Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a Tea Party event. I arrived, camera and coffee in hand, not knowing what to expect. I imagined that there would be a decent crowd there, and I’d be able to have some good conversations with fellow Conservatives.
My initial reaction was one of disappointment. There appeared to be only about thirty people or so. I did decide to stick it out, as I had re-arranged my day to attend. When the speakers started, however, I decided to keep my mouth shut and listen.
At the CH 2.0, we’ve concentrated a vast majority of our time on national issues, such as legislation (and the consequences thereof), illegal immigration, the culture wars, and so on. All valid topics, mind you, but I think we’ve missed something. I have neglected the axiom that states, “All politics are local.” The speakers at this event have not. While we’ve discussed taking over the GOP, the speakers at this event are actually engaged in DOING it. They have gone beyond being concerned. They have gone beyond just voting. They are organized, and taking action.
They are taking over the GOP, starting at the precinct level. To elaborate on how this is being done, I asked on of the speakers, Lois Kaneshiki for an email interview. She graciously agreed.
Here is the interview:
Matt: First, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to this interview. I think more people need to know about the GOP takeover. For myself, I was amazed, and frankly, blown away by the speakers on Saturday. I have to be honest is saying that I was ignorant to this effort. I knew that people were trying to take over the party, but I was unaware as to the scope of the effort, or methods involved. How exactly is this being done?
Lois: The effort begins with education, because the issue is not only that the committees are controlled by the “establishment,” but that the local people these committeemen are there to represent are in too many cases completely unaware that the committee structure exists or what it was intended to do in the first place. Therefore, as in any attempt to change societal systems, the first step is educating the public.
My experience is that when concerned citizens learn about the condition of their local committees, many are eager to offer constructive help and participation. It is an excellent opportunity to begin to familiarize ordinary citizens with the political process and how they can participate in a meaningful way.
The opportunities on these local committees absolutely cannot be overstated. But it is a learning process and that is why our ongoing statewide and national networks are so important, because many new committee people won’t necessarily have the support they need in their local communities.
We at the Pennsylvania Precinct Project are recruiting community leaders across the Commonwealth to act as our liaisons and recruit committee people in their counties.
Matt: How can controlling the party at the local level extend to higher levels, like the state and even national? Is that even possible?
Lois: It is not only possible, it absolutely must be done in this manner. The local committees elect their county leadership which serves on the state committee. The state committee elects their national committee representatives. Political committees heavily influence the outcomes of special elections, as they just had in the 12th Congressional District where Murtha served. Without ordinary, independent-minded citizens occupying these committee spots, it is an uphill battle for independent-minded candidates to challenge establishment candidates.
We are talking about completely changing a political culture that exists today. The current culture is one of entitlement, seniority, and back-room deals, versus a culture of being answerable to the party base, representing the voters, and doing what is best for the people. We have a political culture which stifles and discourages competition in the political marketplace, which is precisely what is desperately needed in all our elections.
There are numerous reasons why change must start locally, but the main reason is that we administer elections locally – in voting precincts, which are constructed by geography, namely, people who live close together vote in the same location. Committee people are elected by precinct, represent their precincts, and should be instrumental in getting the vote out on election day. So where people don’t vote, this is a symptom of the dysfunctional state of the committee system.
Since all politics is local and committees determine the outcomes of elections, changing the people in the committees will create a paradigm shift in the political culture, assuming the new membership asserts its rightful authority.
Matt: I was aware that the Tea Party in Utah had taken over the state party, but at the same time, Utah has a very different system. The people in Utah were able to remove Bob Bennett from the ballot. Is it possible to do something similar in PA?
Lois: Bob Bennett was removed in the party convention in Utah. Pennsylvania does not have that same system of re-electing incumbent senators. Our system is more democratic where we still leave the decision up to the Primary voters. That makes our local committee system more important and potentially more powerful. If you believe in liberty, you want to maintain a more decentralized system, because a more localized system is harder for tyrants to control than centralized systems. Remember that all the checks our founding fathers put on government was not to protect us from good people but to protect us from the tyrannical.
