Why Did We Elect Them?
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
You may remember the interview series that I did on several candidates for various Michigan Republican Party Vice Chair seats during the run-up to the January 2011 State Convention. These positions were viewed as a big deal, as was the reality that every single one of them was a contested seat. These six people were to be the movers and shakers of the state party during the run-up to the 2012 election cycle. Their mission was to be the field generals who would build on the successes of the 2010 elections, and mold a juggernaut that would flip Michigan's Class 1 Senate seat, flip Michigan's Electoral College delegation, flip a vacant Supreme Court seat, equalize our party's presence on all four public education boards, potentially flip at least one congressional seat, and likely expand our existing majority in the state legislature.
Yeah, that didn't work so well. Although, to be perfectly fair, it's a tad difficult to hang the Election Day failures on the vice chairs, because that would assume that the state party chair was employing them as intended in the first place.
If you take a gander at the Michigan Republican Party Directory, you'll find the aforementioned vice chairs listed on page 4. (Those same vice chairs are also listed on the "Party Leadership" page of the state party's website.) Starting on page 5 of the party directory and continuing through page 9 you'll find seven standing committees listed, along with their full membership. (Sadly, you'll not find the infamous Credentials Committee on that list anywhere.) The first two committees listed (Policy & Budget) shouldn't raise any eyebrows, nor should who chairs them. I'm not sure why we have an "Issues" committee that's separate from the Policy Committee, but whatever. It's the next three committees listed that ought to give the casual observer pause.
The last I checked, the purpose of the Youth Vice-Chair is to reach out to, engage, and organize the youth voters in Michigan (defined as everyone between 18 and 25, perhaps extending to as young as 16). That's the mission that the delegates in convention back in January of 2011 elected Sarah Ledford to carry out. Yet, beginning about halfway down page 6 of the party directory, we see that the Youth Committee Chair is none other than . . . Cindy Pine, an 8th District State Committee member for whom the description of "youth" would be flattering, but not even close to accurate. The committee vice chair is . . . Kim Emmons, a 4th District State Committee member who also doesn't qualify as youth by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, nowhere among the 31 members listed on that committee do we see hide or hair of the U-of-M alum who is now Kerry Bentivolio's Deputy District Director. What gives? I think that a reasonable person might consider this a disconnect between what the delegates voted for and what the state party chair actually implemented.
Likewise, the Grassroots/Precinct Delegate Committee, beginning on page 7, lists Sharon Yentsch, a 3rd District State Committee member, as the committee chair, and Bill Bigler, a 15th District State Committee member, as the committee vice chair. Nowhere among the 35 members of the committee is Steve Kuivenhoeven, the duly elected Grassroots Vice Chair, even listed. To be fair to Sharon, she did a marvelous job as the Precinct Delegate Coordinator for the Kent GOP last cycle, but she isn't the duly elected Grassroots Vice Chair.
I don't know why the concepts of Urban Inclusion and Election Day Operations are merged into a single committee, but I would think that the "urban inclusion" part of it would put the committee squarely into the turf of Linda Lee Tarver, the duly elected Ethnic Vice Chair, or at least Eileen McNeil, the duly elected Outreach Vice Chair. Yet again, nowhere in the 30 committee members listed on page 8 do we see either Mrs. Tarver or Mrs. McNeil listed. (Leonard Mier, the 14th District Chair, and Susan Chmielewski, a 15th District State Committee member are the committee chair and vice chair, respectively.)
I suppose that having a Media Committee and a Local Candidate Committee makes sense, but merging them into a single committee makes no sense, at least to me (kinda like merging Urban Inclusion and Election Day Operations). And I don't know if it's more or less insulting to be a vice chair without a logical committee assignment, but that's where Vic Diaz (Coalitions) and Jon Nunn (Administrative) are . . . just names on a roster sheet, with no good reason to actually be there. In fact, if you review in any detail the five pages of committee assignments (pages 5 thru 9, inclusive), you'll notice not one of the six vice chairs listed anywhere . . . at all.
That's two committee mergers that don't make any damn sense on their face, at least two state party committees where the duly elected vice chair who ought to be serving as the committee chair isn't even listed as being a member of the committee, and at least two duly elected vice chairs who have, at least on paper, nothing to do except look pretty in a party brochure! What . the . hell . !!! Is it any wonder that the Michigan Republican Party is viewed as one big dysfunctional organization?
