Diary

Scapegoats

Every once in a while, my distant Media General colleague Jeff Schapiro, frames matters nicely. Such is the case, for a moment at least, in his Sunday sermon regarding, among other topics, the need for bloodletting in Virginia’s Republican ranks:

Republicans know well the way out of the wilderness: ideas, realistic and practical, that are recognized as such by a broad swatch of the electorate; that don’t seem a sop to rigid purists whose standards for nomination weaken candidates for the general election.

But first, Republicans have to fight about this, offer a sacrifice to sate the bloodlust that builds with each embarrassing loss.

Thus, the long knives are out for the short-time state GOP chairman, Del. Jeff Frederick of Prince William. Shaming him into resigning six months after defeating incumbent and Bush-in-law John Hager will be hard; removing Frederick, harder.

The sniping, knifing and occasional histrionics surrounding Frederick do have a ritualistic quality to them. Losing sides need a sacrifice, if not exactly to their god, then certainly to their disappointment. Small children perform such rituals on their toy boxes just about every day. But the temporary satisfaction rapidly recedes once they are forced to clean up their mess.

Frederick is a lightening rod, to be sure. His personality and ambition only make him more so. Combine this with his gaffes during the last campaign and what some see as a distinct lack of progress on his reforming agenda and the only real surprise would be if there was no baying for blood. He has much to answer for in all of this, and surely will at the Republican “Advance.”

But let’s assume Frederick is deposed. The factions that brought him down will enjoy their triumph for a moment because blood will have been spilled. But then they have to clean up the mess. And like the child facing a toy-strewn-room, the ensuing work will be difficult, and even disheartening.

This is not to defend Frederick, or to castigate those who think he needs to go. Maybe he does, maybe not. The point is, who holds the chairmanship of what has been, for as long as I can remember, a moribund party apparatus is immaterial. The real problem with Virginia Republicans is that they have largely abandoned principle in the pursuit of power. One cannot campaign, year after year, as a fiscal conservative devoted to limited government and the rule of law and then cast those ideas over the side once the race is over. Voters may be irrational, but they aren’t stupid…and they genuinely resent being lied to. The result is easy to predict: electoral defeat.

But what’s the official response been to this problem? Nothing. Rather than putting forward candidates and ideas that motivate and excite, the best the GOP has had to offer of late is the notion that the other side is rife with Che Guevara clones bent on the destruction of liberty itself.

As for their own guy? Yes, he’s wrong on this, bad on that and those votes? Man they were ugly. And destructive. But hold your nose and vote for him anyway because the other guy is eeevill!

This is the real problem. It should be on the top of every party loyalist’s mind as they trundle off to the “Advance.” Hold your chairman accountable for his conduct and his promises. That’s expected. And if it makes you feel good about yourself, join in the ritual bloodletting and send him packing.

Just realize, however, that until the GOP starts fielding candidates with a strong set of conservative convictions they are unwilling to abandon when times get tough, and who are eager to translate those convictions into a positive message that genuinely motivates the masses, that no amount of ceremonial blood will ease your electoral pain.

(cross posted at Tertium Quids)`