Morton Blackwell

Remarks by Morton C. Blackwell at the California Republican State Convention's Executive Committee Luncheon, San Francisco, February 22, 2008

Well, if Sen. Clinton doesn't win big March 4 in both Texas and Ohio, it looks like we'll finally be rid of the Clintons, bag and baggage. Bill is the baggage.

But Barak Obama, in a remarkable achievement, would almost certainly be worse.

Like Gen. Patton in the movie after he beat Rommel in North Africa, "I read his book." Barak Obama's writing gives an appearance of objectivity, presenting both sides of many questions. But he always comes down on the hard-left side of every issue.

Let me talk briefly about our 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

It's a matter of record that my first choice was Fred Thompson. When he dropped out, I supported Mitt Romney. Now it is obvious that our nominee will be John McCain.

As Virginia's Republican National Committeeman, I'm an automatic delegate to the national convention. I shall vote at the national convention for John McCain and work to elect him in November, for three reasons:

1. It is important to unite our party for the November election.

2. John McCain won Virginia's binding, winner- take-all primary on February 12.

3. John McCain would, as President, be almost infinitely better than either Sen. Clinton or Barak Obama.

Sen. McCain is working hard now to unite our party and the conservative majority coalition which won the presidential elections of 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004 and so many congressional, state, and local elections in this period.

But many people in that coalition are still upset over what they see as Sen. McCain's imperfections, his departures from our normal, governing conservative coalition's positions on several policy questions.

I shall pass over those imperfections and refer by analogy to President George W. Bush.

President Bush has achieved many things for conservatives. Some examples:

1. I believe it's incontestable that President Bush has done the best job of nominating conservative judges to the federal bench of any president of modern times. He has done a better job in this supremely important category than even our sainted Ronald Reagan.

2. President Bush has done a superb job for our country on taxes. He not only stopped new taxes, he cut taxes again and again, which produced an exceptionally long period of economic growth for our country.

3. He responded decisively and well to the vicious, mad attack on September 11 and promptly overturned the Taliban government of Afghanistan which was hosting Al Qaida. He has a healthy understanding of the menace of Islamic terrorists to our nation and to our civilization.

4. Regarding traditional values, President Bush has, for example, kept the faith on the important and motivating issue of life, as have his Republican predecessors in the Oval Office. He has adhered to the clear positions on this issue contained in so many consecutive national Republican Party platforms.

On the other hand, President Bush has diverged from conservative positions on a number of issues. Some examples:

1. Increasing the role of the federal government in primary and secondary education.

2. Creating new and costly entitlements in Medicare.

3. Signing the McCain-Feingold bill.

4. Cooperating with Republican Congresses in increasing federal spending in many, if not most, areas of non-defense spending.

5. Pushing for ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

One can be forgiven for wondering what President Bush's approval ratings would be today if he had adhered to the conservative positions on such issues.

However, let me ask you a question. By show of hands, how many of you voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004?

Everybody.

Now, how many of you believe that the United States would be better today if Al Gore had been elected in 2000?

Nobody.

And how many of you believe the United States would be better now if John Kerry had been elected in 2004?

Nobody.

Now let's consider John McCain in this context.

I submit to you five propositions:

1. The judges nominated by President McCain would be far better for our country than those appointed by Sen. Clinton or Barak Obama.

2. President John McCain would resist increasing non-defense spending more effectively than any President since at least President Reagan.

3. President McCain would be enormously superior to Sen. Clinton or Barak Obama on issues such as traditional values, the right to keep and bear arms, and compulsory unionism.

4. President McCain would not neglect the defense capabilities of the United States.

5. If most conservatives do not unite to support our Republican presidential nominee, we could have a disastrous election across the board. This could create all-powerful, leftist Democrat majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Imagine what would happen if either Democrat were President and we didn't have enough U.S. senators to maintain filibusters against any number of leftist power grabs.

Make no mistake about it. Leftists in absolute control of all three branches of the federal government would use that power to grab more power.

They would use that power to cripple all sources of conservative political strength.

Does anyone doubt that a party now dominated more than ever by extreme leftist groups would do all in their power to shut us down forever?

Let me share with you briefly what I believe to be the real nature of politics:

Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. The winner in a political contest is determined over time by the number and effectiveness of the activists on the respective sides.

