Why I think Karen Handel might be on to something here…

Being out of the loop for the last couple of months, I tried in a limited fashion to keep up with things on the home front.  Being a consultant type guy that dreams of big things, that means continuing to be a consumer of information about the large Senate race taking place.  I’ve not minced any words on this – I’m a big Karen Handel supporter – so naturally I look at the race from that perspective, too.

In meeting a good friend last night, he asked me my thoughts on the Senate race.  One thing that I made a comment on was that I thought Handel’s method of campaigning was pretty interesting and effective.  She’s constantly asking for input from people, making them stakeholders in what the campaign does as a level unseen by other campaigns.  It may not seem like much to some folks, but I think asking for public input on a billboard is a brilliant campaign tactic.  People get engaged and the inquiry gives them some ownership of decision-making.  In an era where consultants and politicos like to banter back and forth about who has the most money, it’s often overlooked that successful candidates ask the most important question first – who best communicates with the most people?

I’m not on the inside of Handel’s campaign, but I certainly feel like it at some level.  These aren’t big decisions, and this one billboard doesn’t mean that all billboards, radio ads, television spots, mail pieces, etc. etc. are going to be “focus grouped.”  That said, this draws people in.  Besides the obvious benefits of getting an opportunity to make a fundraising pitch and identify volunteers, the campaign gets to actually involve people.  After all, it’s what the grassroots of the Republican Party has been clamoring for – involvement in the decision-making of Washington.

To be sure, Paul Broun’s got a legion of diehards (some of which follow him like a cult leader – not all, but some) and that doesn’t always mean a winning team is put together.  There is a far and wide difference between movement and progress.  Paul Broun can make hundreds of people swoon for his libertarian leanings, and that’s fine.  I haven’t once heard him ask people, “Here are some options, what do you think?”  Communication is as much listening as it is speaking.

That’s all anecodotal, and one billboard a victorious campaign does not make.  That said, it’s a subtle, but still very profound, way to build a network of support for a woman that is already a strong name in Georgia.

C.H.A.R.G.E. Senate Forum

If you followed the thread from the GAGOP State Committee Meeting last Saturday, then I’m sure you’re eagerly awaiting a similarly exciting thread from the C.H.A.R.G.E. Senate Forum this Saturday.  Unfortunately, I cannot attend.  If there’s one thing more exciting than early season forums, it is spending time in the thriving metropolis of Casper, Wyoming.  Actually, my family has relocated back to Wyoming.  Just to make it exciting, they have moved into the remote confines of Casper.  A whole three hours north of my old stomping grounds in Cheyenne, I cannot pass up the opportunity to attend this year’s riveting Nicfest.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone has lived until they have seen The Fishtank Ensemble live.  But, I digress…

The Senate forum is not likely the first chance that we’ve had as party activists to meet the candidates for Senate.  If you attended last weekend’s Proud to be a Republican event, you likely had a chance to meet Paul Broun, Karen Handel, or Jack Kingston (who I all saw there).  Each one of them had a noticeable presence at the GAGOP State Convention.  I’m not gonna lie here, my personal allegiance lies with Karen Handel.  For me, there’s something to be said for an elected official that is accessible and remembers who I am.  I don’t doubt there will be some policy disagreements, but I’ll have those with any politician.  I do know I’ll have the opportunity to hear her thoughts, though, and for her to take the opportunity to hear mine at some level.  But, I digress more…

This forum is early in the season.  Given that, the candidates’ messages are still unrefined to a large degree.  I don’t see much of a problem, but that gives the organizers a great opportunity to really direct some conversation towards necessary topics, and more importantly, ask for some specific understanding from the candidates.  Too often, these forums become a “I agree with my opponent…” or a race to the right on almost everything.  No doubt some of the candidates are prepared to do just that as their strategy.

That’s a disservice to primary voters.  We don’t need to know what policies and principles the candidates agree on.  All five of them are conservative at some level.  Some more than others, but it’s like arguing over which color is more red – crimson or maroon.  Ultimately, that provides little insight.  We deserve to know substantive differences, and moderators of this forum will do well to avoid the easy questions and start focusing on serious disagreements when they start to appear.  This means less predetermined agenda and more flexibility, but it will do the attendees and subsequent second-handers well to know that conflict arose as opposed to an hour or two of nothing.

