On April 11, 2015, while listening to Dr. Alan Keyes speak at the Cowlitz County Lincoln Day Dinner, I had an epiphany.
I noticed his use of the word “unity” and how it contrasted with his use of the word “union.” And while the definitions may seem relatively synonymous, my observation is that within our republican political culture they have taken on drastically different meanings. I propose the reason is one has been abused while the other has been left unmolested.
Many grassroots conservative republicans have a peculiar sensitivity toward the periodic demands of party leadership to get in lockstep with a candidate or an agenda — especially a liberal candidate or agenda. Such efforts have in the recent past been cloaked in a mantra of so-called “unity”. Unfortunately, marching forward with this word in the context in which it has been called for resulted in a cultural interpretation of unity being more a calling of people into compliance rather than a call for cooperation.
I resigned myself to the fact that undoing this definition once established would be extraordinarily difficult. But then the realization came – there is a word which has not suffered this fate yet — “union.” As it stands now, “unity” is a behavior or state of agreement, but a “union” is still an alliance. Though many grassroots conservatives see unity as a demand for agreement, a union still suggests the organization of different people around common causes. Demands for compliance breed civil wars and purges. Calls for a union ask diverse interests to cooperate toward common goals.
The Washington State Republican Party would be more successful in my opinion if it would better embrace the idea that it is a “union.” It should be viewed as a “union of counties”, each comprised of different local interests, different agendas, different presidential preferences and different cultures. If that sounds academic, it is. But why wouldn’t it make sense to also treat diversity of political philosophy in a similarly respectful manner? Do we fail to see the landscape the same because it is philosophically rather than geographically defined?
Although one group may fight with another for the supremacy of their ideas, a leader of a union will treat all of its members and factions respectfully, without dividing one against another and without attempting to alienate, marginalize or discredit. Because despite their differences they know their union has a purpose. If a leader tries to undermine one group in favor of another, or pro-actively seeks to sully ones reputation or stature within the body, then the entire unified purpose is in jeopardy. If a leader tries to “purify” a union, such action will spell its doom. The members can compete for supremacy of their various ideals — but the leader must focus upon maintaining a healthy, vibrant and relevant union.
So it is my hope that the members of the Washington State Republican Central Committee will strongly impress upon their leadership the importance of adopting the style of leading a union. Demand a style which not only tolerates but embraces the diversity of thought within our party. WSRP leadership should self-impose a habit of always asking if their next communication will strengthen or weaken the union. In the opinion of this writer, the state party has failed in this regard several times in the first trimester of 2015 alone. They have disingenuously called into question the legitimacy of a presidential candidate’s draft committee, they have issued a press release designed to discredit a county party and its membership, and selectively published county events on their event calendar. They even took the negative and slanted opinions of a liberal newspaper’s editorial board toward a county party and circulated it among the entire state committee and elsewhere as though it were an authoritative source on the underlying subject. These actions are interpreted by me at best to be oblivious to the conservative grassroots base, and at worst, overtly hostile toward them. In my opinion, neither is acceptable. In my opinion, such mentalities have resulted in these actions and others which bring discredit upon the entire organization.
But to the grassroots conservatives of every sub-stripe – regardless of which path the WSRP chooses to pursue – we must take it upon ourselves during the upcoming presidential primary cycle to refuse to marginalize those among us who support one candidate or another. When pressed by some to state who he will support, Clark County Chairman Kenny Smith says, “I’m going to support all of the candidates’ supporters.” The leaders of our county and state parties should aspire to that attitude so wisely proclaimed by Chairman Smith. We as the grassroots conservative base may disagree on one primary presidential candidate or another, but we share a common goal for our party: to be a true bottom up organization and to advance a conservative political agenda. That is the purpose of our “union” even though we may comprise supporters of 3 or 4 or 5 different presidential candidates.
How do we avoid falling into the same old trap? First, recognize how it happens. Second, don’t do it again. Third, don’t let other people with ulterior motives goad us into doing it again.
The typical pattern:
– “Candidate Jones is a moron”, therefore;
– “The supporters of Candidate Jones are morons.”, thereafter;
– People refer to them as “The Jones Morons”.
Let those with an establishment mentality conduct themselves in this manner! Let them sully their own reputations to the point they become repulsive to others! If they do it to themselves, who am I to stop them? But let’s not participate. There will be times where factions of “tea party” or “liberty” or “values voters” or others must come together around a common cause. Let’s not let those with an establishment mentality pit us against one another!
We need to support our candidate, battle our friends for victory, but do so in a way which criticizes ideas and not people. Whether you support Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and probably others, most of us share a goal for a political party whose primary purpose is advancing an agenda. In order for that to happen, we need to accept the fact that we have different interests we are pursuing, but while so doing, we have a union with the definite major purpose of working together to advance an agenda which reflects the interests of grassroots conservatives.
We can hope that the WSRP will conduct itself with these issues in mind, but we cannot control their behavior. We can however, control our own behavior. To that end I implore the supporters of all presidential candidates who can otherwise categorize themselves as part of the grassroots conservative base of the party, to confront, object to and refuse to participate in the type of communication which alienates and marginalizes those who support other candidates. If the behavior of the state party and of various county parties during the 2012 convention cycle is any indication, we are going to need to build and nurture our union. If the 2014-2015 communication of the state party which I find to be hostile towards the conservative base continues, we are going to need be able to trust and rely upon each other to achieve our goals. When that day comes, we will be most successful if we have fostered friendships which transcend the adversarial nature of the primary.
Be on guard. Confront the simpleton’s communication in social media, at social affairs, on the street and in your daily communication. Refuse to participate in such sophomoric drivel. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. For me, that is reforming our state party to be a bottom up organization which treats all members and interests fairly, to advance the agenda of our conservative base, and to do so by electing constitutional conservatives to office.
We can refuse to be victims of or participants in the divide and conquer strategy borne of an establishment mentality. Our fate is in our own hands. Until “unity” has regained its proper standing, I will fight the “unity” strategy and instead adopt the mindset of a “union”.
I hope you will join me.