It sounds pleasant. It sounds as if it were a virtue. If I were to ask you, “Do you support unity or disunity”, the answer “disunity” may seem to get caught somewhere between the back of your throat and the tip of your tongue.
We’ve heard the calls for unity within the Republican Party here in Virginia for years now, and for the last year, John Whitbeck, Chairman of the RPV, has endeavored to establish party unity amongst the many warring sub-partisan factions. In the past we’ve discovered that if “party unity” means everyone getting together to ensure that Ed Gillespie won a Senate seat, or getting everyone together to ensure that Ken Cuccinelli won the Governors’ Mansion, then “party unity” is a dream, almost, but never quite realized. Mr. Whitbeck, however, appears to have created an opening, a whisper of a chance, to some measure of unity here in Virginia. For this, I believe, he should be regarded warmly.
However, what is “Party Unity”? The common understanding is that we, as Republicans, can fight like cats and dogs during the primaries, but agree to coalesce behind whomever becomes the Republican Nominee. Which begs the question, what does it mean to coalesce? Does it mean to support or vote for? Does it mean doing everything in our power to ensure that the Republican nominee wins? Or does it mean, refusing to publicly oppose the nominee or publicly stating that one intends to, or has, voted for a third party candidate?
There is an impression out there, that what party unity really means, is the commitment of the conservative grassroots to support establishment candidates that can more easily purchase and secure statewide nominations (especially in a convention). This impression is the source of a great deal of resentment amongst conservatives in the State. On the other hand, those falling under the label “establishment” see no reason to bend over backwards for conservatives on behalf of party unity, since, it would seem, the grassroots conservatives are always the first to say, “I’m not voting for that RINO”.
Many conservatives refused to vote for Gillespie. Many donors refused to support Cuccinelli. The bitter taste in the mouths of generals and soldiers on both sides hasn’t left their palates.
John Whitbeck, in an act of
absurd courage, has attempted to heal the wounds left unclosed from the Cuccinelli and Gillespie campaigns and to restore “unity”. (If you want to start a heated debate amongst your fellow republican friends of differing political philosophies, I would encourage you to discuss what unity actually means in the context of the Republican Party of Virginia. I would recommend prohibiting both booze and steak knives from the occasion). He’s taken criticism from all factions, which, I am sorry to say, should have been expected.
When you attempt to make everyone happy, no one is happy.
I endorse Mr. Whitbeck’s reelection as Chairman of the RPV, and believe that if unity is truly what he is after, then leadership, not healing, is what we need. We do not need to be cajoled into having warm and cooperative feelings toward one another. This is politics, after all. Getting us to like one another is irrelevant and unnecessary. What we need is a fiscally responsible RPV which executes its responsibilities objectively, which disciplines its officers justly, and which promotes its nominee’s unwaveringly. What the individual voters do, or say, is utterly beside the point and “republicans” should be free to do and say anything they wish without being barred for years from the party. Petty quibbling is unnecessary – we merely need a set of common principles and purpose to hold us together.
Over the last year, I have witnessed John Whitbeck demonstrate the administrative aptitudes requisite a Chairman. That, in itself, is worth continuing his service. What I expect from Mr. Whitbeck going forward is greater leadership and vision. We have a Republican Creed in Virginia. It’s a creed worth honoring. The principles we’re all searching for aren’t new – there is nothing aboriginal to be rediscovered.
We Believe . . . That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice. That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society. That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government. That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing constitutional limitations. That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense. That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers, is essential to the moral fibre of the Nation.
As Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, John Whitbeck is the steward of this Republican Creed. If he leads on these principles, then I cannot imagine that our warring factions would have much, in the way of fundamentals, to complain about. We Republicans have a tendency to attempt to tear down everyone that disagrees with us, in order to monopolize power, since power is so rarely shared. Power based on power will always promote a game of thrones. Power based on principle, however, may promote strange bedfellows.
I’m tired of using the phrase RINO and, I admit, I’m not quite sure what that pejorative means anymore. I would prefer to pursue a party of principle, not ideological purity – not utopian unity – because I believe that these principles can unite us as differing parts of a whole. The GOP is a big tent, not a myopic organism. It’s these few principles that we share, which the Democrats do not, that should hold us together as “one” -not quite unified – but ultimately together as a Republican Party. John Whitbeck, more than anyone, has attempted to accomplish precisely this. Success in this regard takes time, time I believe we should consider extending to our Chairman.
We all have bones to pick with our Chairman and I think that’s a good thing.