Matt: How is the GOP establishment responding? Are the Tea Parties encountering much resistance?
Lois: The political dynamics are different in every county. In Bucks County, for example, the party leadership sneakily got an injunction against a slate of state committee candidates who were challenging the incumbents on the morning of the election, even though they were aware of the issue for over a week ahead of time. The injunction prevented the challengers from handing out their cards at the polling places on election day. They made a bogus complaint that these challengers were not the “endorsed” slate, but that their handouts implied party endorsement.
In Blair County, thousands of dollars were spent in negative attack ads against me in my state committee race by the incumbent committee people. This was done even though I have done more in my 2 years on the county committee and as a leader in the local Federation of Republican Women to support and build the party than almost anyone else in the local party. But that doesn’t matter to the party – it is about personal power and getting incumbents re-elected. I don’t believe that is what the parties are there for, and those in power felt threatened.
But even before petitions were filed to run for committee seats, I had numerous reports of Republicans across Pa being told they “did not have to run for their committee seat because someone was already there.” In other words, you are not welcome to exercise your right to run for your committee. They don’t want competitive elections. They don’t want the citizens electing their choice of representation. The Party decides, not the people. We have numerous counties where Republican citizens have been stonewalled in their requests for a copy of the committee bylaws, even though state law and state committee bylaws state that the county bylaws must be on file in the local elections office. It is public record, yet Republican leaders are reticent to show their own constituents their own party rules.
We complain about transparency in our state and federal governments. What’s the difference if we cannot even have transparency in the local committees? If we cannot have honest, transparent, local self-governance, we absolutely cannot correct the severe issues at the state and federal levels.
I had one report where the county chairman was not even aware that committee people got elected to committee by filing nomination petitions with the local elections office. If the county committee is so dysfunctional that term after term after term the same cronies are appointed (not elected) by the same party leaders, and no one understands that they have the right to run for these positions in a democratic Primary Election, you can understand that over a long period of time, maybe a generation, the system completely breaks down and even the people who are supposedly in charge do not know the law or the rules.
Can you imagine if the public completely stopped turning out for presidential elections and no one wanted to run for president? This is what has happened to our county committee system in many respects. We are beginning to change that.
Matt: How can people get involved?
Check with your county committee or your county elections office and find out who if anyone is serving in your party in your precinct. Find out if there are any vacancies. Read the committee bylaws to find out the rules of the committee. If there is a vacancy in your precinct, write a letter and call your chairman and ask to be appointed. If there are people serving in your precinct already, contact them and ask how you can help. Find out what your committee people do to support the party. Attend the committee meetings and find out how they do business.
You can join our yahoo group for ongoing support and more information:
Also I am revising my campaign web site to include more resources for beginners in this project:
We are also on Facebook and Meetup.com!
A good, short introductory video can be viewed here:
Although some of the specific details do not 100% pertain to Pennsylvania.
This is the most exciting and potentially revolutionary grassroots movement in America today. I am honored to be a part of it.
I’d like to thank Lois again for this interview. The event, and this interview, were real eye-openers for me. Considering that we are now taking a closer look at candidates, and are bypassing the GOP by directly supporting candidates, we cannot forget that there are many people that are laboring to take over the Party. You won’t see them on FOX, or discussed on many blogs, but they are there, and they are incredibly important. While we bloggers are attacking from the outside, folks at the local level are attacking from within. Depending on the system in your state, take some time to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of your party. You might be able to make an important contribution to the takeover of the GOP.
We all complain about the condition of the party. We’ve seen RINOs put on the ballot in spite of there being qualified Conservative candidates. We’ve seen the Tea Parties met with scorn, and as Lois described, actively fought. From what I have learned, I think it’s safe to assume that this effort will take years, so support your local Conservatives, and help them be successful in their efforts.
Obviously, our short term goals are stopping Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, by electing Conservatives (often times, in spite of the GOP), then getting a good Conservative Candidate for POTUS in 2012. The long term goal is the top to bottom control of the GOP. If we are persistent, we can take over the GOP, and return it to its roots. Don’t say it can’t be done, just think about how the “progressives” likely took over the Democratic Party.