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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What the Party Can and Can Not Do (A Football Analogy)

May 16, 2012 - In my role as the Chairman of the Natrona County Republican Party (NCRP), I am frequently asked “What are you going to do about all the RINOs in the party?”  Conversely I’m asked to not let in any more “tea partiers.”
     Over the course of this letter I will put those questions into context and give you a clear picture of what an American political party, or at least the NCRP, is, what it does, how it does it and what it doesn’t do.  The short answer to both questions is “That’s not the Party’s job.”  What follows is the long answer, along with the answer to “Well, then, whose job is it?”
    In my undergraduate days I studied the history of the Soviet Union, the most consequential and largest attempt in its day at applied socialism, otherwise known as communism.  I was intrigued to learn that the Soviets had a constitution much like our own, and even could be considered a form of democracy.  Go figure!  But one of the key differences between the US and Soviet political structures was that theirs was a one-party system, and ours a multi-party, albeit in practice just a two-party, system.  
     In a one party system, the party runs the government.  The Communist Party had the power to decide which individuals would be the “candidates” and whether or not individual citizens were sufficiently orthodox and “toeing the party line.”  Not so in the US, where the parties compete with each other for the right to handle the reins of government.  The opposition party is always there to temper what the other one wants to do, for better and for worse.
     A political party is a body of like-minded individuals who associate together to win elections for the purpose of getting a certain set of ideals translated into effectives policies of government. Candidates and their committees are like the player and his agents and sponsors that are behind the individual players trying out for the team.
     Naturally, the reason for being of a political party is to get its members elected. That explains why we focus our efforts on enabling members through campaign training, fundraising and grassroots organizing of get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts.  Imagine a political party as a professional football conference, like the AFC or NFC.  The National Football League is analogous to the federal or state government.  Both the League and its Conferences form the structure of the game to be played. They are more interested in the process of the game (the rules of the game, the personnel policies, fair play, etc.) than who the individual players or teams might be. The League’s interest is that there be a football season, and the conferences’ interests are to win as many games as possible and ultimately win the Superbowl, the Presidency.
    In this football analogy, the scores in the game are the laws we get passed or the policies we get implemented. Each political issue is like a football, and getting as many of them as possible over the goal line is the objective.  (No analogy is perfect, so just take it as far as it fits.) The “footballs” that are in a conference’s inventory are the planks of their party platform. That inventory is determined by the “board of directors” of the Conferences, known as the Central Committee or Convention, who have been elected by voters who are registered members of the Conference. It is the relevant Convention that votes/decides on the planks of the Party Platform, which in turn is what defines the Party.
     Since the Party Platform defines the Party, I submit to you that it is instructive to know just how much a candidate really supports it. As I’ve stated before in other writings, if you support more of the Republican platform than the opposition’s platform, you can honestly call yourself a Republican. It stands to reason then, too, that the higher degree of agreement you have with the Platform the higher degree of credibility you’d have with Republican voters. In my case, of the 58 total planks in our county platform (not resolutions), I fully agree with 48 of them, for 83%. I am ambivalent or have reservations about 9 of them, for 15% ambivalence, and oppose only 1, for a 2% disagreement rate. I encourage all candidates and incumbents to measure themselves like I have, and I encourage voters to ask them for their self-assessed scores.
     Now back to my football analogy. The Parties, then, in cooperation with the League (state statues and federal regulations), conduct training camps and try-outs for their team, that is the Primary Elections, to determine who will compete for them in the General Election, which is the contest to decide how many players each team will have. In politics, the teams are not equally sized with eleven players each, but with a fixed number of players on the field (number of elective offices available). So the Conference who obtains the most players on the field has the advantage. However, it is not the Conference officials (Party officers) who pick the players and make the cuts. It is the fans in the stands, the voters, who do that. It is the Party’s interest only to have as many of their team members on the field as possible, to be wearing their jersey. It is the fans in the stands, the individual voters, and the special interest groups/political action committees (like booster clubs) that influence them, that determine who the players will be. It is up to the fans to decide whether or not the player trying out is competent to play the game, or willing to carry all the balls in the Party’s inventory. You see, in the game of legislative politics, with individual issues being a football, players can switch sides of the ball at will. 
