March 31, 2010
To the immense relief of everyone who was present last night, the Augusta County Republican mass meeting went very smoothly. Unlike the disputed mass meeting two years ago, this event yielded a consensus about who should lead the party for the next two years: Bill Shirley, who has served in that capacity since June 2008.* Shortly after 7:00 P.M. he called the meeting to order, and made a strong pitch for earnest civic activism: "Never doubt your impact!" His choice to serve as temporary chairman, Al Katz, was quickly approved, and Mr. Katz then presided over the meeting.
During the interlude when the Credentials, Rules, and Nominating Committees were doing their work in a separate room, the two candidates for the post of Sixth District Republican Chairman spoke to the audience. Trixie Averill made the same main point that she did at the Staunton mass meeting the night before, stressing the need to defeat the Democratic incumbents in the Fifth District (Tom Perriello) and Ninth District (Richard Boucher). Ms. Averill pointed to her 30 years of service to the Republican Party, beginning with Ronald Reagan's winning campaign in 1980. In response to a question from Ed Long, she denied knowing anything about an offer to pay for the registration fee for the Sixth District Convention (I paid $20) that was allegedly made in a campaign e-mail circulated on her behalf.
Then Danny Goad spoke. A resident of Boutetourt County, he said he has worked for the Republicans for 18 years, but recently has had doors slammed in his face when he told people he was a Republican. He thinks it's because the party has strayed from its core principles, especially the United States Constitution: "We the People"! He said the Tea Party movement represents the cause of freedom in America, and it's too bad it didn't originate from within the GOP. Jason Bibeau asked him about Ronald Reagan's "11th Commandment," and Goad said there should be no bad-mouthing of Republican candidates by party members during a campaign, but otherwise there is no reason for activists to remain silent about the issues.
Then the three committee chairpersons returned to the room made their respective reports. Steve Kijak reported that 115 people had registered to participate in the mass meeting, 103 people filed to become members of the Augusta County Republican Committee, and 77 people registered to become delegates to the Sixth District Convention. Just to make sure, he read the list of names. Gloria Stump then reported the rules which were then approved, and Craig Shrewsbury reported that Bill Shirley was the only candidate to have filed by the required deadline. Temporary Chairman Al Katz therefore declared Mr. Shirley elected as chairman of the Augusta County Republican Committee by acclamation. No one in the room voiced any objections.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Shirley expressed pride in Augusta County and appreciation for the responsibility with which he has been entrusted. "I realize that I'm the chairman of the most conservative county in the most conservative state in the most conservative nation in the world." He reminded the members of the mission statement that was adopted when he first became unit chairman in the summer of 2008: "To elect principled conservatives to public office through grassroots efforts." He then elaborated on his personal motivations for assuming the burden of party leadership at a time of deep discord and confusion:
"My purpose is to help bring truth to light in the political arena. Nothing else. I have no other agenda."
To me, those were very encouraging words indeed. (I recorded most of his speech on my video camera, and expect to post it to YouTube in the near future.) Finally, Mr. Shirley paid recognition to the local Republican elected officials were present at the mass meeting:
Each of the three delegates spoke very briefly just before conclusion. Other attendees of note included Scott and Mary Sayre, Alex Davis (the new Staunton Republican Chairman), Kelly Keech, Phil Lynch ("Yankee Phil" -- !), as well as Lynn and Bill Mitchell ("SWAC Girl" and "SWAC Husband"). Unlike two years before, neither Rep. Bob Goodlatte nor Sixth District GOP Chairman Fred Anderson attended either the Staunton or Augusta County mass meetings. Perhaps the most notable absences, however, were the two main protagonists from the 2008 mass meeting: State Senator Emmett Hanger and former Augusta County GOP Chairman Kurt Michael. (See below.)
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Shirley endorsed Danny Goad over Trixie Averill for the post of Sixth District Chairman. He criticized recent actions by the Republican Party of Virginia, such as interfering in the Bath County GOP mass meeting. "We stand for self-determination." (Well, that certainly echoes the strong sentiment of many former members of the Staunton Republican Committee, whose warnings to higher-ups in the party in 2007 were totally ignored.) Then the meeting properly adjourned after a motion from the floor was made, seconded, and approved by voice vote, in strict accordance with Robert's Rules of Order. (!)
Those who made the preparations for the mass meeting and assisted in coordinating it deserve great credit for the success:
Reporter Bob Stuart of the (Waynesboro) News Virginian was there, and I commented on his story:
Kurt Michael's absence from the Augusta County mass meeting last night was a stark contrast to his very active role in chairing the Staunton mass meeting the night before. It just strikes me as very odd. I'm afraid he has missed another golden opportunity to help heal the rifts in the party.
Surprisingly, however, I didn't see any reporters from the (Staunton) News Leader. Well, perhaps this is a case of "no news is good news."
* In the June 2008 blog post cited in the top paragraph, I wrote, in part:
The true test of leadership is the ability to act independently of any particular faction and foster a sense of broad common purpose so as to make the organization bigger and stronger.
I'll admit that I had some doubts at the time, but there is no question in my mind that Mr. Shirley has lived up to that standard 1,000 percent.
As the controversy over the "reconciliation" process and the gradual loss of the Senate's special deliberative role continue in the aftermath of the passage of Obamacare, Shaun Kenney drew attention to the growing call to repeal the 17th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913. (It provided for popular election of U.S. senators, who had previously been chosen by the state legislatures.) Here is my suggestion, posted on Facebook:
This is an intriguing idea with some merit, but as a book by Lewis Gould explains, having state legislators pick U.S. senators was prone to much corruption. So here's an alternative suggestion to restore balance between the popular will and proper federal-state relations: give the state legislatures the power to CERTIFY two eligible Senate candidates (each member votes for ONE potential candidate), in effect nominating one from each party, from which the people would then make the final choice. The state legislatures would get some of their power back, the Senate would become more expressly an instrument of the states, but the potential for corruption would be minimized, because the people would (presumably) reject any crooked cronies.