Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Open Letter to the National Young Republicans

An Open Letter to the YRNF

Dear Fellow Young Republicans:

Please indulge me for a few minutes as I express my opinions on several matters that were to be considered this past weekend at the national Young Republican board meeting in Nashville.

Let me preface this list of grievances by saying that in my eight years of attending YR national board meetings, I have never left a meeting with such a profound sense of disappointment.

The Young Republicans, always craving for the recognition from senior party folks for our toil and efforts in the trenches blew a chance to “get the brand out” by being one of the first party organizations in the country to express our support for our vilified nominee for vice-president.

If it wasn’t bad enough that the media, entertainment industry and the other party engaged in a merciless smear campaign against Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, there was our party establishment giddily joining the mob pelting her with unsubstantiated attacks upon her character and ability as aides to our presidential nominee couldn’t help getting in on the act before the election. You’d think self-interest alone would prevent them from committing acts of self-immolation, but the McCain campaign from the beginning had defied all logic.

In my time in the national YRs, our party’s nominee for president has never addressed us. I doubt there are any Texas YRs still involved that can recall the last time then-Governor George W. Bush paid a visit to one of their local or state meetings. During the past eight years not a single cabinet-level official dropped by a national convention, YRLC or a national board meeting. When I attended Close-Up while in high school my group at least scored an audience with the Surgeon General. Unless you count those presidential “fill-in-the-organization-blank” video tapes we USED to get at our meetings, the best we’ve had was a brief group photo op with Vice-President Dick Cheney arranged by then-chairwoman Dee Dee Benkie. We were not allowed to speak with the vice-president, shake his hand or have any contact with him during the seconds he spared.

Yet the YRNF had an opportunity to score some points with a young woman who will remain a major figure in our party for the foreseeable future. Perhaps she would have even dropped by an event to thank us for doing what other higher-level Republicans have not, though if she ended up joining the crowded ranks of party leaders that eschewed us I could not blame her.

So why did the YRNF blow it? Subterfuge by YRs turned off by her social conservativism under the guise of “pc-ing” my resolution to give props to a man who may have been a decent president but who was wholly unfit to be a presidential candidate and those contrarians who only derive a sense of accomplishment when they vote something down.

We blew an opportunity to help play a role in molding the future of our national party and showing some appreciation for past service by expressing kind words and encouragement for Michael Steele’s candidacy for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mindful of our rules, I crafted that resolution so it stopped well short of officially backing him for the post. Furthermore, to give this organization even more wiggle room, I even used the term “general chairman” so as to allow to the election of someone else to handle the actual operation of the RNC and thus making Mr. Steele, an eloquent man who understands party building and what it’s like to be a candidate for office, the de facto spokesman for our party. It should be noted that of all of the national figures in our party that has participated in national YR functions, Mr. Steele has the record as he has addressed our group twice. I am of the opinion that the adoption of the resolution I presented would have not only helped Mr. Steele but also help put us on the map and register our displeasure with the way our party has been run into the ground over the past few years.

Why was the Steele resolution scuttled? Because of parochial favoritism by some our own leaders shilling for chairman candidates from their own state. Ostensibly it would have conflicted with our rules, though with the wording I employed it would not have been unreasonable to say that it was not in conflict. But instead of choosing to back up someone who has supported us and would make a great RNC leader, we decided to be like our party’s presidential nominee and sink with a rule interpretation.

Instead of making a bold statement, a weak resolution that that will be ignored and justly disregarded by party leaders. Petitions are a dime a dozen these days and most officials of both the elected and party variety disregard them unless they are recall petitions. I won’t take it personal if Mr. Steele doesn’t spend as much time with us in the future as he had in the past no matter what office he has.

And if endorsements are so scary, then why has this organization sanctioned three straw polls (two for president and one for vice-president)? Could that not be considered an endorsement? Is there not a greater risk in snubbing a potential president as opposed to a potential party functionary?

And speaking of rules, funny how some rules are strictly adhered to while others are thrown out by convenience. It seems our friends in Puerto Rico were chomping at the bit to officially receive their convention yet the site selection committee could not muster a quorum at the Nashville board meeting. Previous leaders recognized this possibility in the past and they appointed an alternate member to help in such scenarios. Chairwoman Jessica Colon appointed me to the post yet the leadership of the Site Selection Committee did not send me a single communication concerning meetings of the committee or information about the proposed host city. Recognizing that individuals were making up their own rules as they went along, I complained to the leadership about this freeze-out. Nothing came of it aside from the fact that Puerto Rico will now have to cross their fingers for quorum (of the site selection committee and the national board) in Orlando. Though I was not privy to the details of their bid, I could have been brought up to speed quickly at the Nashville meeting (having previously won a convention bid in 2000 and then later served on the committee, I knew what questions to ask without having to sit on a beach drinking complementary booze).

And finally there is the upcoming national board meeting in Orlando. Despite the fact the host state was given this meeting many months ago, registration forms were not distributed at either of the last two board meetings. Though Florida YRs were in attendance in Nashville I do not recall a presentation about the board meeting be made.

My reasoning for moving the dates was that since so little has been set in stone with Orlando, I figured that changing things to accommodate two state delegations affected by Mardi Gras was not too great of a request, particularly since two of the organization’s top three officers and the YRNF general counsel reside in “Mardi Gras states”.

Since Mardi Gras is a unique event, I understand that it is difficult for outsiders to comprehend its impact on southern Louisiana and Alabama. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock our state while almost as many locals flee during that same time, making travel very difficult. Though it is not celebrated on a similar scale in most of the country and isn’t a holiday outside of the central gulfcoast, Mardi Gras is comparable to the Superbowl and I hope planners for future February-March YR national events will keep it in mind. It’s not like one weekend in February would result in drastically different hotel rates than any other February weekend in a hotel mecca like Orlando during the tourism off-season.

In closing, let me ask you a question that others who are no longer involved in the YRs (and not because they aged out) have posed to me: why do you go to these meetings?

Is it to socialize and visit with colleagues from around the country? Is it because you like traveling? Or is it to make a difference? My answer is all three. Gatherings of this sort are supposed to be fun, since that is one of the most compelling motivations to sacrifice the work-vacation time and the personal expense to attend these triannual meetings.

But between the sightseeing and the partying, enough time and patience must be reserved for the actual conduct of business before the national board. After all voting on resolutions is the one opportunity national board member actually have to participate in the meeting as individual leaders bound only to their consciences and not simply be a captive audience listening to reports.

In contrast, though it involves my own committee, constitutional and bylaw amendments have no value in the eyes of the media and the YR membership at-large. We’re never going to make the Washington Times by moving commas around in our bylaws. Can anyone really recall a single instance when a board vote mattered?

By letting frustration from other parts of the meeting boil over during the new business section, the national board cheated itself out of an opportunity to actually do something.

By fearing the consequences of being proactive and allowing the antics of contrarians and those whose politics are personal and not national in depth, I don’t see where we accomplished much in Nashville. So when the next RNC Chairman calls us the “College Republicans” to our faces as two other national party leaders have in the past, that indignity will be on our own hands.


Michael Bayham

Chairman, YRNF Constitution & Bylaws Committee
Vice-Chairman, LYRF


K2LAW said...

You make some excellent points, some that the national party should hear. Don't get discouraged. The Republican party has become what it is because people like you have just given up. Keep your moral compass calibrated.

Jason Shepherd said...

Welcome to my world, Bayham.