The (GOP) Chaos and Dysfunction Must End

GOP Nominee Scott Wyatt

For years my daily routine during the General Assembly included time in Delegate Riley Ingram’s office, in fact pretty much as long as the Hopewell Republican was there. I’d worked on several of his campaigns. Trust me, he left the best stories out of his hilarious farewell floor speech.

In 2018 I was present when a local party unit chairman came in to give Riley hell for his expected vote in favor of expanding Medicaid. It was a very ugly conversation. At the end I concluded, yep, this really is Riley’s last term.  The Republican activists who saw that as “Obamacare” were going to be unforgiving. 

The same reaction among so many Hanover, New Kent and King William Republicans in the 97th District could not have surprised Delegate Chris Peace.  Having cast the vote, he had a year to prepare for the nomination battle to come, a battle he has now lost but refuses to concede. Despite a decision from the GOP State Central Committee affirming the earlier First District Committee appeal, he said this in Saturday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“There are people here asking me to challenge in court to get on the ballot. I’m evaluating that option and have everything ready to file. Many others are asking me to support their grassroots effort to stage a write-in,” Peace said. “I do not plan to concede an election when the people’s voice was discounted.”

He was equally defiant in his statement issued following the State Central meeting, which was extensively quoted by the liberal blog Blue Virginia. Those folks gleefully quoted Peace in full – usually the meanest thing to do to a politician – because his statement was a scatter gun into the gut of Republican chances to hang on to legislative majorities in November.

“Libertarians have overthrown the will of the people. This should not stand, so I am evaluating all options on the table,” Peace said then. He finished with a claim that failing to nominate him would reverberate in other more-contested districts. That’s what tore it for me.

We last visited with Peace and his opponent Scott Wyatt, now the party’s nominee per State Central, about eight weeks ago and the headline about self-inflicted wounds continues to apply.

I have enjoyed my career around the General Assembly, but far too many of these people believe their own damn press releases and the smoke blown by lobbyists and sycophants. They become what a wise former GOP Caucus chair called “important people,” and it wasn’t a compliment. Peace cast a courageous vote, I think the correct vote, in favor of Medicaid expansion.

Is there no vote you can cast more important than keeping your seat for another term?

The angered local powers that be chose a convention nominating system, perfectly legitimate under the party’s rules, and Peace knew from day one his best chance was an open primary. Facing a convention, he hired the best GOP consultant I know for that kind of fight, but as the process ended, he didn’t have the numbers. That’s when suddenly the entire process needed to be upended for a firehouse primary instead, with an engineered vote from an engineered committee.

I have watched all this from afar and would have been a Peace delegate or primary vote had I lived in the district. One of my clients was a major supporter of that Medicaid vote. Peace’s departure will be a loss to the General Assembly, but the Commonwealth will survive, and another opportunity to serve may be right around the corner. He’ll find one or just keep being a good lawyer and family man.

As all this was unfolding last week, another email appeared in the inbox from a local GOP candidate. Headline: “The chaos and dysfunction must end.” Ah, I thought, a message about the 97th from somebody with no dog in the fight. No such luck, it was some attack on the Democrats on some issue. Can’t remember what.

So, I’ll say it. The chaos and dysfunction must end. Wyatt is the nominee, Peace joins a long list of legislators from both parties who ticked off the base with a principled vote or some other action and whose service was no longer required. There have been times in my life when my service was no longer required. When I was smart I moved first.

Someone needs to clean up this mess and get the focus back on November. Watching this majority slip away, often for the same reasons the Democrats failed to hold onto their control, is painful, even if it’s the cyclical way of things. The fact that there is no one in a position to knock heads together, no real leadership in the party – ten years after it won its last statewide election with no future statewide win in sight – is the real source of this malaise.

Of course, they can’t even get their incumbent candidates onto the ballot in the first place, the dysfunction is so deep. It’s been a problem for both Nick Freitas and Terry Kilgore. Are there more, folks? How embarrassing is that?  Good morning, this is your wake up call.

Update:  A letter published in this morning’s (July 1) Richmond Times-Dispatch indicates the battle will continue.  And this website, put up by Wyatt supporters, provides a massive timeline and paperwork dump for the very interested.

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22 responses to “The (GOP) Chaos and Dysfunction Must End

  1. It’s Statewide. It’s civic ignorance and indifference and low-turnout minority governance and all points on the spectrum. It’s democracy. Very messy, a constant challenge to stay on the rails.

  2. I learn more about you and the world you operated/operate in .. all good.

    The GOP thing in Virginia is not that different than the GOP thing at the National Level in that there is an internal struggle for who they really are in terms of moderation. All you need to do is look at the Freedom Caucus and what happened to Eric Cantor… that malady has infected the GOP as a party.

    Not that the Dems don’t have their own problems with extremists also trying to take control but their problems seem downright tame compared to the GOP internal fighting.

    The GOP has shifted to the right – and in the process – moderates have been left behind or worse actively forced out by the party.

    That leaves a substantial number of voters who preferred the GOP over Dems as long as it was moderate, tolerant and willing to compromise.

