Red, Green and Gold.

My Dad, a native New Yorker of Irish descent, is a Villanova graduate who attempted law school but left after a time. DadP has a pretty interesting past. On one occasion, much like the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, he helped drive the prostitutes from Deadwood. (And that will be a good post someday.)

As to his law school experience, DadP said he would attend classes and was dumbfounded that the professors would give lectures and put forth truths that in his mind he knew were incorrect. Now, despite what my siblings and I might have thought as we grew up, my dad's not stupid. As far as a broad classical knowledge of history, extensive and archane Catholic Dogma, and useless cinema trivia dating from the 30's forward, he has a mind like a trap, and phenomenal recall ability.

As far as his law school lectures, from his professors he would hear something to the effect that "red is green." And this law student, my future father, would say "no, red is red." As you can see, he was not cut out for this. After a time he left for the army, and later joined the FBI. "After twenty some years in the FBI", he notes, "I realize that, yes, they were right, red was green."

In a way, I've come full circle like that myself. My second stint with the state GOP was under the party leadership of chairman Dwight Adams (and his ED, John Thune). Suffice it to say with an irreverent attitude, stubborness, and slight disdain for authority, I was not a good match for the military Colonel. I'm sure he thought I was an undisciplined punk kid, and I know what my attitude towards him was. But I didn't need to deal with Dwight daily, and I got along fine with John, so it worked. But I left that stint with the party with my opinion on the chairman unchanged.

In the decade or so since, I've come to a realization. No other chairman of the state GOP has transformed the party more radically than Dwight. It really was a master stroke of genius that's helped to solidify our hold on power in this state. And every 2 years at state convention time it guarantees us bragging right over the loyal opposition.

What did Dwight do that was so evolutionary - and revoltionary?

Dwight took the party representation for the State Party convention and blew it wide open. He went from having county representation comprised of only a few select individuals on a county wide basis to opening it up to dozens or more per county. He opened up participation and guaranteed that precinct level representatives would be part of county delegations at the state convention. What he did was in effect a molding of the command structure of the party to a military model. It was an organized and well defined structure from the state chairman at the top down the precinct level.

The system was transformed! The "carrot" was that the precinct level people could vote for the candidate of their choice and on issues at convention. But in turn, they also had to be active in precinct level activities, such as poll watching, etc. This in turn gives the party a literally endless pool of volunteers and activists - activists, many of whom someday might be candidates.

With the simple change of a set of rules, the number of people who attended conventions exploded. While the loyal opposition still might be pushing 100 or so for their convention, in some years the GOP has had numbers exceeding 800 or more. (Why do you think Frank Kloucek sometimes makes an appearance at our convention? It's where the people are). County GOP meetings have people attending simply because they identify themselves as precinct people - another positive effect.

I would make the argument that no other single factor has helped ensure the party's continued electoral success than making it more participatory. It's not that people didn't identify before - party registration numbers illustrated that - but more people than ever could dig into the nuts and bolts work that happens behind the scenes with the party.

As a bit of irony, the party took a bit of a hit that year in 1990. We lost legislative numbers, including some long time members. We lost Congress and PUC. Losing School and Lands cost us an incumbent. As bad as it seemed, it wasn't that bad of a year. There were worse to come after that with the loss of the State Senate. The handwriting was on the wall and it was clear that the pendulum was finally moving against us.

I don't think we realized what an incredible thing the chairman had wrought that year. Immediately, it gained us increased participation at convention. But in the long term, now 15 years after? It has helped put us where we are today.

So, my personal mea culpa and recognition of the contribution of Col. Dwight Adams. Many chairmen can come and excel at strategy, others raise money to new heights. But Dwight transformed the party into the juggernaught it is today, and we continue to reap those benefits. For the people who are on the other side of the aisle, say what you will about our beliefs, but you have to admit the State Republican Party is organizationally in pretty good shape.

And fifteen years later, I also realize myself that red is green, and Dwight was gold.


Popular posts from this blog

Breaking News: Frederick not in SDGOP Chair Race

A strategic move by Sutton. Good for him, bad for Dems.