In 2005, I ran for my local party’s nomination for the State Senate. I was resoundingly defeated by a reliable conservative with far better credentials. The vote turned out the way that I believe it was supposed to turn out.
Immediately after the primary, I endorsed my fellow Republican who has served honorably as my State Senator ever since.
I have been a traditional conservative since my teen years. But as an unworldly candidate in my early fifties, I found myself naive to the antibiotic practices of the ruling establishment. Some of the activists in my party did not merely vote against me at the GOP assembly in 2005. They also strong-armed my volunteers, tore down our campaign kiosk, uprooted every campaign sign and shattered a window on my son’s car.
It is easy to become disillusioned when the people with whom you have loyally associated turn this ugly. As my wife and I stood in disbelief over the vandalized car in the parking lot, my son made a statement that I will never forget, “This is not our church.”
I am reminded of that low moment in my life every time that I hear about a conservative who leaves the GOP in protest or calls for the formation of a third political party. I appeal to conservatives who are disappointed in Republican leadership to get even more involved with the GOP and to recruit your like-minded friends to join you in the struggle.
Republicans are at a natural disadvantage because we are motivated by open philosophical principles, whereas Democrats are motivated to defeat those damned, judgmental Republicans. As a result, Democrats tend to reliably vote for their candidates no matter how they behave. And Republicans will withdraw their support from impure GOP leaders, handing an unwarranted number of elections to the Democrats.
My son’s astute observation caused me to reassess my involvement in the Republican Party. I arrived at these two perspectives: 1. The church is a reflection of the Creator, with the mission of effecting the character of its members. 2. The party is a reflection of the members, asserting their principles on the character of its leadership.
A few years after that distressing experience as a candidate, I found myself in the unlikely position of Chairman for the local Republican party. Along with my fellow officers, I instituted the following three standards that seem to have cleaned up the town considerably:
- Operate a sound nomination process with fairness and integrity. Confront bullies and keep them out of leadership. Treat candidates with honor and respect.
- Be willing to debate internally, using the GOP Party Platform as the touchstone. Understand that GOP membership sometimes serves to mask a patriotic heretic like abstract art can be a cover for an untalented painter. We need to challenge bad actors, hold elected officials to account, and not be afraid of losing their membership.
- Once the party’s nominee is selected, close ranks and stand together against the enemies of freedom. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to the party nominee. Remain involved. We cannot afford to lose a single conservative member in this unending struggle for our heritage.
The rallying cry of “principle before party” is a surrendering folly. Buck up and integrate yourself. Principle within party.
And the standard is the Republican Party Platform (www.gop.com/2008Platform). Conservatives should read it and hold elected officials to it.
Tea Party activists, the Republican Party needs your direct involvement.
Maintain your independent voice, but register and participate as Republicans. Elected officials won’t hear an outside voice nearly as clearly as they will hear an inside voice.
There is no home for you in the Democrat Party, except perhaps as a part of work-release .
Just before signing the Declaration of Independence that began our shared journey of freedom, Benjamin Franklin said prophetically, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
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