The first time I was tossed into the cesspool of politics occurred when I was “volunteered” to work on my mother’s city council campaigns. The second time, I swan dived into the miasmatic morass by campaigning for Republican precinct delegate. (Yes, you jackanapes, I probably should have quit while I was ahead.)
Back in those Paleozoic days, precinct delegates had to collect 20 petition signatures within their voting precinct to get on the ballot. Then, in a primary election, the aspirants had to garner the necessary votes from their precinct’s fellow Republicans to win the seat or, if unopposed, gain at least three votes (as I recall). If successful, the newly elected precinct delegate was accorded the right and duty to attend the county convention. There, following a vote of their colleagues, a precinct delegate could be elected to the state convention.
So, who would want to do all that? In 1988, the bitter battle royale for the GOP presidential nomination was between George H. W. Bush, Jack Kemp, and Pat Robertson. The Michigan Republicans’ state convention would choose one of the three, not by its usual state primary, but by a vote of the precinct delegates elected by their county conventions to attend the state convention. As history shows, ultimately, Bush won Michigan’s primary nomination, the national nomination, and the 1988 election.
Due to the caucus’ acrimony and its consequences, the Michigan GOP shortly afterwards changed its bylaws to return to a primary system. (The state party does continue to nominate some statewide offices at its convention.) The caucus had its advantages, most notably by compelling Republican presidential candidates and Michigan GOP power brokers to care about and respond to local precinct delegates. In short, by being instructive, interactive, and responsive, it was grassroots politics at its edifying best. I later served the Republican Party as a local GOP club membership chair, a county chair, and a state committee member, all before contemplating serving in public office.
I recall those days in the wake of the alienating dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, from its precinct to local to state incarnations. While the grassroots have major concerns with the condition of the GOP, the most glaring cause for outrage is that the party’s organizations are rife with and riven by Republican clericalism.
For spiritual organizations, especially my own Catholic Church, clericalism is “an expectation, leading to abuses of power, that ordained ministers are better than and should be over everyone else among the People of God” (per the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, June 2019). Thus, those who are elevated to the loftiest offices are duty bound to be the lowliest servants of the faithful. Yet, when those in the loftiest offices come to believe they are no longer servants but masters, dissatisfaction and alienation invariably spread among the flock.
One can see clericalism’s secular equivalent within the Republican Party and, indeed, the swamp. Those who have been delegated power by the sovereign people and party members have conflated their own status and ambitions with the health and purposes of the organization. The servants have self-anointed themselves the masters. Bossism and cronyism ensue and become endemic; and dissatisfaction and defections wrack the alienated party members and the citizenry.
Whatever the causes, here is my battlefield triage for the critical 2022 mid-term election:
Quit bitching. Join your local Republican Party. Take over your local party. Attend your Republican Party’s state convention. Take over your state Republican Party. Attend the national Republican Party convention. Working with candidates nominated for public office, take over the national Republican Party. Defeat the damn Democrats before they destroy our republic.
And, if you don’t think an active Republican Party is needed to do it, I submit the following:
After the divisive 1988 Michigan GOP presidential caucus, experts predicted it would take years to repair the party and, maybe, one day elect a Republican governor. But 1988’s no-holds-barred intramural Michigan GOP presidential politicking honed its chops. Bush carried the state that November (a feat not repeated until Donald Trump won the state 28 years later). In 1990—upsetting Democratic incumbent and prospective vice-presidential candidate James Blanchard—John Engler began his first of three terms as Michigan’s governor.
If you aren’t a Republican, such is your right; and, unless and until the Left wins its war on free speech, you get to carp about whatever you wish.
If you are a Republican, know this: the power brokers running the GOP are its servants. The true power is you. And, as a Republican, you have the chance—indeed, the duty—to stanch the socialist Democrats’ regressive quest for American serfdom; redeem, reinvigorate, and repurpose our party for America’s newest birth of freedom.