Michigan GOP 2010 State Convention - Aftermath, Consequences, & Lessons Learned
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
In his Remarks in New York City at a Reception for Delegates to the State Republican Convention on June 17, 1982, Ronald Reagan said, "When the chips are down and the decisions are made as to who the candidates will be, then the 11th Commandment prevails and everybody goes to work, and that is: `Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican'." The point of this philosophy (originally developed in September of 1965 by California State Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson) was to avoid having Republican primary opponents so thoroughly savage each other that the stage would be set in the general campaign for a liberal Democrat win in November. Additionally, once the general ticket is in place, the caution here is to set aside the heat of the primary contests and work as a statewide team for a GOP win at the general election.
To say that the 2010 Michigan Republican State Convention was "interesting" would be considered by many attendees as an understatement. By all honest accounts, it was evident that the MIGOP party leadership expected that, in exchange for being allowed a few seats at the table, the Michigan Tea Party Alliance would be good little sheep on the convention floor and rubber stamp the decrees of the party officials. Funny thing about that though, is that the MTPA members blindly answer to no one (certainly no one whose trustworthiness is considered suspect at best), and most assuredly do not simply do as they're told. On the flip side of that coin, though, anyone who is of the opinion that the MTPA is going to take out their frustration on the GOP ticket is going to be thoroughly disabused of that notion come November.
Until The Polls Open In Michigan
The Independence Caucus, which is the Political Action Committee of the MTPA, has a policy against endorsing third party candidates that is based on the principle of Duverger's Law, which asserts that a single-member, district-plurality (SMDP) election methodology - how it's done in America - will eventually coalesce into a two-party political system, even when we'd rather that it didn't. So even though the politically clueless (or just plain foolish) seem to believe that either a third-party candidate or an independent candidate would be a really good idea, the brutal reality of the matter is that, outside of minor local elections, non-major-party election winners are the exception, not the rule. Not only is the MTPA is well aware of this concept, they flatly reject even the suggestion that a "third party" option would better suit their purposes.
Crossover contamination of the primary
In the philosophical mindset of the MTPA, either the Republican Party needs to close its primaries, or Michigan needs to adopt a runoff model for resolving primaries where no candidate gets at least 50.1% of the votes cast. Mind you, they don't fault Rick Snyder for campaigning to win and doing so within the rules as they currently are; however, influencing large numbers of voters at the expense of not only his primary opponents, but of the entire primary ticket, seems to them highly inappropriate and indicative of a structural flaw within the primary system.
Ambassador Pete Secchia, in addressing the Kent County Project 2010 Kickoff Convention back in late 2008, said that, in his judgment, if you have elected officials who demand leadership, then they should win that leadership from their peers, in their caucus, from the people wearing the same party uniform and sharing the same "locker room." Siding with your opponents is not, as the Grand Rapids Press stated, "reaching out," it is changing your uniform in the middle of the game. Once you do that, no private political strategy is unshared, and no appointments are fairly represented. It is "pretend" leadership without a team uniform . . . leadership that will never be able to decide who owes what to whom.
From the philosophical viewpoint of the MTPA, by inviting the opposition to vote in the Republican primary, Rick Snyder did worse than change his own uniform; it was the political equivalent of outfitting the entire Spartan football team in Wolverine maize-and-blue. The only people who are going to think that's a good idea is the team that benefits from the switch. By this I mean that, because Michigan's major parties run open, straight-ticket primaries, anyone from the dark side who cast a ballot for the Nerd King was restricted from voting for jackasses in other races on the ballot. The result was a primary that was heavily skewed in favor of republican candidates who were considered, at best, unacceptably moderate.
Not that MTPA is going to go overboard in crying foul. Of the thirty-five candidates that were endorsed by the Independence Caucus in their respective races, fourteen of them survived their primaries, and are well-positioned to soundly trounce their jackass opponents in the general. Additionally, Snyder's known support of the MTPA demand for a fair and secure vote at the state convention on the question of his running mate has earned him considerable cred with the tea party caucus; as long as he remembers that that is earned (never granted), and behaves accordingly, he'll be just fine.
