As a retired state senator, I have been in and out of politics most of my adult life. As a result, I have come to know, and have remained acquainted with, some fairly prominent members of the GOP and, in particular, the RNC. Because I have seen the inner workings of the RNC, I would like to offer the Republican National Committee some practical advice.
I want to set up my recommendations to the RNC by telling two stories about a couple of very different -- and high ranking -- former members. (I will change the names of these two people for reasons that will soon become obvious. I will call them RNC official Joe and RNC official Casey.)
RNC official Joe (a very high-ranking member) recently resigned his post after pleading guilty to stalking.
A lawyer, Joe pulled down close to seven figures a year for...doing nothing. Joe was a typical political hack. This wannabe politician spent thirty years behind the scenes, starting his "employment" for the GOP by becoming a state chairman for the Republican Party. Joe climbed his way up the RNC ladder. During his ascent, Joe acted as a part-time lobbyist, a part-time government "adviser," and eventually, a part-time stalker of a married woman. One newspaper reported:
[Among other positions,] he is administrator of the state Catastrophic Health Care Program, or CAT fund, and an attorney for ... Counties Risk Management Program, or ICRMP. [Joe's] work for government agencies brings his law firm more than $600,000 annually.
Unfortunately, Joe's sort of livelihood is not unusual among the people who run the RNC. These are people who love the limelight but know they either can't or don't want to make the effort to be elected to public office. The last thing they are interested in is finding a real job -- so they figure out how to survive in and milk the political system.
Let's move on to a more positive (yet sadder) story: RNC official Casey also recently resigned from the RNC -- but this was a very different (and unusual) situation. Casey grew up in the Midwest and worked in a small, family-owned store. Casey had a love of America, freedom, and our Constitution. Casey wanted to do something to help save America. Casey started at the bottom of the RNC, answering phones and fetching coffee for RNC officials like Joe.
Casey held no jobs outside the RNC, did no lobbying on the side, and rose to a prominent position under the last Bush administration through hard work and dedication. Casey was paid a moderate salary. Casey worked for the RNC because she believed that she could help make America a better country by being active in GOP politics at the highest level.
Casey decided to resign right after the last presidential election. She was deeply disturbed by the influx into the RNC of a whole new crop of Joes. These were mostly John McCain's people, who were intent on making the GOP a much bigger tent with such brilliant ideas as passing cap-and-trade legislation (to save the planet and entice "moderates" into the party) and granting amnesty as quickly as possible to millions of illegal immigrants (again, for the greater good of that ever-elusive bigger tent).
Casey had had enough. Disheartened and discouraged, she left the RNC.
Sadly enough, many loyal conservative Republicans feel the same about the GOP as Casey did about the RNC. In fact, a Rasmussen poll taken last month found this:
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
Among Republican voters, 39% say they'd vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.
Remember, the "Tea Party" is not a real political party. Yet more Americans would vote for a non-existent Tea Party candidate than they would for a real, live Republican candidate.
We hear Republican Party apologists warn us all the time about the dangers of forming a third political party. Here is a newsflash for those people: Look at those Rasmussen numbers. The Republican Party already is a third political party. And it is running behind what is little more than a semi-organized group of (rightly and righteously) disgruntled patriots.
In 1994, the GOP promised us via the Contract with America a smaller, honest, and accountable federal government that would abide by the Constitution. We believed them and gave them majorities in both houses of Congress. Then, during their ten years in power, they gave us No Child Left Behind, Medicare drug entitlements, more than 10,000 pork-barrel projects, and (after they had lost their majorities) they even helped pass the first TARP bill. In short, they lied, and then they lied some more. Conservative Americans know this, and most conservatives do not trust the GOP anymore.
The numbers don't lie. Conservative Americans trust a politically nonexistent "Tea Party" more than they trust the politically stagnant GOP.
Here, then, is my advice for the Republican Party, and in particular, the RNC:
1) Get off K Street and get onto Main Street.
The Republican leadership launched the "K Street Project" shortly after the Party took control of the Congress in 1994. The idea was to pressure D.C. lobbyists to hire and contribute to the GOP, since the GOP was now the majority.
Apparently, no one in the GOP is smart enough to figure out that the lobbyists don't care about political parties or political ideologies -- they care about political power. As soon as the power of the GOP was seen as waning, the K Street gang jumped ship.
The big money is now tightly controlled by the Democrats, from payouts (actually a form of blackmail) from the TARP bills to outright bailouts of major industries.
In the meantime, Main-Street America has heated up. Tens of millions of Americans are demanding what I call "populist constitutionalism." We want lower taxes, less federal control and regulation of our lives, and a return to basic constitutional principles of real federal government. In short, we want both the 9th and 10th Amendments taken seriously and enforced.
The RNC has to greet Tea Party people with open arms, letting them know they are welcome in the GOP. Forget about trying to co-op the leadership and make them into insiders. This is a grassroots phenomenon, so the message must go throughout the GOP to make the new folks comfortable participating in Republican Party affairs.
As I have shown elsewhere, the GOP (and this includes the RNC) has a long history of awarding leadership positions to those who hang around the longest. In other words, it is a Joe, not a Casey, who has historically gotten the plum position at the GOP and the RNC. This cronyism has to stop...now.
2) Enough IPP already.
IPP stands for "Incumbent Protection Program." No institution in the world is better at "IPPing" than the RNC. Witness the GOP's endorsement and financing of Arlen Specter over...well, anybody. (No, I am not talking about the race of 2004 -- I am talking about less than one year ago.) Perhaps the RNC has learned (by now) that Specter is a Democrat. But don't count on it. The RNC has a long history of "discouraging" primary opposition to incumbent Republicans. (Even worse, the RNC has discouraged opposition by conservatives to liberals anointed by the GOP.) This is part of the reason why people are leaving the GOP in droves for the nonexistent Tea Party. Better to have no menu at all than the one stale item offered so frequently on GOP menu.
If the GOP wants to remain alive (and thrive) it needs to promote, not discriminate against, non-incumbents running against the candidates ordained by it and the RNC establishments.
It turns out that the majority of Americans do want "hope and change." We just want it to start with the GOP.
Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. He is the author of The Order of the Beloved, and the memoir Underground: Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market.