their “feelings” trumped serious consideration of changing the direction of a not-too-big-to-fail government that’s currently hurtling off of a cliff.


What’s the Fastest Way To Get Ignored By These Elected Officials?

And for all these people who feel frustrated that politicians aren’t listening to them?  Here’s yet another irony.  The only real impact the NRCC can have on elected officials is if those elected officials believe that they need the party structure to help get or keep them elected, and therefore feel like the opinion of the NRCC members matters.

For years, because of the perceived dysfunction within the party activist ranks, Republican elected officials held the party at arm’s length, if they acknowledged them at all.  Sitting Senators and Assemblymen rarely attended party events or county central committee meetings, and if they did, they kept their own operations distinct.  They ran their own campaigns, used their own staff, and handled their own GOTV efforts. Sadly, this hampered the kind of coordination and resource sharing that could have made a huge difference in any number of close races.

That was starting to change.  But I bet it changes back.  (It already has – just today Senator Heller sent out an E-mail announcing his own, independent grass-roots GOTV effort, days after very publicly expressing his dismay with the NRCC’s decisions.)  When the politician doesn’t need you or your organization to stay in power, or worse, thinks you’re openly hostile towards him, he won’t pay you any attention.   And when he sees that you play politics by subtraction and that you can’t raise any money, he isn’t going to fear your primary challenge, either.

By taking a hard “us v. them” attitude against politicians of their own party, these folks have ensured the irrelevancy of their political voices in the one place it really matters.


This isn’t about “Conservatives” vs. “Moderates.”  It’s not about the tea party movement as a whole.  It’s not about Ronald Reagan vs. George H. W. Bush, it’s about Reagan vs. Barry Goldwater.  It’s about Brian Sandoval vs. Sharron Angle.

To borrow a phrase, it’s about the winning of elections, stupid.


Silver Linings in the Silver State

It’s not all bad news.  The Washoe County GOP is led by a very solid, sane group – most of the crazies were from elsewhere in the state.  And Amy Tarkanian – a smart, well connected person who sees the big picture in my view and who continues to help Nevada Republicans raise strong amounts of money – is still in place for the next two years. The large majority Republicans and even of GOP activists and volunteers are good, hard working people who are willing to do what it takes to save their country, in spite of the loons who have lost any sense of perspective.  We will find a way to work around this, because we don’t have any choice.

The pressure from real campaigns in an important election year should keep these guys under their rocks for awhile – their need for secret E-mails reveal even they know on some level that they aren’t particularly popular with either elected officials, the broader public, or even a majority of Republicans.

But the reason I’m writing this is because the TRUNC folks will be back and they’ll be continue to be destructive as long as they can hide from the disinfecting light of day.  I considered not posting it in the name of “unity,” or “moving forward together,” but since this particular cabal has no interest in such a thing, and since they’ve demonstrated actions (and have promised future actions) which will cause great harm to the cause of getting Democrats un-elected (a necessary prerequisite to saving the national and state economies), there is really nothing to lose by exposing this little cancer for what it is.

After all, these people already lost us the last Senate election – how long do the rest of us need to stand silently by while they attempt to lose another one?

And quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of being painted with the same brush as these people in the media.  I’m sick of the tea party movement as a whole bludgeoned in the press because of the antics of these fools.

Besides, I’m sure all these TRUNC people will appreciate the transparency.  We don’t want any backroom, secret dealing by party officials, after all.


Throughout history, the track record of revolution in the name of liberty is bleak.  From Ancient Rome to Fidel’s Cuba to the Arab Spring, rebels just can’t help be drunk with their own sanctimonious self-righteousness.  Because their cause is just, they think that alone somehow makes them immune to the human frailties that always follow a rise to power.  And the result is nearly always a regime more oppressive and more incompetent at actually governing than whatever they replaced. The American Revolution was a lucky aberration of history pulled off by serious men who knew their history and respected their own potentials as sinners, not a part of any inevitable movement.

While I’m not (too) worried about any of these Roberts Rules wielding buffoons taking deposed members of the Executive Board “to the Wall!”, these historical examples should still give every Republican activist in the state some pause.  And the tactics of this particular group should raise the warning flags even higher.

Changing the leadership of an organization is meaningless at best and destructive at worst when you forget the fundamental and only legitimate mission of the group you’re taking over.

So say it again with me, one more time:

The purpose of a political party is to get as many members of that party elected to public office as possible.


Tags: Campaign '12 · Nevada Politics · Republicans · Sharron Angle