As to the primaries themselves . . . well, that's an issue that'll get dealt with by other means after this year's general is already in the books.
Backlash at state convention
Strategic National, the political consulting firm less flatteringly known as the "Yob Machine," has long history of never once losing at the Michigan Republican State Convention. The MTPA / I-Caucus team were poised to go head-to-head with this juggernaut on two contested ballots, as well as create a contest on another ballot. As you might expect, neither side was going to go down without a fight.
The "big picture" strategy behind the counter-nomination of Bill Cooper had nothing to do with either Rick Snyder or Brian Calley. In reality, it was all about exposing the hypocrisy, back-room double-dealing, and "good old boy" elitism in the behavior of the state party establishment. In this, it succeeded in legendary fashion. The multiple linked stories that Jason Gillman references in his article, "Multiple Historians And Truth. Fix The MIGOP," make that exposure very clear. Hell, even Tim Skubick got that much right, though he blew it on other key details.
Had the districts been able to caucus the night before the main convention (as they have historically done), or even been able to caucus on the convention floor (seriously, whose bright idea was it to hold the convention in a sports arena?), it's entirely possible that the Attorney General race would have gone the other way, and we'd now have Mike Bishop on the statewide ticket instead of Bill Schuette. Even in the "tea party caucus" meeting on Friday night, this one had been too close to call. Depending on whose math you believe, only 51 to 57 votes (roughly 5% of the total votes cast) needed to be flipped to have changed the outcome of that ballot. The MTPA and I-Caucus whips were doing everything they could do given the environment that MIGOP had given them to work with, and to their credit, they almost pulled off an upset that would have been devastating to the power brokers behind the convention curtain.
However, it was a much different story in the Secretary of State contest. The Strategic National candidate was Paul Scott, while the I-Caucus endorsement had gone to Ruth Johnson, making her the candidate with clear MTPA support. This was clear not only in the caucus meeting on Friday night (where Johnson effectively walked away with the straw poll), but also on the convention floor and at the ballot box. Even more impressive was the outcome of the first round of the voting at the convention . . . Paul Scott finished last.
Let me say that again for the sake of emphasis:
Paul Scott, the Strategic National candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, finished dead last in the first round of SOS voting at the MIGOP Convention.
That's right, for the first time in . . . ever . . . the Yob Machine was handed a loss on the Michigan Republican state convention floor. And it was accomplished by the combined might of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance and the Michigan Chapter of the Independence Caucus. That is no mean feat; the Yobs have a well-earned reputation for being "by any means necessary" ruthless when it comes to maintaining their grip on the levers of power within the Republican Party, particularly in Michigan. (And that, by the way, isn't just my assessment.) That they would lose even once - never mind almost three times - in high-profile contests at convention is an unignorable testament to just how much potential clout the MTPA has.
Deal with it and move forward
Rick Snyder has demonstrated that he has the political intelligence to unify a heavily democrat and deeply divided state behind a Republican gubernatorial candidate. The MIGOP intends to use this leverage to strengthen its hold on the State Senate and to retake control of the State House. Snyder believes he can get more done because he has the ear and loyalty of reasonable independent and democrat voters. The fact that he has had no less than a 17.5 point lead over Virg Bernero since the general campaign started is likely evidence of this.
And the MTPA is perfectly comfortable with that. If the Founding Fathers couldn't figure out how to overcome Duverger's Law, then no one in this day and age is likely to be able to do so. So if Michigan is going to be turned around and become the economic powerhouse that it has the potential to be, then that change is going to have to come through the Michigan Republican Party. Moreover, with redistricting occurring next year, it is absolutely imperative that either the Republicans retake the House (without losing control of the Senate) or that the proper refereeing of rule-of-law justices be returned to the majority on the SCOMI (without losing control of the Senate). Both outcomes would be ideal, but either will be adequate.