    That’s why I have developed a worsing attitude toward the GOP and Conservatives these days. They are no longer about solutions… they draw lines in the sand and then kill their own who cross them.

    And the funny thing is – that they will always have some percentage of the electorate – that’s just the way things are apparently.

    But that built-in majority has slowly decreased and that’s why the GOP in Virginia has a paper-thin majority and could – if they keep this purge up – lose it.

    That would be a disaster for folks like Steve and I’m sure the basis of some hand wringing but when your party has no real answers for things like immigration and health care and they use ideological litmus tests to force out the non-believers…

    That type of thing leaves moderate GOP voters in the lurch. They’re no way going to vote for Dems but going to the polls to vote for some right wing ideologue is not satisfying either.

  3. I know what Virginia Democrats stand for — identity politics and expansion of government. I don’t know what Virginia Republicans stand for, other than opposition to taxes, abortion and gun control. The Virginia GOP has not formulated a coherent critique of contemporary society, has not articulated a coherent alternative to the Dems’ ideology of victimhood and grievance, and has not shown an ability to capture the public’s imagination with fiscally conservative, market-based solutions. The intra-party squabbling doesn’t help, but the GOP’s problems are much bigger.

  4. I’m happy to vote for a right wing ideologue, Larry. Voted for many in my day. Also many party moderates. My problems with the Trumpster are not really about ideology or policy (and he’s no right wing ideologue, not even close on most issues.) But I stand by a 40 years observation that all fatal wounds in politics are self-inflicted, including Peace’s, and only a self-inflicted wound can prove fatal. And I can’t let the party take outside advice like this:

    https://www.richmond.com/opinion/our-opinion/editorial-republicans-create-their-own-political-mess/article_d93c6e8c-446d-5e64-af76-9eafbe2582e2.html

    Hey folks, this is not your father’s TD editorial page….

    • Not my father’s, or even mine. Disputes with a “rear-guard” faction, trying to hold onto something that is slipping away, that the majority simply no longer supports with enthusiasm, tend to be procedural morasses in any context marked by desperate choices that can’t help but come across as self-inflicted wounds to the average on-looker. Long term strategic goals are not on the mind of someone gasping for air to keep from drowning. Or on the mind of someone watching from the shore, like the T-D, quite evidently looking forward to the funeral.

      What is the status, Steve, of that “non-partisan” commission to draw Congressional and State election districts in future and start to counter this tendency toward extreme polarization in Virginia politics? Is it on the agenda for a second reading and voter approval at the next session?

    • Steve – your starting narrative was talking about the dysfunctional GOP in Virginia guy… not Trump… and I keyed off of that ….

      You and Jim might vote for right wing ideologues even though you really don’t know what they really stand for – but a lot of Virginians will no longer do that.

      What Jim calls “identify politics” is the diverse electorate that no longer kowtows to the party of white guys. Yes.. black, hispanic, female, homosexual, transgender, muslim, etc… all groups that white guys have “identified” as ….not white guys… and disinvited them into the GOP …. and now that they’ve grouped up on the Dems side …oh , NOW… it’s “identity politics”. Funny how some folks think about that, eh?

      And the thing is – most of that diverse group would also be okay with moderate GOP – but that’s most definitely NOT who the GOP is these days and they do make sure all those “identity groups” know it. No GOP for you and on by the way.. if we can’t figure out how to keep you from actually voting and you go for the Dems – we’re gonna call you all “grievance mongering socialists”.

      That message.. I gotta tell ya’ll.. that dog don’t hunt in NoVa as well as quite a few other parts of Virginia – but it still does well in RoVA!

  5. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?191+sum+HJ615

    Acbar: Yes, I think the two versions (S 306 and H 615) were conformed to be identical so we’ll see them again in January.

  6. I do not equate right wing and racist, Larry, you do, or try to. It’s about all the Democrats have, that and promises of Free Stuff paid for by the evil rich. Look at poor Joe Biden, destroyed as a candidate because he admitted working with the racist Democrats (DEMOCRATS) of his day on legislation, and for admitting that – like many at the time- he saw some problems with forced busing of children. Solid liberal that he is, he’s now toast in that party.

    True conservatism has great appeal across any ethnic lines and I am furious with those who have let nativism and racism infect the brand. But drawing that in is your favorite red herring. This is about people realizing that politics is a team sport and the team that builds the bigger tent wins. And hey, they threw me out of the tent before Peace ever got into trouble. It’s a cycle, the Dem’s will win, screw up, and it begins again.

    • You say, “This is about people realizing that politics is a team sport and the team that builds the bigger tent wins.” So who are these people that want their own little sandbox full of pure white sand? I would have called them ideologues, generically the Tea Party, whose understanding of practicality and compromise is nearly absent. But then you quote Peace as saying, “Libertarians have overthrown the will of the people.” I know plenty of conservatives who identify with some practical adaptation of a libertarian philosophy — but a practical ideologue is an oxymoron. So: who are these “libertarians”?

    • Lord Steve! I don’t think all of the Right is racist but certainly they have some , just look at who the GOP – CHOSE to run for Senate!

      And yes, some of the Dems want free stuff paid for by the rich but you yourself said you agreed with the MedicAid vote – is that “free stuff” ?

