In the spirit of Tom Lehrer, I spent another morning (wasted) at Republican State Committee. Once again, the foreordained results were dictated to the rest of the state committee by the Southeast Caucus after the requisite arm-twisting by Bob Asher. Party Vice-Chairperson Joyce Haas tried to suggest otherwise in Central Caucus. Well, I might have been born at night, but it wasn't last night.
This time, I was sent with instructions. Usually the Berks delegation does not need any urging to vote for an open primary. We are all contrarians, it seems. Our county structure only provides for a relatively anemic endorsement process, and we like it like that. Let's fight it out in the primary so that our candidates are blooded for the Fall.
Oh, but not State Committee. Everytime we show up and want an open primary, we are treated to tales of how the poor benighted ignorant slobs at home will not know how to vote unless we tell them. We actually had someone analogize his experience at the polls giving a personal recommendation to State Committee telling everyone how to vote backed up by copious campaign cash and services for the endorsees. Well, this time, as I said, I was sent with instructions. To me, instructions trump some gaseous account of how some statecommittee person imagines the poor benighted sheep in the party are just waiting for a few crumbs of knowledge from his hand.
So, on February 8, 2010, the Northern Region of the Berks County GOP, of which I am chairman, met, and that group passed a resolution instructing word to go out to our Berks state committee people that we were to vote for a "no endorsement" (or an "open primary") in the Senate, Governor, and Lt. Governor races. If that failed, we were further instructed to abstain in all races. An abstention at state committee, under the state by-laws, functions as a "no" or "opposition" vote because a candidate, to be endorsed, must achieve a majority vote of those "present" in person or by proxy, not merely those "present and voting." Thus, at state committee, an abstention or a vote of "present" has a real function.
Of course, I have always felt that State Committee functioned like the Communist Party Central Committee, anyway, which is why I ran for it, but many committeepeople from other counties feel there is no reason for them to gather to learn anything about candidates if they aren't there to endorse. I had people come to me and ask why I would travel such a distance to "just" abstain. This is my opportunity to learn about some candidates that I would ordinarily not meet. Why not go if not for just that? So an instruction to me to abstain was like a threat to throw Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch.
Because the resolution was put forth by some tea party folks (who I am proud to call friends), some committee people felt "threatened." They should. A day of reckoning is coming, not only for the Berks County Republican Party, but for the State Party as well. Many of the tea party types are angrier at the GOP because the GOP should be their party but (1) has been acting like Democrat-lite, and (2) the entrenched moderate party structure is not very hospitable to those trying to correct it. They are angry at the Democrats, too, but they do not feel betrayed by it (except some of the poor schlubs that actually believed all the bloviating emitted by Obama during his campaign). After all, Democrats are never going to get any better by being angry at them so what's the use? It like a law of physics; following Democrats in search of irrationality is like following a lighted fuse in search of an explosion. Shame on you for even doubting it.
The tea partiers feel that the GOP left them, and they want it back in word and deed, not just in word. They want the walk, not just the talk. And as Al Capone said, they have found that they can get more with a kind word and a gun, than with just a kind word.
So I told all the Berks State Committee people of the resolution, telling them that I felt I was bound by it because I am the chairman of the North Region, but I was simply communicating it to them for them to do as they felt best. In the end, the Berks delegation voted unanimously for an open primary, and, when that failed, four voted with me to abstain on most of the votes.
And so began the first step of a thousand mile march through the institutions of the State GOP. I guess I better put on my hiking shoes.