The GOP Farm Teams
It's hard to participate in almost any leadership conversation in the GOP or the Tea Party this season without hearing a reference to the farm teams that we should begin preparing and supporting in a couple of weeks.
The farm teams of course are the new local elected officials we will be trying to put in place in every office from the city councils, county commissions, school boards, water commissions, and my personal favorite, the sewer commissions. These are the local officials that many of us ignored for 30 or 40 years, and those offices got populated, nearly unopposed, with democratic, entitlement-minded apparatchiks from the liberal left. The left has not been ignoring their own farm team operations - they have attended to those duties well - with the long-term result that wherever we look in the political 'biosphere' we find ourselves surrounded by liberal public servants in every conceivable public post.
In my own political district in Los Angeles County, California, the GOP farm team game was ignored for so long that Democrats waltzed unopposed into state senate seats and even US Congressional seats. Sometimes for such tawdry reasons as the local GOP could not come up with a $1,700 filing fee (or the requisite number of signatures) for a state senate candidate.
Observing the spectacle of a farm team warming up for action can be as cute as a basket full of collie pups, and can also be as dangerous as a basket of vipers.
But I digress. Once we have chosen our farm team, and in some cases gotten them elected to their 'minor' posts, is our job finished? Hardly. Once they have savored the heady scent of victory and it's accompanying sense of power, that is the very moment we need to start watching them closely. If we overlook some important aspects of what they are about to learn, we will be ill served by even the most conservative public servants.
The Addiction to Federal Funds
Regardless of the office, one of the first worries of any public servant is the problem of funding delivery and improvement of the various services they were tasked to deliver to the public. Naturally enough because of past liberal practices, they find their organic budgets inadequate to the delivery of services their constituents have become accustomed to. So naturally, they cast their eye up the food chain toward state and federal grant funding of their operations. Just try to find the staff of any public agency that does not have a grant-writer among its personnel.
It took a couple of generations to erect, and become dependent upon, this unsavory system. It will take a couple of generations to fully dismantle it. And dismantling that system will occur in exactly the same way that it was put in place. Through influence. Through the multiple and manifest little motivations of minor punishments and rewards.
An agency where I volunteer is a perfect example. I am volunteer training sergeant for a local police department - like many other agencies in CA, their budget has been severely challenged lately. Whenever the PD has a DUI checkpoint in the city to ensure the citizens are a little safer, the operation is almost always funded with a state or federal grant. Same goes for most of the 'reverse John' stings used to make the community an unfriendly locale for prostitution.
In short, without a flood or a trickle of funds from the state and federal level, many public agencies could not do their jobs to their communities' current expectations. And in many instances, those 'state' grants would not be possible without corresponding federal grants to fund those state pools of grant money.
So what do you think our farm team is learning from becoming dependent on those funds? There is merit to the public official's agrument that the funds are going to go to some community somewhere - why not our community? Indeed, they would seem derelict to many of us if they did not fight to get those funds for our own community.
So I ask again, what are our farm team politicians learning in this political ballpark?
As they cast their ambitious eyes upward to the next office they desire, are they learning that it's better to be the one disbursing the funds than the one asking for them? Are they learning that a 'minor falsehood' might be OK in order to make the case for their locality look more attractive to the grant makers than the case of the community next door?
Who is watching, guiding, cajoling, encouraging and exerting influence to ensure that these minor local officials do not take the wrong lessons away from their local public service in their ambition to deliver even greater good to the public they serve? Whose email address in their inbox will cause the local official to lean forward and take heed.
If you know me, then you already know my answer: the precinct committeeman. And you thought that the only real power that the precinct committeeman has is his/her vote for the party county chair or county executive board? Hardly.
There is a good reason that they call the local precinct executive the most powerful office in the nation. It's the precinct committeeman who will find a candidate to primary that misbehaving GOP official on the sewer commission. It's the local precinct committeeman who will arrange the high school gymnasium fundraiser to help a promising young candidate raise his filing fee.
It's the activist precinct committeeman who tracks the various officials' performance (delegated to some extent, of course) and (individually or collectively) can do so much to either support or overrule the county chair's favor to advance a given candidate at any point in the primary/general election process.
Yes, it's the job of a little king-maker.
So are you dissatisfied with the party's choices for those little kings so far?
And you are going to continue to let those choices be made by someone you hardly trust? Then the job must be up to you, mustn't it?
Becoming a precinct committeeman is not all that hard. In many locales, alternate voting appointments are available. Many empty voting seats exist that can be instantly filled with your request to be appointed to the seat.
Will writing letters to your Congresscritters help? You probably know after the responses to one or two of your letters, that your Congresscritter will simply use the opportunity of your letter to persuade you why their stance is the correct one on any issue and will remain unpersuaded by you and your cohorts regardless of the volume of emails, faxes, phone calls and letters you produce.
Carrying signs at a demonstration? I'ts nice to make the news and that could make you feel like you are getting something done. That just makes your Congresscritter want to try to harness your volunteer energy to their next campaign, but will hardly sway their vote.
But if you bring the pressure to bear on them as a party official (and that's exactly what precinct committeemen are) then they have to listen carefully. You represent the mechanism that delivers the vote.
And even the most seasoned and insensitive of politicians knows that while advertising dollars and big treasuries can help win elections, they never enter or return to office without the actual vote.
Cross-posted to enhance precinct committeeman participation