If it weren’t for the fact that my family really holds an elevated importance, I’d be eagerly attending this debate…er, I mean forum.  That said, I’ll happily attend the future debates…er, I mean forums.  Here’s hoping the wrinkles are ironed out, conflict is fostered, and we see some true difference come between the candidates.

Late Night Sunday Obligatory Post

So, after the long day Saturday and a fun filled day today, I’m making my obligatory late night post.  That said, a couple of things.

First, the good folks up in Cherokee County and Bartow County deserve a ton of credit for hosting the Proud to be a Republican event today up at Red Top Mountain State Park.  It also reminded me why exactly I’m proud to call myself a Republican, especially here in Georgia.  We’re going to disagree with policy and candidates in a particular election.  That much is clear, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I had good conversations today with folks that are damn good people, and I believe I can call them friends.  Philosophically I have a lot in common with these folks, and the fact that I can enjoy a nice Sunday afternoon with them makes it better.  Events like today should remind us of that.

Another topic of conversation that I had with a few folks is the State Committee meeting in Milledgeville yesterday.  I stood opposed to the original resolution concerning the GAGOP switching to a nominating convention from the current primary system.  I also opposed to “alternative” resolution concerning the creation of a study committee.  Here is why, part of which includes my comments from yesterday and part of which includes some additional reasoning.

The nature of the original resolution spoke about how the grassroots is insulted in the current primary process, so I don’t understand how a committee of 14 (or 15 with a Chairman if independently appointed) is an any way a better way to determine the facts.  We have 800k voting Republicans in this state that have a concern about what party principles look like and sound like, and while they may not be party activists, I don’t buy the bold assertion they are “uninformed” voters.  They deserve a seat at the table the same as I do, and I find it insulting that a committee can decide the facts for everyone.  I’d find it insulting if the State Committee felt the need to make that same determination.

Moreover, another point that I think was well made by Gus Makris (a fellow Cobb County resident located in the 6th Congressional) is that passage or failure does nothing to prevent this debate from continuing where it should – in the public and our communities.  In fact, I’d find a resolution like this far more damaging to that conversation and the people who would in engage in it.  At the point where they are removed, the “Republican Party” will now speak to the legislature after the debate of fourteen people in a (virtual) room.  Opponents of a nominating caucus do not get to speak with the amplified voice they would have by vociferous opposition.  Proponents, and rightly so, would have grounds to say they couldn’t have had a reasonable opportunity to fight the “establishment” if the study committee would have recommended nothing be done.  By allowing the voters to debate and ultimately decide for themselves the best method of choosing their candidates in contested primaries, we allow true grassroots participation to do what it does best – influence change.

Brant Frost and I have had a chance to speak over the phone about possibly having a debate on this very topic.  Whether the logistics of that are feasible for both of us remains to be seen, but what’s most important is that it reflects a true opportunity to clash on these ideas.  Hopefully it takes place, but if it does not, the debate will continue as it should.  Personally, I see why proponents of the caucus system would want the rules changed.  I don’t agree with their why, though, and I certainly don’t condone the impact it would have on hundreds of thousands of Georgians.

Maybe a system like Colorado or Utah is warranted, maybe it’s not.  Maybe we close our primaries to registered Republicans, or maybe we maintain the status quo of declaring at the polls.  Either way, the debate will continue and take place exactly where it should – anywhere that isn’t a select committee appointed by the Republican Party.

State Committee Meeting Thread

Okay, folks.  This will attempt to be the thread I use to keep folks updated about the GAGOP State Committee. I’m using the tablet, so bear with me…and, I’m not going to update you on the pledge. It is gonna happen.

Share this ’round, people.

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Objection #2 – The caucus system only entrenches the “establishment”

Claim:  The caucus system will break the hold “establishment” Republicans have on the party.

The basic logic here is a nominating convention will remove authority from a select few powerbrokers to “annoint” their chosen candidate.  The powers that be that brought us John McCain, Mitt Romney, Saxby Chambliss, etc. etc.  If we want “true” conservatives, we’ll use a nominating convention to select those candidates.

