This morning, the Washington Post announced that Shaun Kenney, the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, is stepping down from his position. Reactions from my fellow bloggers have been mixed with some praising Mr. Kenney’s efforts, a few questioning them, and others declaring that the extreme right wing has taken over the party. As someone who has known Shaun for a number of years, I’m of the opinion that he is a good fellow; I’ve always enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to speak with him and I certainly wish him well in his future endeavors.
But what’s going on with the Republican Party of Virginia? According to fellow blogger Black Velvet Bruce Li, the party is in a dire financial situation. Apparently, the net worth of the party has been in rapid decline in recent months and is now less than -$200,000. Yes, you read that number correctly, negative two hundred thousand. Certainly that could spell a lot of trouble for the party, no? So what is the RPV planning to do about this issue?
Well, on Wednesday night as I arrived in downtown Staunton to meet with a fellow activist, I received a call from the Republican Party of Virginia. The man on the other end of the phone noted that I had been a long-time supporter of the party and requested a donation of $350. I could have simply said no, but instead I told him that although it is true that I had supported the party for many years, including working for the RPV, I had been expelled from my local party last year. In addition, both before and after that time, I had gotten into several disagreements with my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, who I felt has not been doing a particularly good job representing either my values or the values of the RPV as stated in the creed.
The caller seemed a little disturbed, declaring that we ought to have the right to question our leaders when we think they go astray and that dialogue is an important aspect of the process. I agreed and so he asked if I would “let bygones be bygones” and donate $250 to the party.
I responded by telling him more of my experiences, that in 2014 I ran as a candidate for local office. Although I was arguably the most conservative or libertarian candidate and the only one who ever mentioned the RPV creed (to the best of my knowledge), I was maligned by the local GOP. They did so because I was an independent and had the gall to run against the anointed party’s nominees. Every elected Republican official representing Harrisonburg, including ones that I had volunteered countless hours for in previous elections, publicly opposed my candidacy, regardless of any supposed shared ideological mooring. With those thoughts in mind, I asked him why in the world would I donate money to the Republican Party of Virgina? At that point, he decided to terminate the phone call.
I should add that several weeks ago I appreciated the opportunity to speak with newly elected RPV chairman John Whitbeck. Although I don’t think we reached any sort of resolution, I argued that the RPV ought to do a far better job of insisting its candidates and elected officials hold to some sort of ideological standard. I still hope that they will.
Getting back to the original point, yes, signs seem to indicate that the RPV is in trouble financially. But they shouldn’t ask me to help. I’m happy to support good, individual candidates who believe as I do whether they run as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents, or something else. However, until and unless the party and its leaders decides to actually adhere to anything approaching limited government principles, I assure you that they won’t be receiving support of any kind from me. From my conversations with my fellow activists, more and more of us seem to be reaching this same conclusion. Or, to put it another way, if they think we should support the Republican Party based merely upon nice sounding rhetoric and our past associations, to borrow a lyric from Judas Priest, “you’re mad. You’ve got another thing comin'”.
The RPV needs money, yes, but far more importantly it needs principles.