The number and effectiveness of the activists on a given side is determined by its use of political technology, which includes organizational technology and communications technology.

Most political technology is philosophically neutral, which makes it inherently unattractive to people who are motivated by their philosophy. Nevertheless, you owe it to your philosophy to study how to win. You have a moral obligation to study how to win.

My non-partisan, conservative educational foundation, the Leadership Institute, has as its mission to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders. My staff and I do this by recruiting reasonably conservative people and teaching them how to win.

My Institute now offers 39 types of training schools, which are described in our Programs Catalog.

I invite you to attend one or more of these schools, which are reliable sources of well-trained candidates and campaign staff.

Last year, because of generous donors, the Institute trained 6,787 people. Since I founded it 1979, the Institute has trained more than 62,000 people, including thousands here in California.

I've been Virginia's Republican National Committeeman since 1988.

Back in 2003, I wrote a long letter to all my fellow members of the Republican National Committee. That letter directly addressed the opportunities for our party to increase its institutional strength, to increase the number and effectiveness of grassroots activists for our Republican candidates.

Before today, virtually no one but RNC members has seen that letter. Because it is relevant to the dangers and opportunities which face us in 2008, I have brought copies for you today.

In my judgment, it would be the height of folly for conservative Republicans to throw away our credentials within the Republican Party. It's the only party which, in the decades ahead, can be used as the vehicle for conservative principles.

Our Republican Party is a large and often powerful institution. It works best when power flows from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.

At the national level, we have three main organizations, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Today, the RNC is in much better financial shape than the Democratic National Committee. But the NRSC and the NRCC are falling behind the National Democratic Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

There are two reasons why the NRSC and the NRCC are less successful now in fundraising than the House and Senate Democrat committees.

First, the business community has dramatically shifted its giving from the NRSC and the NRCC to the Democrat counterpart committees.

The Democrats now have majorities in both Houses of Congress. Too many in the business community give political contributions to buy access rather than to affect the election results.

Second, the disparities are due also to a long series of short-sighted decisions within the House and Senate Republican committees.

Unlike the RNC, the NRSC and the NRCC have notoriously failed to invest in building their donor bases. That's called eating your seed corn.

Finding new donors and treating them well pays off handsomely in the long run, but it costs a lot of money in the short run.

Too many chairmen of the NRSC and the NRCC have operated these organizations for the short run. They believed that their short tenures would be judged almost entirely by the results of the upcoming elections.

Faced with the choice of pouring all their resources into the upcoming election campaigns or investing some of their net money into recruiting new donors for the future, they opted for spending almost everything on the election at hand.

And they pressure their existing donors unmercifully to squeeze the last possible dollar from them, without considering how many donors will be turned off permanently by their high-pressure fundraising tactics.

After all, next year somebody else will be head of their committee.

Short-sightedness is understandably endemic in top-down organizations which frequently change leadership, where there's little or no thought given to the group as a long-term institution.

The Republican National Committee, however, is much more of an institution. It has members elected from the bottom up. Its members get and pay attention to frequent reports, which include regular information on how many new donors are being acquired. Its chairmen are not automatically replaced after each congressional election.

That is not to say that the RNC is even close to perfect or that the RNC always treats its donors as well as they should be treated.

But unquestionably, the RNC, as an institution, takes a longer-term view of its mission.

Similarly, Republican Party organizations at the state and local levels are most successful when power flows from the bottom up and when they are led by people who intend to build the party as an institution -- for the long haul.

There is always some tension between elected public officials and grassroots party activists. Many activists were participating long before those public officials were elected and fully intend to be active in the party long after those elected politicians leave public office.

The truth is that many public officials will try to move Heaven and earth to make party organizations wholly owned subsidiaries of their own political operations.

They distrust and often dislike almost anyone who is motivated by principles rather than by personalities, anyone who is not always willing to do exactly as he or she is told.

When a politician who has achieved a strangle-hold on a party organization passes from the scene, as certainly happens sooner or later, what's left is often only ruins.

And then, principled grassroots activists have the long, arduous, and sometimes impossible task of putting a political party together as an institution again.


Morton Blackwell


Morton Blackwell is the president of the Leadership Institute, a non-partisan educational foundation he founded in 1979.