Have you ever received an invitation to join your local Republican Party committee? Has anyone from your local Republican Party explained to you what it means to be "in" the Party as a voting member of it? Of all those "issue surveys" you've received in the mail from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, did any of them ever explain to you that about half of the "voting member" slots of the Party are vacant and how you could go about becoming a voting member of the Party?
Ever recall seeing or hearing an incumbent Republican explaining to a conservative audience, without a prompt from a questioner from the audience, that the Republican Party is at half strength nationwide at the precinct level, that it's relatively easy to become a precinct committeeman, that precinct committeeman are the Party because only they have the power to vote for the Party officers, and that precinct committeeman are, obviously, vital for Get Out The Vote? I've been to two Redstate Gatherings and two RightOnline Conferences in the past three years and have watched quite a few videos of Republican incumbents at conservative conferences. I've yet to hear a single Republican Party officer or elected Republican governor or congressman say one word to these conservative audiences about the need for conservatives to fill up all of the empty precinct committeeman slots where they live.
Wouldn't it make sense for conservative incumbent Republicans to encourage more participation by conservative Republicans inside the Party itself at the precinct and local committee level? Why don't these conservative Republican incumbents implore conservatives to come into the Party as voting members of it?
I think I know why. Self-interest. For an incumbent, either a Party officer or an elected public servant, adding more conservatives to the PC ranks is not in their self-interest. Why? Because while all those vacant PC slots represent a huge opportunity to those conservative registered Republicans who would like to make our Party more conservative and elect more Republicans who are conservative, an increase of conservatives in the voting ranks of the Party at the precinct level represents a huge potential threat to the status quo. And the one thing an incumbent loves is the status quo among his constituency. As long as his constituency stays the same, an incumbent has a better than 90 per cent chance of winning both their next primary election and next general election.
Case in point. Rep. Allen West. The "tea party" candidate. You would think he would take every opportunity to encourage more conservatives to become precinct committeeman in his Florida district. But it is not in his self-interest to do so. Look what happened recently. He "broke ranks" with his tea party supporters when he voted for the Boehner budget bill. What if he had been encouraging conservative "tea partiers" to become precinct committeemen back in his district? Well, if he had been doing that, and was successful in filling up all the vacancies, he might have planted the seeds to his own political demise. Because all those new conservative precinct committeeman might, ultimately, come the next primary election, support a challenger from the right against Rep. West. And help get out the vote in their precincts not for Rep. West, but for the newcomer.
Redstate's own Moe Lane interviewed Rep. West on camera at a CPAC conference a few months ago and specifically asked Rep. West what conservatives ought to do to become more politically active. Did Rep. West say conservatives ought to become voting members of their Party; that is, precinct committeemen? Nope. Instead, he said they could spend their time and effort visiting web sites like Redstate, getting involved in a grass roots conservative group like a tea party or 9.12 group, and by just getting more educated. Hmmm. Not a word about actually becoming a "player" inside the Republican Party itself, thereby being eligible to vote for the local and county Party officers (indeed, even for RNC delegates, assuming one also became a state committeeman) and being in the best position to get out the vote for the best conservatives in the crucial, traditionally very low turnout Republican primary elections -- the first election every incumbent must win to attempt to retain their beloved seat.
You can read Moe's article about the interview here.
Here's the video interview. Moe's question about how to become "politically active" comes at the 1:18 mark.
I don't blame Rep. West and the incumbent Republicans for acting in their self-interests. It's human nature. It's not their job to educate us on "how it works" and "what to do."
That's our job.
It's not rocket science. It's just good, old-fashioned basic American civics. And doing our civic duty by participating in our two-party political process. It's not terribly time-consuming and open to everyone.
"We the people," the guardians of our Constitution, are collectively failing at our civic duty. Big time. We stay in the bleachers, as spectators of the political process, instead of getting down onto the ball field to play in the game. Time is short. I hope you will find your local Republican Party committee and attend its next meeting. Make sure it's not a Republican "club" that some Republican officers try to shunt newcomers off into, but the actual committee of party members who have the right to vote for the Party officers.
We hear over and over that this is a "center-right" nation. But that ought to mean that we'd be getting out the vote for more "center-right" candidates for the House and Senate and for the presidency. Maybe the fact that we did not elect more "center-right" House and Senate members in 2010 has something to do with the fact that, on average, across America, only about half of the Republican precinct committeeman slots were filled and about one-third of the precincts had not even a single Republican precinct committeeman.
Don't expect your local Republican Party committee to find you. You have to go find it.
Will YOU help make 2011 "The Year of the Precinct Committeeman?"