     This is where the concept of RINO comes in. Imagine there is a player wearing our jersey who is on the opposing side of our ball more often than not? They could indeed be considered a RINO. But just because a player switches sides of the ball occasionally doesn’t make them a RINO. Nor are they a RINO merely because they don’t support a favored issue. It takes the “more often than not” measure to accurately determine RINO status. That same measure could be used with the party platform with candidates who do not have a voting record.
     But where do third parties fit into this analogy? Third parties, who have not been recognized by the Secretary of State, are merely the folks playing catch in the parking lot, not having an impact on the actual game going on in the stadium. Third parties who have been recognized by the Secretary of State as official political parties, on the other hand, are the wildcatters who function as other parties do to compete for the fixed number of playing slots on the field, and have their own inventory of footballs (their issues). The trouble they run into is that the legislative game is still played with only two groups, one on each side of the ball. Once the players are chosen, i.e. elected, they have to play on one side of the ball or another. It is the elected players of each party “caucus” that elect from amongst themselves their own leadership structure, such as the Majority/Minority Floor Leader, Majority/Minority Whip, Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, etc. It is the majority party on either side of the ball that decides which ball will be advanced when, or how the opposition’s balls will be defended against.
     Therefore a third party would have to caucus with one or the other of the two major parties anyway, if the parties were so inclined to permit them. And with small numbers and small clout, they may not be likely to succeed in getting the team to advance any of their balls. Add to this situation the probability that some of the balls in the Republican inventory (the Republican platform planks) are the same as in the third party’s inventory. But because the third party isn’t calling the shots on which balls get played, and because there might be fewer Republicans on the deciding caucus who favor those issues because their number was diluted by ideological allies who opted to go third party, their ball never gets advance. Or worse yet, because the third party split the vote among ideological allies so neither one of them got on the field, there is actually one more vote or player on the other side of the line of scrimmage that could have been helping us but is now aiding the opposition in advancing their ball, which is just the opposite of what both of us wanted! History shows that the later situation is most common, with third parties damaging their closest ideological allies, and hence their own cause, with the result that the opposition is empowered and we all suffer the consequences.
     So I say to the third parties who are ideologically aligned with the Republican Party, and any voter inclined to vote for them, DON’T DO IT! I implore you not to cut your nose off to spite your face. Get into the Republican primary and compete like the rest of us! You’ll find most of your issues are already in the Republican platform, as we champion Individual Responsibility and Reward, Limited Government, and Strong National Defense. In the real world, you only have the power to change things if you WIN. Throw in with us, get your planks adopted, win elections, and earn the right to implement your policies.
     It is my observation that a primary source of frustration with political parties, and in particular the Republican Party, is that voters mistakenly expect the Party to achieve policy results, whereas the Party is organized to produce political results. One would think they would be the same thing, but because we’re a representative republic style of a democracy, it is the role of the eligible citizens to participate and elect their representatives, whose role, in turn, is to produce the policy results by using the legitimate mechanisms provided by the political system.
     In this particular election cycle we are not competing so much between our political parties as we are competing for the very spirit of America. It is now abundantly clear that what President Obama meant by wanting to “Fundamentally Change America” was to tear down America and return us to the mediocre status quo of history, under the perverse notion that our American Exceptionalism is somehow immoral and not “fair.” Well, Mr. Obama, I don’t want to return to the miseries of despotism that you propose! I don’t want to sell my birthright of political liberty for the cheap illusion of free health care or unsustainable pension programs!  I’d rather die free than live enslaved to tyranny!
     Our American Exceptionalism has made us a shining city on a hill, as President Ronald Reagan called us. America has been a benefit to all of mankind in one way or another. It is within our power as conservatives to keep America shining.
     But we have to unite to win, we have to work together to win, we have to keep The Main Thing the main thing, which is the conservation of what is good and true and right about America. Don’t let any other single issue dissuade you from that goal. If you abstain from voting for conservative candidates, or dilute our conservative clout by voting for a third party, you are in effect voting AGAINST America at this point in history. Don’t do it, please!
Rather stand shoulder to shoulder with us, the Republican Party, the party that knows how to most effectively form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, and to promote the general welfare.
     Stand with us as we hold strong the flagpole that hoists Old Glory against the winds of deterioration and decay that would reduce us to overgrown ruins of what was once the “last best hope of mankind.”
     Stand up with us as we re-light the flame of liberty for all the world to see, burning ever brighter and portending ever better days ahead!
     For the sake of America, VOTE REPUBLICAN!
Chairman, Natrona County Republican Party
May 16, 2012

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