      Joe Biden got tore up in part because he failed to deal with issues that would destroy him as a Dem candidate against Trump. The horrible truth is that neither South NOR the North like bussing and it was NOT the “voluntary locality” kind either – Biden had to tell the honest truth about it and his opposition to it (in representing his constituents). He has to admit to the truth and then let voters decide. When he says he was opposed busing that was not local option voluntary – he blew a premise of the Civil Rights Act which was that the Federal Govt would have to act and take the lead – precisely because many local/states refused to and contained to operate separate schools.

      but if you forced me to choose between Corey Stewart and someone who is less overt on the race issues – I have no choice. Was the GOP really serious about challenging or not?

      I have supported GOP in the past and will again if/when they get back to fiscal conservatism and moderate social policies.

      I’m no fan of the “let tax the rich to pay for “free stuff” but like it is with MedicAid – it’s more complicated that that and in the end – both you and I AGREE on that – so I ask – was it left wing idiots who pushed MedicAid through or more moderate types – left and right?

  7. Peace did not “tick off his base”- he ticked off Sen. Norment, who with a few slavish committee men and the ambitious Supervisor Wyatt decided to deprive thousands of Republican voters of their Republican incumbent through THEIR convention. The dust is not settled and heads WILL continue to roll for this. AND none of this would have happened this way if the Wyatt people had not tried to be too clever by half.

  8. Norment’s role in this is not doubted. The phone booth will be big enough for all of you.

  9. So I have to ask – is this stuff with Peace the same GOP think group that got Stewart as a candidate?

    I’m keeping up here – this morning in Charleston, WV as I head west to Idaho so there may be “delays” in responses – of which I’m sure some will be thankful for! 😉

    • I am envious–driving across the country and ending up in Idaho!

      • Up in Idaho, a progressive must be very careful outside of Ketchum and Sun Valley where the conservative right wingers are said to take no prisoners. Best not for them to go off road in rural Idaho, places here are full of American flags.

  10. “this morning in Charleston, WV as I head west to Idaho so there may be “delays” in responses – of which I’m sure some will be thankful for! 😉”

    Thank God. And, there is also a steamer awaiting your ultimate arrival in San Fransisco. It’s been chartered there on the left coast to carry you very, very slowly east across the widest part of the broad Pacific to its far rim in Shanghai free of charge. Once there, you will be immediately picked up for delivery by very, very slow armored train headed in direction of an undisclosed location far inland within Asia for your final deposit there at yet another undisclosed location beyond far horizons. Adios, and Ciao.

  11. Years ago a small town newspaper publisher friend of mine got mad at a local politician and started running a “Toledo Fund” promo on his front page, seeking funds to buy the guy a bus ticket back to Toledo. We can do that for Larry.

    Larry, short answer is yes, the most conservative element is the most angry about the Medicaid vote, and the “real conservative/RINO” battle going on now went on a third of a century ago when naive moi showed up as a newbie at State Party HQ. They HATE that they need both wings to win! In this case, there is a major ego/personality clash complicating it, some grudges that pre-date the Medicaid vote.

  12. We be west of St. Louis this morning in a very nice Missouri State Campground. Spaghetti, Cabernet and cookies for dinner and a one hour walk in the park this morning before we get back on the inferno highway for a few more days.

    In terms of MedicAid – why do YOU support it Steve? Is it the same reason as I? And in terms of the rancid nature of the GOP these days – it’s worse. I agree that there have always been a far right contingent in the GOP who want to (for instance) ban all abortion, no exceptions or get rid of the EPA … the Fed, HUD, etc… these folks have always been around but before the internet they were often not noticed except for some wild letters to the editor ,etc.

    But those folks are now a major force in the GOP …. They’d not only get rid of the expansion but Medicaid original, and Obamacare – not that they have a replacement – that they haven’t figured out yet but they are “working on it” and they’ll work harder once they get rid of the current!

    Of course I do not agree with that idiocy but I do fear for the heart and soul of the moderate GOP which also kept the Dems tethered. That’s gone now and we have the extremists on both sides running amok. Right?

    This is our fourth or fifth cross-country and they are wonderful – and they are arduous… things break… things don’t work as hoped…things we planned – don’t do as planned… etc… stress…. a lot like life and a lot like Government.

    But we continue. We try to fix what is broke and we try to reform things that don’t work as well as they should but we don’t just shut it down and walk away because we are unable to get it perfect.

    Finally – no matter how far we go – whether you pay the fare or not – the internet …DOES WORK! Keep up the great writing Steve – and you too Dick! Great assets to BR and I’m sure others also appreciate you.

  13. Some of the greatest memories of what was, in reality, a very idyllic childhood involve summer car trips from California to Virginia and back for family visits, pre-interstate so much of it on old US 66. Need to do that again….

    Shall we form the center-right party, Larry? On the Christian Democrat model? We’d get to meet in a phone booth, too. It’s as meaningless in today’s environment as memories of faux Indian villages and stopping in the Petrified Forest or baking in the heat at Needles, where a local cop kindly told us to just go to the city pool and say he’d sent us. That America may be gone for good.

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