Retort 1:  Guess what…if you’re voting on a convention floor, you’re part of the establishment.

That might not sit well with many of the proponents of a caucus system, but it’s absolutely true.  You’re not on the convention floor without a delegate badge.  You’re not going to vote without a delegate badge.  You don’t have a right to speak to the motions being considered without a delegate badge.  You don’t get a delegate badge without jumping through a number of hoops, and even if not every seat available under the rules of the Georgia Republican Party is taken, there are certainly far fewer delegates than primary Republican voters in the state.

That said, let’s do some math here.  Suppose that 2,000 credentialed delegates attend the state convention (a generous assumption).  For the 2010 Republican Primary, they would have represented a mere 2.9-tenths of a percent (0.29%) of the voters.  In 2012, it would be a paltry 2.3 tenths of a percent (0.23%).  To represent just 1% of the Republican voting population, the convention could expand to an unruly 8,000 or so delegates.  That raises a number of other questions – will they show up – but that’s beside the point.  1% of the Republicans in this state is still not sufficient enough to make a decision for non-delegate Republicans that have no recourse.

That, of course, represents why you’re part of the establishment.  If you’re a delegate, there’s also no recall process.  No way to hold you accountable to the decision that you’re going to make or, more importantly, the decision that the other voters would like you to make as their representative voice on the convention floor.  Yes, you’re part of the establishment if you’re a delegate to the state convention.  Just to put this in perspective, take this account of the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention:

RPV’s State Central Commitee – the “establishment” of the Republican Party of Virginia – voted on Friday 51-21 to nominate our statewide Senate candidate next year by convention.  Those of us who want primaries are not the establishment in Virginia, we’re the folks on the outside complaining about the outdated, discriminatory and elitist nominating process where only people who have nothing better to do on a spring Saturday than sit in an arena covered in stickers for fifteen hours get to choose our nominees.

To claim you’re not part of the “establishment” is intellectually dishonest.  To be truly honest, it’s time that term is thrown out altogether when referencing colleagues on the State Committee or convention delegates.

Retort 2:  Activists are not entitled to their choice of candidates anymore than non-activists are.

There seems to be this common mentality among activists that we are the “smart” ones about politics.  Obviously…otherwise, we wouldn’t be activists if we weren’t so smart.  Regardless of how smart we are (not), sometimes there are things that you cannot get around.  One of those sticky details is the fact that voters are one person, and outside of extreme cases – like being a convicted felon – your right to vote is as absolute as anyone else’s.  So, essentially being an activist doesn’t entitle you to any more authority than a business owner, soccer mom, college student, etc. etc.  That may not be an easy idea to accept, but it’s true.

There’s a reason for that, too.  Politics is really no different than owning a small business, taking your kids to soccer practice, or attending pesky summer classes.  It’s a passion that many people have, and we as activists have a drive to succeed in the political arena the same as others do in their own.  Furthermore, many activists are only so because it is a means to obtain new business prospects or obtain college credit.  The point being is we all have our reasons for being involved, and no reason is more important than the other.  “Pure” philosophical justifications are not an appropriate litmus test to determine whether or not someone should have a right to participate in selecting Republicans.

Let’s look back at the RPV convention again and Schoeneman’s observations:

We have all heard the arguments over the years about disenfranchisement of military members, parents with small children who can’t afford the cost of childcare, small business owners who can’t afford to give up a spring Saturday to the convention, the elderly who can’t go for 16 hours at a time, and the rest.  That was clearly in evidence yesterday, given that by the time the fourth ballot rolled around, over a third of the conventioneers who had showed up had left.  The final ballot saw fewer that 5,000 votes cast.

The rules for candidate nomination make participation easy now.  Early voting gives you a couple of weeks before election day to cast your ballot, and generally the primary polling places are easy to get in and out of.  Changing the rules to reduce the number of electors is nothing more than limiting the influence of others that activists have little control over (or so they think).  I’ll tell you what, though.  Get out and campaign, and you’re likely to find that influence the “establishment” has falls apart.