A chance swing by a friend’s Facebook wall today brought me this wonderful piece of wisdom:
“I’ve lost a hell of a lot of people over the last ten years or so. Turns out I miss almost none of them. Most I’m very glad about.
“I’m saying this just in case any of you is going through a tough time. You’re finding out who your real friends are. Anyone who isn’t there when you come out the other side, you’ll be happy about it.
“Yes, you will. Pray for them, but don’t beg them to come back. There’s a reason they’re gone – and that reason is: They don’t deserve you now.”
Now, I feel somewhat certain that this post was meant in a non-political context. But this sentiment hit me hard, thinking in particular about my political life.
During my ten years as an activist, I’ve occupied many different roles – I’ve worked on issue campaigns, I’ve been a talk show host, I’ve been a volunteer state director for an organization working to bring our principles back to the forefront of American politics, and now, my latest role is in GOP party leadership.
It’s been a weird ride so far.
You see, I spent most of the first 9 years of my political life hating the GOP as an organization, angry that it had hijacked my principles and taken them in a different direction. I tried half-heartedly to be involved in the party to see if I could change it from the inside, only to be blocked by those I immediately wrote off as Establishment hacks. Mostly, I have just spent time vilifying the party for not doing all the stuff I thought it should be doing – foremost among them, guarding the party brand (or more accurately, rebranding the party to align with the principles in the platform) by requiring adherence to the platform from the officials it helped elect through its insanely deep pockets and immense influence over the electorate.
I was absolutely convinced that the party held all the strings – which candidates were chosen, how much funding they got, how the campaigns were run, and how the officials acted and voted after being elected.
I mean, really – WOW. WOWWWWWW.
That is so much power to assume is at the disposal of a single organization, let alone a single person. To hear it stated like that, it would seem that Reince Priebus was single-handedly responsible for both our Congressional majorities AND the fact that they were acting like idiots.
Of course, in the Liberty Movement, that narrative served us well. Being the underdog is an enviable position – you don’t actually have to do much, but you can raise one hell of a stink about what’s not happening without drawing a ton of attention to the fact that you are at least partially at fault, because, well… you didn’t do much.
Now, I know I participated in that narrative when I was on air. I get it. I am somewhat culpable for setting up the situation I find myself in now.
But I’ve also learned something – with the fluidity of how to be involved in politics (as evidenced by my own varied political resume) comes the wisdom of seeing the same problem from several different angles. As a member of those issue campaign teams, I learned about the different roles on the team and how they contribute to electoral victory – the chair, earned media, fundraising, volunteer coordination. As a talk show host, I learned the importance of mobilizing the base, and how moving that base can contribute to victory. As a volunteer state director for Convention of States, I saw the marriage of principles with effective, targeted action, and how those things can come together to, you guessed it – achieve electoral victory.
In each role, I learned a skill set important to that role. What I didn’t entirely process until my election to party leadership was perspective.
Not long ago, a wise political friend pointed out to me that politics is a three-legged stool, and you need all three legs to succeed. One leg is the candidates themselves – they need to be principled, well-trained and charismatic when communicating their vision. Another leg is funding – there needs to be a vigorous plethora of funding organizations ready and willing to participate in the races on behalf of those candidates. The final leg is the party – the infrastructure that lays the groundwork for those well-funded candidates to be elected.
This infrastructure varies from county to county in Colorado – each county faces its own challenges. In Denver, where I am, we face a huge registration disadvantage. Our challenge is doing outreach into the unaffiliated community – fully one-third of the voters in Denver – while simultaneously training up a vigorous and enthusiastic class of Precinct Committee People, encouraging (and facilitating) voter outreach by those PCPs, preparing for caucus, gathering and vetting data, preparing for Get Out the Vote efforts, and, of course, fundraising to make all this happen.
The other dynamic at play is that the bylaws of our party, both at the state and county levels, demands pre-primary neutrality: if more than one Republican candidate has declared for an office, the party cannot take sides.
This is a key dynamic to understand. It means that even though I’ve been a liberty activist for a long time, the key attribute I bring to party leadership from those years is my insistence on integrity, transparency and accountability. Period. I can’t pick the candidates – it’s against our bylaws, and honestly, I think it’s better that way. Removing pre-primary neutrality would corrupt our system faster than anything else I can think of.
Basically, I have one job to do: win elections for Republicans. That’s what I was elected to do, and I intend to bring all my varied experience and perspective to this position to achieve exactly that.
Choosing candidates is not my job.
Effectively funding their campaigns is not my job.
My job is to turn out the vote for the Republican nominee in all the races we get to vote in.
Okay – so let me get back to the original purpose of this post, which goes back to that post from my friend’s Facebook page.
My journey to this position started several years ago when I was talking to one of my mentors in the Liberty Movement. She told me that what we really needed to do was to be elected to party leadership – to get a seat at the table. That was my incentive for accepting a position on the slate that was elected to Denver GOP leadership in February. I knew that Liberty needed a voice on that slate, and I felt strongly that I was one who could provide that voice.
What has amazed me is how quickly I’ve been vilified since doing EXACTLY WHAT WE HAD SET OUT TO DO FOUR YEARS AGO. How quickly the narrative has turned from “Good for you!” to “You’re a sell-out!” And how little any of these critics have tried to understand what it means to bring integrity to this position, and how that plays out in the dynamics I discussed above.
I knew I’d probably lose friends when I came into this position. I honestly shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction – I’ve known for some time that many of the people I shared the front lines with in years past have become bitter, self-righteous and dedicated to a cult of interference instead of the dynamic, effective movement we started as. Not everyone – not by a long shot – but a select few. People I did consider friends.
But I won’t miss them. I’ll pray for them, but I won’t beg them to come back. They don’t deserve me now.
Those who do are those I see when I look left and right in those trenches. Those folks who have dedicated themselves to being part of one of the three legs of the stool. Those who understand that our principles are nothing unless we win – and who understand that winning without principles doesn’t mean anything.
We need people dedicated to seeing our principles enacted through effective action. I have chosen my role. Have you?