In "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", Patrick Lencioni goes into some detail describing the pitfalls that teams face in the process of forming as a cohesive unit, with a focus on intra-organizational politics and causes of team failure. In the book, the five dysfunctions are described thus:
Building functional and effective management teams is such a big deal in so many industries that there are consulting firms (such as J. Bernard Associates and The Table Group) that offer seminars and workshops dedicated to team building and strategy development. Quite frankly, and for what my opinion is worth, the Michigan Republican Party leadership could have used one of these prior to the Mackinac Conference two Septembers ago.
As much as I am loathe to admit it, even though Saul Anuzis seems to have scrubbed his website (of just about everything) he did, during the campaign to keep his seat, cite a perfect example from his own experience as state party chair of how the system's supposed to work:
When several Republican members of the Michigan Senate threatened to vote with the Democrats to raise taxes, as Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party we led the way and jumped into action.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the state party committee is supposed to do. One of their functions is to publicly hold state-level elected officials accountable to the core principles that they're supposed to be espousing. The way that the RNC abandoned Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock during the campaign, you'd have thought that the 2012 Republican Platform hadn't included a plank on The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life. Ronald Reagan once lamented that the Republican Platform was being treated as nothing more than window dressing by elected officials, and he knew a thing or two about calling out party leaders for their inability to deliver.
Now, instead of holding leadership accountable for their failure to deliver results, we have apologists insisting that any criticism of the state party chairman is unfair, and that the principal reasons for the 2012 defeat were outside of his control. And key players in the Michigan Republican Good Old Boys Club are once again circling the wagons to keep one of their own in his seat. Evidently, because state convention delegates gave Saul Anuzis a pass after the 2006 shellacking, we're supposed to give Chairman B. S. a pass on election year failures that belong squarely on his desk.
Poppycock and balderdash.
"Form must follow function." Every engineering student, regardless of discipline, is taught this maxim early and often, to the point that it becomes an integral part of that student's thinking - and not without good reason. The point is that what a thing is supposed to do, how it is supposed to do it, and how the various pieces are to fit together should always dictate how the thing is supposed to look. Why, for example, do you think that every pickup truck, regardless of size or manufacturer, looks nearly identical? Pick any type of vehicle: sport-utility, minivan, luxury sedan, compact, tractor-trailer, or whatever have you; every vehicle of a given type looks much the same as any other vehicle of the same type. Form follows function.
This doesn't apply just to automobiles. Granted, not all airplanes look the same, but even an uneducated examination reveals that each one has its looks defined by what it is supposed to do, how the job is supposed to get done, and how the various components are to fit together; ornamentation always comes last. Likewise with houses, boats, computer networks, and - let's be honest - governments and political parties; form must follow function.
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk at length with the guy who actually designed the vice chair positions as they currently exist. Each of the six positions was designed to have enough overlap so as to avoid the development of "fiefdoms" within the halls of the Secchia-Weiser Republican Center, but enough separation so as to avoid redundancy. In other words, the state party vice chairs were intended to operate as an integrated team. Also, each of the vice chairs is supposed to be the chair of a related committee within the state party organization, said committee being tasked with the very mission defined by the job description of the elected vice chair who chairs the committee.
And when you think about it, that organization concept makes a ton of sense. But . . .
I've had opportunity since the November elections to chat with at least half of the duly elected state party vice chairs. The chief complaint that all of them had with how Schostak ran the party during the entirety of his first term in office was that his marching orders to the vice chairs was along the lines of: go sit over there in the corner and look pretty when I need you for a photo op. (The current Youth Vice-Chair, notably, submitted a request for resources to develop a plan but was denied.)
When Bobby Schostak was elected as Michigan Republican Party Chairman two years ago, he had at his disposal all the tools he needed to pull every single one of the 13 statewide races into the Republican column (plus flip two congressional seats). Which begs the question:
Why did he fail so miserably?
Why Did We Elect Them? | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)
Why Did We Elect Them? | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ January 2011 State Convention
+ that didn't work so well
+ Michigan Republican Party Directory
+ Party Leadership
+ infamous Credentials Committee
+ Kerry Bentivolio's Deputy District Director
+ The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
+ J. Bernard Associates
+ The Table Group
+ core principles
+ 2012 Republican Platform
+ The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life
+ insisting that any criticism of the state party chairman is unfair
+ Michigan Republican Good Old Boys Club
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine