A house divided

Column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Considering what we’ve had to go through with Michael Vick over the course of the past year, I’m not all that fond of the phrase Don’t have a dog in this fight anymore, but when it comes to the ongoing mess involving the Augusta County GOP, I really don’t have a dog in that fight.

That said, as a person involved in local politics now, it seems to me that something regarding the process that the county Republicans are going to use to select a new chair doesn’t smell right.

The News Leader reported today that most of the local Republicans who voted in favor of longtime Republican activist Larry Roller at an April 10 mass meeting will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming election for a new party chair. I’m not going to argue the reasoning that was presented by a local party member as to how this could be valid, because I’m sure it is valid, at least according to the local committee’s bylaws. The problem I would have if I was a Republican would be that I would think that I was disenfranchising a wide swath of my party base in so doing, and possibly alienating an even wider swath of the party faithful as we’re heading into an election season featuring competitive races for president, the U.S. Senate and Congress.

This might not be all that big a deal in Augusta County, which is usually quite reliably Republican in its voting patterns. But I have to wonder, considering that the people being pushed to the side of the road are moderates and moderate conservatives whose ideological leanings on fiscal matters and many social matters aren’t all that inconsistent with Virginia Democrats.

If I were a Republican in Augusta County, I’d want to make sure that these Emmett Hanger Republicans, if we can use that paint brush, would remain Republicans, particularly in the face of how the party both locally and statewide has moved away from their core beliefs of limited government that provides for basic infrastructure needs, quality public education and public safety to a much more extremist and radical agenda that seeks to starve government out of existence for the benefit of those at the tippy top of our social structure and uses divisive social issues to achieve those ends.

I’d be afraid that telling these people to take a hike when it comes to electing a new party chair might force these Republicans to wake up and realize that maybe they’re not really Republicans anymore, considering how their party has been thumbing its nose at them in recent years, and is now telling them effectively Thanks, but no thanks, when it comes to their desire to have a role in shaping the future direction of the party that Lincoln built out of the thin air 150 years ago.

People don’t like being taken for granted, and usually respond to having those kinds of hurt feelings by voting with their feet and heading in a different direction politically.

Political scientists call these moments in time partisan realignments, and I think we’ll be seeing some serious realigning taking place in Augusta County and throughout the Shenandoah Valley over the course of the next several years.


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