RNC Hangover - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
RNC Hangover

After five hours Thursday night and five hours Friday at the Capitol Hilton covering the contest for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, I’m just about OD’d on the RNC.

My source who predicted Mike Duncan to have 55 votes on the first ballot was very near the mark. The two state party chairmen who said Thursday they liked Steele’s chances were prescient, so I wish I hadn’t taken their predictions with a grain of salt.

My belief that the all-star conservative endorsements for Ken Blackwell could make him a favorite proved woefully misguided. The thing about an RNC election is that there are only 168 voters, whose preferences are idiosyncratic and influenced by factors (including personal friendships) that are opaque to any outsider. Blackwell’s endorsements from Steve Forbes, Ed Meese, Brent Bozell, David Keene, et al., which seemed so impressive to me and others, simply did not penetrate the opaque loyalties of the voting members.

This suggests a clear disconnect between the operational mechanism of the GOP and the institutional apparatus of the conservative movement. I don’t think it is “a deliberate affront to the conservative movement,” to use Quin’s phrase. Rather, I think that the people who are doing the day-to-day work of the Republican Party simply don’t pay any attention to anything outside their particular operational focus. What Bozell does at the MRC or what Meese does at Heritage doesn’t have anything tangible to do with canvassing precincts or recruiting candidates or running volunteer phone-banks. And so the names of these movement leaders conjure no particular magic among RNC people.

As much as I’d like to ponder at length the phenomenon of the GOP/conservative disconnect, or contemplate the significance of the 77 votes for Katon Dawson on the final ballot, my synapses are too frayed for any serious thinking now. If anybody else has some unfatigued brain cells they’d like to apply to these Big Picture questions, please have at it.

UPDATE: Dan Riehl weighs in on the conservative movement:

In my opinion, they are Old School as organizations, more DC-esque than grassroots now and suck up too many valuable resources, some of which would probably serve the GOP better in younger, fresher hands. And I say that as no youngster myself.

There may be a problem of what I call institutional inertia. Institutions over time develop patterned ways of doing things — institutional habits — that are not necessarily the only way to do things nor the best way to do things. These habits become embedded, and are resistant to reform.

You see this, for example, in the public school system: If the current system did not already exist, no one seeking to develop an ideal system would create anything like what we have now. But institutional inertia causes the system to fiercely resist reform, so those who don’t like what the system offers eventually just walk away. (I’m a homeschooling dad.)

It is troubling to think that the conservative movement may be an example of the same principle of organizational dynamics at work. I know that the folks at Heritage, etc., have worked hard to maintain their relevance (e.g., adapting their output for online consumption) so I’m not ready to write them off as dinosaur fossils. But reform and innovation take time.

Robert Stacy McCain
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