Thursday, October 24, 2013

Get to the Root.

It's that time of the year again. Speculation is building for 2014... And 2016. And some Nevada Republicans are already licking their chops for 2016, when Senator Harry Reid (D) will be up for reelection.

But now, word has spread all the way to Washington of Nevada Republicans' many woes. How can they seriously think of putting up another fight against Senator Reid when they can't stop fighting each other?

Nevada Republicans’ greatest impediment to toppling Reid is not their deep bench. It’s the state party’s infrastructure.

The Nevada GOP is one of the most dysfunctional state parties in the country. Supporters of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul have infiltrated much of the party’s infrastructure. Operations got so bad last year that the national GOP was forced to set up a shadow operation to compete in the state.

Democratic insiders said their state party looks to Reid as a bellwether who gives direction and rigidity to the party. But Nevada Republicans don’t have a similarly centralizing figure in the official party structure.

“Harry Reid has built a machine, ... a foundation for technical performance,” a Democratic operative said. “There isn’t an elected [Republican] official who pays much attention to party politics.”

We've talked before about the many problems that plague the Nevada Republican Party as an organization. And we could sense the heart of these problems back in May 2012.

[... W]inning elections doesn't happen by just demanding "purity" and throwing a temper tantrum when that doesn't happen. Believe it or not, temper tantrums don't win elections.

This is something we often have to grapple with on the left, but now we're seeing this unfold on the right at a level that I've never seen before. As much as some grassroots folks on the left and the right love to see epic ideological battles unfold at party conventions and purge all "unsavory moderates" out of their respective parties, the fact of the matter is that doing that gets us no closer to winning elections. (If anything, that HURTS efforts to win elections.) While it's always important to promote the values we believe in and hold fast to them, we can't punish political parties for focus[ing] on party building while perhaps shirking "ideology enforcement" duties. After all, the first responsibility of a political party is to build the infrastructure necessary to win elections.

At times, we on the left have not seen eye to eye with Nevada State Democratic Party leaders. And yes, we sometimes get irritated when they seem to favor moderate candidates over "BOLD PROGRESSIVES!!!" However, most of us also realize that getting 70-90% of what we want is far better than getting nothing, so we leave Fantasy-land behind and return to the real world & return to working the field to win elections.

And this is why Orrin Johnson is panicking. Ron Paul's supporters care deeply for their libertarian beliefs, and they're set to accept nothing less than full fealty to those beliefs. But in pursuing complete ideological purity, they're also set to lose a whole lot of elections because they simply don't care about that stuff. This is why Nevada Republicans are in such dire straits. And it should serve as an important lesson to all the rest of us trying to balance ideological wishes with political reality.

We should add that ideological purity tests and outlandish temper tantrums don't just make bad politics. They also make bad policy. And this is precisely the crazy trouble that Republicans here and nationally fell into this month.

When it comes to campaigning and governing, elected leaders have to exhibit some sort of flexibility in order to accomplish things. The problem Republicans now face is that they're trying so hard to please hardened extremists that they're alienating everyone else. When even Wall Street is backing away from the G-O-TEA, we know Republicans have a serious existential crisis on their hands.

Of course, we've known that the Nevada Republican Party has had serious organizational problems for some time. However, the root of this existential crisis runs much deeper than that. And it's no longer just "a Nevada GOP problem".

If Republicans here in Nevada and nationally want more competitive races in 2014 and 2016, they need to get to the root of their woes. Are they willing to do so?

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