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Just my Sally, Dick & Jane way of saying that as a Wisconsin resident, grassroots activist, and Republican Party member, I would sooner chop off my own right arm than see Reince Priebus attain the heights of RNC Chairman. Priebus’ candidacy for national leadership is so egregious to me, in fact, that I’m breaking months of silence here on RedState to stand against it.
Much public discussion has unfolded in the past couple weeks about little Reince’s allegiances and dealings. There’s plenty to give anyone serious pause:
For me, all of that pales in comparison to Priebus’ patterns here in Wisconsin. In fact, these patterns should alarm grassroots, conservative Republicans in every state, for they portend worse to come should this man achieve power at the national level.
Reince Priebus has a history of collusion, manipulation, subterfuge, and co-option in the service of getting his candidates and agendas pushed through. And it’s almost always at the expense of delegates and voters. If he wasn’t behind the matters I’m about to describe, there can be little or no doubt that he gave his blessing to them. The only other explanation? He’d lost control of his party and was totally oblivious to what others around him were doing. Is anyone really foolish enough to believe that Michael Steele’s general counsel and fix-it man didn’t have a clue…?
Some of you may be aware of the co-option of the April 2010 Tax Day Rally at Wisconsin’s State Capitol in Madison. What should have been a grassroots event dedicated to lower taxes, reduced government, and free-market principles was turned into a sordid publicity stunt headlined by big-government Republican Tommy Thompson—all to achieve a photo op and “tea party” credentials for not-yet-announced but already RPW-annointed Senate candidate Ron Johnson. Footage from the event later showed up in Johnson’s nomination video—surprise, surprise—to give him a helpful “tea party” veneer.
There’s much more to that story, but I have no room for it here if I’m going to cover…
That Priebus’ hand had been fully in the sorry Tax Day co-option became pretty darned clear a month later at the RPW’s State Convention.
Though Johnson officially entered the Senate race just a few short days prior to convention, robocalls from not one but two big-name establishment Republicans—former governor Scott McCallum and former lieutenant governor Margaret Farrow—went out on Johnson’s behalf in the short window between his announcement and the opening of the convention.
That means those calls were already produced and in the can well before Johnson’s announcement. Which, in turn, means that Reince Priebus, at the helm of the RPW, had already decided for convention delegates—and the voting public at large—the candidate for whom they’d be graced with the opportunity to vote in the general election. [The story was relatively similar in the governor’s race, though there it became obvious several months prior to the convention who the RPW was backing—and that they’d much prefer the other serious contender just to clear off.]
A record number of delegates attended the 2010 convention. Almost none of them knew anything of substance about Johnson going into that weekend. Yet somehow, after some very crazy Kabuki theatre—and you can’t possibly conceive just how completely crazy unless you were present in the hall to witness it—Johnson walked away with the endorsement.
There were, well…irregularities. First, the 2010 rules had changed, though no one seemed fully to understand precisely why this had perhaps been done until it was too late: The vote percentage neessary to obtain the endorsement had been lowered, while the percentage required to ensure a “no endorsement” result had been raised. The Republican Liberty Caucus has actually done an excellent job of summarizing the problem with this and other decisions and trends under Reince Priebus’ leadership.
Second, in one of the most backwards decisions of all time, candidates had to give their nomination presentations in the order in which they’d entered the race. If anything, it should have been the other way around in order to give some momentum and heft to candidates who’d been in longest. But this rule, too had a purpose. It set up a perfectly staged scene in which Senate candidate # 3, Dick Leinenkugel, a recently “converted” Democrat who’d recently resigned as Governor Jim Doyle’s Commerce Secretary no less, bowed out and threw his support to Johnson—at which point the hall spookily erupted in wild cheering and applause for final candidate Johnson, a man delegates had not yet had any opportunity to vet.
The endorsement was clinched for Johnson on the second ballot–though some of the balloting still doesn’t make any sense. This win was followed by a “surprise” appearance by…Tommy Thompson, who, having colluded in providing Johnson with false grassroots credentials and a photo op on Tax Day, now gave his public blessing to Johnson right on cue.
The third and most important irregularity? The balloting for the Senate endorsement mysteriously got bumped to Sunday…when most delegates had already gone home. Only about a third of registered delegates, in fact, remained to decide this extremely important matter, about 500 people with proportional voting. That means only about 300 of them or fewer voted for Johnson—though you’d never know that from the way the endorsement was waved around in the media.
You’d also never guess it from Reince Priebus’ comment when interviewed just days afterward: “It doesn’t matter if you are in the race for two years or two months,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “This proves that it’s about the right message and the right candidate.”
Seems like an innocuous comment, yes? Except that to the trained eye, it’s an impossible one. There was as of that point no substantive message, which means there was no substantive candidate. Moreover, Johnson managed to avoid putting up a single issue statement on his campaign website for about two months post-convention. So, substance didn’t exactly burgeon quickly. And no wonder. A few short weeks after convention, Johnson admitted on camera that he found the Constitution a difficult document to read. Unsurprisingly, the closer the grassroots looked, the more the RPW’s chosen one was seen to have major flaws, many of them progressive tendencies.
So, you see, Reince’s comment about “the right candidate and the right message,” printed just three days after the convention’s weird conclusion…? That remark could only have been written in advance for a public that the Wisconsin chair assumed to be blind and stupid.
The whole affair was an establishment production from start to finish. It centralized decision-making at the top levels of the party, put a false face on a poor candidate, and neatly co-opted the grassroots. And the only person—the ONLY one—who could have orchestrated it, who had access to all of the elements necessary to make this pig fly, was Wisconsin’s party chair, Reince Priebus.
That included collusion with the media…
Now, again, do I have black and white proof on this score. Nope. But it’s all a little too neat.
If they hadn’t been doing so prior to convention, the three heaviest hitters in the Madison and Milwaukee talk radio markets—Sykes, Belling, and McKenna—certainly started shilling hard for Johnson immediately thereafter. In fact, every one of them ceased to give any time or attention to other candidates in the race. They simply refused to do so. [That, too, was the same in the governor’s race.] There was never discussion of Johnson’s foibles or flaws. It was a flat-out love-fest. At least two of these hosts went so far as to publicly attack individuals and groups that voiced objections or concerns about Johnson. The tune the three of them were all whistling sounded remarkably similar. Coincidence? Based on the similarities I heard with my own ears, I’d put my money on behind-the-scenes agreements and shared talking points.
The picture I’ve painted for you here lines up quite well with whispers that are now flying around about other unseemly arrangements and double-dealings in which Reince Priebus may have been involved.
If RNC delegates and other top Republican leadership enjoy discovering they’ve been had, they should definitely cast their votes for Priebus, as they’ll be able to feel that way regularly. You think the way he’s maneuvered in, around, over, and on top of his good buddy Michael Steele has been interesting? Just wait till you see what he can do for…and then TO…you. Oh he’s cute and little. He looks harmless. But you’ll never, ever be able to count on a word that comes out of his mouth or a single agreement you strike with him. He’s congenitally fork-tongued.
If you’re a mere mortal—a rank-and-file Republican or some low-level schlub like a county or district chair—get used to having even more candidate and policy decisions moved to somewhere well beyond your reach. That’s not theory. In whatever state you live, you should be contacting your committee members pronto to tell them Reince Priebus is the worst replacement for Steele possible.
In my experience, character flaws like Reince’s don’t get better with more room to maneuver; they get worse. A lot worse…