However, back in 2008 the I-Caucus did prove that, by acting as an independent caucus within the two existing major parties, it is possible to root out compromised incumbents and take back control from the out of touch elitists currently holding office. The MTPA is well aware of this, and if the power brokers at MIGOP aren't, then they will learn the hard way soon enough. The MTPA and the I-Caucus will work their tails off for a republican victory in November. But make no mistake, several candidates on the ticket have already been "flagged" for potential primary ouster at the next available opportunity, and the tea party caucus plays by Gary North's Eight Rules of Engagement. Any Michigan Republican who goes rogue after the new Congress and Legislature are inaugurated will be either recalled or primaried, and the MTPA will have the resources to make it happen.
Lessons learned from convention
Mark Brewer can put his best possible spin job on it to make it look like the state ticket's fault; but as Jason Gillman pointed out so very effectively, Ron Weiser and the Michigan Republican Party absolutely own the fiasco that was the 2010 MIGOP State Convention, and they will not be able to wish it away or sweep it under the rug. Yes, that's likely to make things a tad rough for the top spots on the state ticket this time around, but the only people that The Puppetmaster is fooling are those want to believe the lie in the first place. The Michigan Tea Party Alliance, the very people whom Brewer tried to use as leverage for a smoke screen intended to dilute the vote, are wise to the backroom shenanigans of the leadership of both parties.
The multiple reports that Gillman cited were, as he observed, all done independently of each other and are worthy news pieces in addition to being commentary and opinion. The MIGOP State Committee met last weekend to debrief the convention, which I'm told included a critical analysis and an assembly of a list of recommendations to be reviewed for future conventions. As is typical with monolithic organizations, an Events Committee was formed to review the recommendations and select the best possible future venue. All well and good, perhaps, but not anywhere near enough for some people.
Ron Weiser said in his opening remarks that it wasn't possible for the tea party presence at the state convention to be considered an invasion if the front door was open and the welcome mat was out. Yet the MTPA feels as though they were treated with total disrespect, and they point out their treatment at the convention as evidence of that.
In an interview with Capitol Confidential, Tina Dupont - one of the founders of the Tea Party of West Michigan - said that the MTPA wants to change the party from within, not leave it. They're upset with the process, and their main goal right now is correct the mess from within. The MTPA is smart enough to know that the convention screw-ups weren't Rick Snyder's fault, and they won't take it out on the ticket. However, some heads at MIGOP have been targeted for rolling, and that's going to happen through the internal processes of the county, district, and state conventions after the general election.
Not surprisingly, there will be some elements within the state party establishment that will pull out all of the stops and fight ruthlessly by any means necessary to protect their positions of power. Such individuals need to be reminded of John F. Kennedy's admonishment that those who make peaceful takeover impossible will make violent revolt inevitable. I don't think that'll involve torches and pitchforks and an actual storming of the state party headquarters, but Tina Dupont made the point very clear:
"I think if the (Republican) party keeps playing this way, they are asking for a real third party," Dupont said. "And it won't be a fake tea party. It will be a real one."
In treating the MTPA with disrespect, MIGOP has a tiger by the tail. If they're not careful, they'll quickly wind up with their head in its mouth.
Together . . . we CAN fix Michigan
Michigan GOP 2010 State Convention - Aftermath, Consequences, & Lessons Learned | 37 comments (37 topical, 0 hidden)
Michigan GOP 2010 State Convention - Aftermath, Consequences, & Lessons Learned | 37 comments (37 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ Remarks in New York City at a Reception for Delegates to the State Republican Convention
+ 11th Commandment
+ Michigan Tea Party Alliance
+ Independen ce Caucus
+ Political Action Committee
+ Duverger's Law
+ Kent County Project 2010 Kickoff Convention
+ survived their primaries
+ Multiple Historians And Truth. Fix The MIGOP
+ Tim Skubick
+ I-Caucus endorsement
+ Eight Rules of Engagement
+ Capitol Confidential
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine