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Marsico, Rozman and Morris for Dauphin County Judge

If you consider experience and qualifications alone when selecting a county judge, then there are only three logical people to get your vote on May 16th, 2017:

Ed Marsico

Michael Rozman

Royce Morris

Ed Marsico has been Dauphin County’s district attorney for a long time, so long that I have lost count of the years. During his time as the chief law enforcement official for Dauphin County, Ed has always struck a balance of fairness and restraint, when lesser people would have given in to anger over some of the heinous crimes committed in the Harrisburg area. That always struck me as the sign of a well developed personality, because man, I did not feel that way about some of the scumbag criminals he prosecuted. I wanted a public stoning. Ed pursued justice. Without any stain on his long career as a visible and scrutinized public servant, Ed Marsico is the most qualified candidate for county judge in this race and one of the most qualified we have ever had. He has earned your vote. (Ed has done a great job as DA, and I and many others would have liked to have had him run for Pennsylvania Attorney General, but Ed is devoted to Dauphin County).

Michael Rozman has served as deputy district attorney under Marsico for a long time. Often laboring away out of the limelight, Rozman has racked up some of the greatest experience any lawyer can have. Rozman’s mastery of forensics, crime scene investigations, police interviews and interrogations, and knowing how to distinguish a bad boy from a true bad guy puts him head and shoulders above any of the other candidates, except for his boss, Ed Marsico. Again, if experience and outstanding qualification matters to you, if you want justice and not politics in the court room, and if you want to be judged by someone who has had decades of experience dealing with courts, criminal matters, justice, and police work, then Michael Rozman has earned your vote.

Royce Morris is also exceptionally qualified to be judge, and he is the Yin to the Yang of Marsico and Rozman. Morris has been one of Central Pennsylvania’s leading criminal defense lawyers for a long, long time. His view of criminal law is seasoned with the understanding of the behavior and reasons why certain bad things happen and how people either purposefully or mistakenly end up in the criminal justice system. Royce has received accolades from judges, jurors, prosecutors, defendants and police officers for the careful way he has handled some of the region’s toughest defense cases. Again, if experience is what you care about, and you want to be judged by someone who is not a party hack or a devotee of political climbing, then Royce Morris earns your vote.

It is true that there are other candidates for the three vacant seats on the Dauphin County court. But none of those candidates has anywhere near the hard-bitten experience dealing with tough crimes and careful analysis like Marsico, Rozman, and Morris have had.

The quality difference between the top three candidates and the others is measured in light years, which is to say an enormous gap, not even close.

Yes, it is true that a Republican political endorsement was made for this seat, which benefited one of the other candidates, and while I am no fan of political endorsements in general, if there is one place where a political endorsement does not belong, where it actually indicates weakness and not strength, it is during the selection of a judge. Politics has no business entering the court room or the judge selection process, and only you, the informed voter can stop it.

About eight years ago now-Judge Andrew Dowling was not endorsed by the Dauphin GOP, and he was told not to run, and yet he went on to win his seat on the court, overcoming what is obviously a very shallow and judicially meaningless political process. A better process would be to rank judicial candidates by a letter system, or by gradations of qualification (e.g. Highly Qualified, Qualified, Not Qualified). That election, when Dowling overcame the political hackery, was a refreshing reminder of the wisdom and power of the citizen voter.

Three years ago outstanding judicial candidate Bill Tully was passed over by the Dauphin GOP, and another, very young and less qualified candidate was endorsed. He was closer to the political establishment. The voters rejected that set-up, too, and sent Tully to be the next Dauphin County judge. That election, when Tully overcame the political hackery, was a refreshing reminder of the wisdom and power of the citizen voter.

Readers may ask why I write these essays about candidates and politics, and I will tell you it is simply because I have always had a passion for good government and fairness. Believe me, I make no friends writing these things, I receive no money and actually have lost business because of my opinions. And I have garnered some enemies along the way, too. But if Americans are not brave enough to stand up for what they deserve, then they get really bad government filled with political hacks who care nothing for the welfare of their fellow citizens. Maybe I am brave, maybe I am foolish, but I stand up nonetheless, and I tell it like I see it, and I tell it from the perspective of the person in the street.

Vote for Marsico, Rozman, and Morris, and you will get judges we can be proud of. That is my opinion.

Risk & Sacrifice separate grass roots activists from insulated party professionals

In 2009, like many other citizens shocked at the sudden, dramatic changes and corruption re-shaping America, I greatly increased my political activity.

Part of a grass-roots wave of citizen activists that year, I ran in a four-way US Congressional primary.  It’s a long story, and in short I ended up liking one of my opponents so much I hoped he would win.  Along the way, several people closely affiliated with the Republican Party tried to dissuade me from running, assuring me that a certain sitting state senator would beat the incumbent Democrat, congressman Tim Holden.

Our campaign still netted about 25% of the vote in a four-way race, which is solid performance, especially considering that one of the candidates had run before, one was a sitting state senator, one was a well-known political activist, and we had gotten a late start and spent little money.

In the general election, Holden crushed the Republican state senator who won that primary race by 400 votes.

Fast forward to January 2012, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejects a new, heavily gerrymandered Republican redistricting plan.  At the heart of the court’s decision was the “egregious” and grossly unnatural shape of the 15th state senate district, where I happened to then reside, and still do now, too.

The PA Supreme Court called the new district “the iron cross,” and indeed it looked like a cross shape and was iron clad against upstart citizens asserting themselves in political races reserved for establishment members only.

(My current congressional district is the same, with only about ten blocks of Harrisburg City included in what is otherwise a large, rural district reaching the Maryland state line. Guess who lives in that ten-block area. Yes. Me. )

Given my previous public interest in running for the 15th senate seat, it was obvious that excluding our family’s home from that district was purposeful: It was an attempt by political bosses to artificially silence and thwart an otherwise good candidate who does not see his job as serving political bosses.

The court’s ruling allowed a handful of us to wage a tremendous grass roots 11th hour campaign for that senate seat, getting our start two days into the three-week ballot petition process.

Although we did not win, we did give the political bosses a hell of a challenge by winning a huge number of votes with only pennies spent.

A year later, York businessman Scott Wagner beat those same political bosses for his state senate seat, in a historic write-in campaign against a million dollars of party money. The race, and its remarkable result, drew national attention.  Clearly the voters responded to Wagner’s grass roots campaign in the face of a party juggernaut.

This evening I spent some time speaking with an NRA staffer.  We met at the Great American Outdoor Show, which is the former Eastern Outdoors Show and now NRA-run at the PA Farm Show complex, and he gave me an opportunity to vent a bit and explain my frustration with the NRA.

To wit: An increasing number of grass roots activists now perceive the NRA as merely an arm of the Republican Party establishment political bosses.  The same bosses who oppose conservative/ independent candidates like me and Wagner.

See, back in 2012, I was the only NRA member in that three-way primary race (to be fair, one candidate had been an NRA member for several months, which could never, ever be construed as a political move, even though he was the candidate selected by the same political bosses who created a safe district for him to run in), but the NRA refused to get involved.

If there was any endorsement that was deserved in that race, it would have been the NRA endorsing their one and only member, and a decades-long member at that – Me. (Firearm Owners Against Crime did endorse the one pro-Second Amendment candidate, thank you very much, Kim Stolfer)

And then tonight it dawned on me on the way home from the Farm Show complex…two basic but defining experiences separate grass roots activists and candidates from the party establishment: Risk taking and making sacrifices.

By definition, grass roots candidates take many risks and make many sacrifices, both of which are seen as signs of weakness by the establishment.

Self-starters motivated by principle and passion for good government, the grass roots candidates and activists have to reach into their own pockets to get any traction, and they often risk their jobs and businesses in challenging the establishment power structure.  To get invitations to events, they have to reach out and ask, knock on doors, make phone calls.  They have to cobble together campaigns made of volunteers and pennies, and they usually are grossly under-funded now matter how successful they are.

On the other hand, party establishment candidates have the ready-made party machine in their sails from the get-go.  Money, experienced volunteers, paid staffers, refined walking lists, the establishment can muster a tremendous force in a relatively short time.  Establishment candidates also enjoy artificial party endorsements (formal or informal) that give them access to huge pots of party campaign funds or a leg-up in other ways.

Establishment groups like NRA view grass roots candidates the same way as the party establishment views them- trouble makers.

In short, few if any establishment candidates put in their own money to drive their campaigns, take risks, or make sacrifices in their pursuit of elected office. Everything is done for them by other people.

So long as party establishment staff and officials and groups like NRA maintain this artificial lifestyle and view, this alternate reality, this disconnect between the grass roots voters and the party that needs their votes will continue and deepen.

So long as the voters see grass roots activists and candidates struggling against an unfair arrangement that is created solely for the preservation of political power and profit, they will continue to migrate away from the party and support people they can relate to the most.

An elder in my family once told me that taking risks and making sacrifices build character and lead to success, and although a 26-year career full of both risks and sacrifices has often left me wondering at the truth of that claim, I increasingly see it bearing out in electoral politics.

The voters are not dumb; they can see the pure American earnestness in their fellow citizen fighting City Hall.  They respect risk-taking and sacrifices made in the pursuit of saving America.  That is a strong character which no establishment candidate can or ever will have.

Those political parties and groups that ignore that strong American character do so at their own risk, because they will lose the supporters they need to be successful.

 

What is in a political “party”?

The Communist Party.

The Democrat Party.

The Republican Party.

What is the difference between these three and many other active political parties?

Their party agenda is what defines them.

Their cause, their unifying principles, their policies and political platforms, these are the things that separate political parties from one another.

All political parties have their own structure, their functionaries, their own bureaucracies, lawyers, and bosses.  All have become self-interested organisms, influenced by a constellation of special interest groups.  At a certain point, the party exists simply for its own benefit.

But what happens when these parties begin to bleed into one another, when they begin to blend across their boundaries and blur their boundaries?  When they lose their distinctive appeal?

When political parties lose their way, do they lose their reason for being?

Although my own Republican Party has pledged overall to serve the taxpayers, plenty of fellow Republicans hold personal and official positions contrary to the interests of taxpayers, voters, and citizens.  Their positions are subtle, often only visible in the important background decisions they make.

Many times in recent history, the Republican Party has been used as a weapon to silence voices of political activists who sought to return the brand to its more basic principles and its more elementary purpose, which would naturally be defined as the cause of liberty.

It is my own hope and the hope of many other dedicated citizens that the Republican Party, also known as the establishment, will stay out of any upcoming elections around Central Pennsylvania.

It is one thing for a candidate to ask, say, State Rep. Ron Marsico for his individual support, or to ask individual party committee members for their support.  It is entirely another thing for the Dauphin County Republican Committee to endorse a candidate so that the Pennsylvania Republican Party can spend money to challenge a Republican candidate’s nomination ballots, because he (or she) is too independent-minded.  Or too “conservative.”  Or not enough in the pocket of some party boss.

My experience tells me that this controlling, anti-freedom behavior has happened so often that many political activists are inclined to become political Independents, which means that the Republican base, the most passionate Republican voters, become driven away from the party and become less interested in its success.  We saw this with the past election, where former governor Tom Corbett had little street game.  The people with the most passion were not going to do door-to-door for Corbett.

Even more worrisome is if the one-time Republican becomes an Independent candidate, or mounts a write-in campaign.  Sure, these efforts may hurt the Republican Party’s nominee, but if the party didn’t want that independent-minded candidate in the first place, what right does anyone have to expect him to stay loyal to them?

Put another way, if some political boss doesn’t want a certain candidate to get elected, then what expectation does that political boss have of earning the support of the candidate he opposed?

Put another way, if you don’t want John to get elected, then why would John want you or your ally to get elected?

Do the Democrats have this problem?  Sure.  But that political party has become overrun with foreign policy extremism and anti-capitalism.  Wealth redistribution is completely contrary to American founding principles, but it is nevertheless now a core of the Democrat Party.

That is sad, because at one time, the Democrats just wanted more opportunity for everyone.  Now they want to take from one person and give to another person, which is theft.

But I am not a Democrat, so this is not my political problem.

My problem is with so-called Republicans who actually share a lot in common with liberal Democrats, but who stay in the Republican Party.

There are different ways a Republican can share values with a liberal.  For example, a Republican staffer who believes in the supremacy of  bureaucracy….despite bureaucracy being the enemy of freedom and individual liberty.  Working from within the party, these functionaries stamp their own flavor on policy and principle alike, often softening edges and blurring lines, giving the voters fewer choices, more government intervention, and ultimately less liberty.

The same could be said for certain “Republican” lobbyists, whose connections to money, political funding, cause them to promote bad policies such as Common Core, which strikes deep at the heart of liberty.  They would rather ally with liberals than support a conservative Republican candidate.  People like this have great influence in the Republican Party.  They influence its agenda, and the kind of decisions the apparatus supports.

If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.  I myself will stand for liberty, freedom, and opportunity for everyone.  If that puts me and others like me at odds with some political party, then that says everything a voter needs to know about that party: It does not have your interests at heart.

I am a Republican because I hold old-fashioned, traditional American values, the kind of values that created America and kept her great for so long.  I will vote for and support only those candidates who hold similar values.  Regardless of what a party spokeswoman may say, a Republican Party that has no conservativism in it isn’t really a Republican Party any longer, is it?

Relishing the win over GOP machine politics

Four years ago, I ran in the US Congressional Republican primary for the Congressional seat held by then congressman Tim Holden. It was a four-way race, between me, state senator Dave Argall, Frank Ryan, and Baptist Pastor Bob Griffiths.  From the get-go, different Republican leaders tried to get me to bow out.  Dave himself met with me at GOP headquarters and asked me to step out (Ah, the irony…I had asked him to chair my campaign).  Lots of heartache along the campaign trail as GOP insiders tried again and again to give Dave an artificial boost, an unfair advantage, and unequal opportunity.  Lebanon County GOP tried to endorse him, and the committee disintegrated as a result of the infighting that ensued.  Schuylkill County GOP did endorse him, and immediately afterwards lost its chairman and underwent radical changes.

It was a great race, we did very well (26% overall in a four-way race, with about $20,000 spent, and the highlight being the 51% we got in rural Perry County, which has my kind of people), and we got kudos all around for the excellent pick-up campaign we ran.  Dave went on to win that primary by a few hundred votes, and then he got crushed by Tim Holden.  All of the smart GOP consultants and insiders who told me that Dave would win, and that I should get out, well, they never called me to acknowledge they were wrong.  Apparently losing races is OK so long as it is a GOP insider, but the consultancy insider class is terribly afraid of grass roots candidates losing.

In 2012, I ran in the GOP primary for the PA 15th state senate district, but only after I had  cleared a bunch of artificial hurdles the GOP set up to keep me out of that race.  First, the new district was not released until very late in 2011, and only then after former state senator Jeff Piccola had retired one week into the one-year residency requirement period (imagine that!), so that I could not get an apartment over the new district line just a mile from my house and thereby qualify as a resident of the district.

In January 2012, the PA state supreme court threw out the GOP redistricting plan, calling it unconstitutional and deeply flawed, and I found myself back in the old district.  But even then, we were several days into the ballot petition process, with no volunteers, no committee, no paperwork, no money, up against two establishment candidates, one of whom was hand picked by the party, John McNally, our Dauphin County GOP chairman.

We got 850 signatures, got on the ballot, and started campaigning, grass roots style.  Within weeks, the GOP-controlled PA senate had developed a new redistricting map and presented it to the court.  Not surprisingly, I was once again outside the senate district.  Making things worse, the GOP establishment staff began telling voters that I might win, but then be outside the district, and therefore unable to serve the people who had voted for me.  Thankfully, the PA supreme court rejected the map as just as flawed as the first one, and the GOP had to live with my candidacy, which proved to be incredibly popular.

In other words, I know exactly what senator-elect Scott Wagner went through until this week.

What was refreshing to me as I worked Wagner’s district’s largest poll (Manchester 5 & 7) was the voter sentiment that came pouring out as they poured in to the polling place to write in Wagner’s name on the ballot.  Voters were vociferously rejecting the contrived hurdles that the GOP had arranged to stop Wagner, they rejected the artificial support the GOP had thrown behind milquetoast career politician Ron Miller, and they strongly opposed the $700,000 in negative ads run against Wagner.  That was $700,000 that the GOP could have spent, should have spent, to beat liberalism.

I do intend to run for the 15th state senate district again in two years.  And I guess I will be facing a GOP hand-picked cookie cutter empty suit of a candidate, someone the party expects to be a rubber stamp, who will not pursue right-to-work legislation.  And folks, I intend to win this one.  Hope to see you there with me at the barricades.

 

Harrisburg Mayor’s Race & More

Dauphin County, PA, Election Round-Up: All Politics are Indeed Local, So Vote & Protect Your Property Values

By Josh First
November 4, 2013

Voters tend to get most excited about, and participate most in “big” presidential elections, but three local political races are about to be decided in two days, and each one has a direct impact on home values in Dauphin County, on your taxes, your kids, on businesses and your friends’ and families’ jobs. Here they are.

Judge

Despite performing zero reporting about the incredible primary race this spring for judge, and very little reporting about the general race between Bill Tully and Anne Cornick, Harrisburg’s local part-time newspaper The Patriot News suddenly had the evident deep wisdom and cultivated knowledge to make an “informed” endorsement Sunday. No, their endorsement would never, ever, ever be political ((cough, cough)). While they are both lawyers, Tully is Cornick’s professionally experienced senior by about two decades, has an impressive resume several pages longer than hers, and he is eminently more qualified to be the next judge. Most political races have a Yin and a Yang, a black hat and a white hat, a positive and a negative, a qualified candidate and a foil highlighting the superior candidate’s abilities, and we’ve got that here. Vote for high quality over politics, for quality over the foil, please; vote for Bill Tully.

Susquehanna School Board

How often do we hear of school board races actually meaning more than, at most, how much our property taxes will be rising? Well, this school board race in Susquehanna Township actually means a lot, not only to residents of Susquehanna Township, but to every citizen living around it. Much more than school taxes rides on the outcome of this election. As goes one domino, so goes another next to it. Lower Paxton Township, this is about you, too.

Susquehanna Township was, at one time, the successful Yin to Harrisburg’s painfully struggling Yang of a school district. It was a study of contrasting similarities, shared goals, and an example of multiracial harmony. Not necessarily any longer. The quality of the Susquehanna School District hangs by a thread. It is riven by all kinds of cross-cutting forces, not the least example of which includes last week’s announcement of the resignation of administrator Shawn Sharkey (can a more appropriately named ‘villain’ be conjured in fiction?), reportedly for sleeping with an under-age student. Resignations of high quality administrators and staff, and fierce interoffice politics, have been raging throughout the district for several years. Leadership is needed in this vacuum.

Making it all worse, racialism and apparent racism are at the core of a dangerous and divisive move to segregate the school district. Demands of a group of school board candidates led by Jesse Rawls would divvy up the district’s teaching and professional positions by the representation of citizens’ skin color, not the content of their character or their credentials. Nothing to do with quality, education, or training: Jobs assigned strictly by shades of pink and brown. Sound fair and reliable to you? Making matters worse, Rawls has been alleged to have unrepentantly called one of his opponents a kike, as in the equivalent of The N Word for Jews.

Oh, the sad irony of the magnificent 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, being invoked to establish just another regime of racial control. Are good citizens really going to vote for that?

Property values and much more depend greatly on the quality of the school district. If voters want some order brought to the chaos in the Susquehanna School District, then vote for Bob Marcus and Bruce Warshawsky, whose sole focus is on academic excellence. Imagine that: The simple, basic pursuit of school/ teacher/ student excellence as central to educating the kids of Susquehanna Township School District.

Mayor of Harrisburg

Voters hate making a decision between one mediocre candidate and another. That is probably what Harrisburg citizens face on Tuesday, with the stellar Independent candidate Nevin Mindlin artificially run out of the race and removed from the ballot. Once again, The Patriot News made an odd, nakedly political endorsement in this election that bore no resemblance to the facts surrounding the candidate they endorsed, those same facts reported in their own newsprint.

Candidate Dan Miller is a Certified Public Accountant who has served as Harrisburg’s Controller. He has extensive local government experience, as well as business experience. He also has a persnickety personality and does not always listen well, as my Mom used to say. Collaboratively, and not combatively, is how Harrisburg’s next mayor must run things. Can Miller do that? One hopes.

Candidate Eric Papenfuse has very little government experience, and his business experience is running an alternative book store serving organic, free range, expensive teas. As a former candidate myself, I appreciated that his bookstore became a center of official political debates run by Harrisburg Hope, a political group we then learned was designed to support Papenfuse’s candidacy. But he’s still not real qualified to be mayor.

More to the point, two key things really speak to Papenfuse’s likely leadership direction, the first being his 2009 invitation and hosting of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, an extremist now posing as an educational “expert,” at his bookstore. Papenfuse has given varying reasons why he served Ayers’ purposes, including recently telling me on a call-in radio program that Ayers is deserving of “free speech.” Well, lots of evil people also deserve free speech, but what kind of person would actually facilitate giving them a platform? Answer: The same kind of person who is also associated with Occupy Wall Street, Eric Papenfuse.

The second indication is a letter to the editor Papenfuse wrote (Patriot News, January 30, 2010) about his bizarre vision for public education, specifically citing Harrisburg University and Harrisburg SciTech. Advocating for teaching Harrisburg’s disadvantaged inner city students to be “radical thinkers,” instead of “workers,” Papenfuse wants inner city students to be schooled in anger, poetry, street theater, and activism. Forget getting an accounting degree, a chemistry degree, an IT degree, or eventually a law degree. Forget being a constructive, positive contributor to society who can earn a living and support a family. No, according to Papenfuse, Harrisburg’s kids must be cannon fodder in his, and Ayers’ social unrest movement, perpetually living on government handouts, perpetually at war with their fellow Americans. This is an obvious recipe for disaster for Harrisburg’s students and their families. Let’s ask the voters of our great city: Do you want your kids to be Eric Papenfuse’s political cannon fodder? Or do you want them to get ahead in life?

If Miller is a snip-snap, too-smart-for-you accountant, perhaps too assured of his own correct thinking, Papenfuse is on the cusp of introducing radical, ultra-divisive politics to Harrisburg the likes of which we have never before seen. Dan Miller has my vote, not because I am enamored of him, not because I think he is the best thing since sliced bread, not because I think he is the best candidate hands-down. But he is a damned sight better, and better qualified, than Eric Papenfuse. I hope you will vote for Dan Miller for those simple reasons alone.

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Nevin Mindlin Endorses Dan Miller for Mayor of Harrisburg

Yesterday, one-time Independent candidate for Harrisburg City mayor, Nevin Mindlin, endorsed one-time Democratic candidate Dan Miller.

Miller is now running as the Republican-endorsed candidate, because he collected over 300 Republican signatures for that position on the ballot. Just in case.

Miller is a strong threat to the Papenfuse campaign that was literally measuring the draperies and assigning executive positions a day after winning the four-way Democratic primary, assuming they had de facto won the general election.

This race is a rare toss-up. What role the elected mayor has vis-a-vis the state-appointed Harrisburg Receiver (Gen. Lynch) is unclear, but at least it is a bully pulpit. The mayor can call for criminal investigations into the Harrisburg Debt Debacle, or he can not do so. Dan is likely to call for investigations, Papenfuse is disinclined.

With just weeks to go until Election Day, it is hard to know how this will end. One thing for sure I do know, and that is how politics makes for strange bedfellows….

Republican Reconciliation or Irrelevance?

Reconcile the Republican Party & Republican Voters

By Josh First

December 11, 2012

Things are not all good here in Republican land. Mitt Romney received fewer votes than John McCain received in 2008, even as attack dog Obama also received far fewer votes than his all-positive 2008 campaign. Despite Obama’s catastrophic economy, foreign policy failures (Benghazi), gaffes (“You didn’t build that”), corruption (Solyndra), and bizarre running mate (Biden), Republican enthusiasm for Romney was actually lower than Republican enthusiasm of four years ago. So even with all that was on the line, Republican voters were unwilling to go to the polls.

Recriminations abound about what caused Mitt Romney to lose: Incompetent staffers, inaccurate polling, a prolonged primary, poor ground game by complacent Republicans, uninspiring and flaccid moderate Republican, etc. Rather than re-hashing excuses and assigning blame, here’s one thing we can change for the next big race: Fixing the increasingly broken relationship between many Republican voters and the Republican Party establishment that is becoming an open contest.

The Republican Party ‘establishment’ includes the careerist elected officials, party bureaucrats, pollsters, financers, lobbyists, apparatchiks, consultants, and other functionaries and rock star groupies whose often low-risk, insulated careers and financial interests comprise the don’t-rock-the-boat wing. Registered Republican voters and principle-driven tea party activists, the “grass roots,” are not necessarily included in this group.

Because the Republican Party here is run as an enterprise, this contest has been cast as profit vs. principle. The Tea Party emerged from Central Pennsylvania, as fiscally conservative voters increasingly demanded responsible habits by the Republicans they had volunteered for, contributed to, and voted for, and across Pennsylvania and the nation it’s rapidly becoming a battle between them and the Party establishment, forget the Democrats.

Hitting the nail on the head back in February, Lehigh University professor Frank Davis said “There seems to be a struggle within the Republican Party between the traditional leadership and the conservative grass roots individuals and groups that are probably more mobilized now than they were a few years ago….the Republican Party has used these grass roots individuals to further the party establishment’s interests, and I think these people may want to [now] choose their own representatives, rather than rely on the leadership.”

Running a gazillionaire for president during the worst economy in 70 years, where his wealth contrasted with citizens’ daily reality, made sense early to the Party establishment, which was long ago greasing the skids for Romney staffers into county Party offices well before the primaries ended. Sure, I like Romney, admire his business acumen, donated to his campaign, went door to door for him, blogged for him, and voted for him. But someone more blue collar, more authentic is going to be more believable, more welcomed by Middle America.

Republican grass roots candidates lost several recent US Senate races, which establishment candidates would have had no greater chance of winning, but the establishment demanded they step aside. Here in Pennsylvania, candidates hand-picked by Republican Party leaders were also disastrous failures, from the primary to last month’s general election. These candidates made perfect sense to insiders. But when trotted out into the public venue, voters shot these perfect candidates down in flames. Does either camp have a corner on the market?

The onus for reconciling the two groups is fully on the Republican Party establishment; the “professionals.” Many Republican Party leaders have engaged in high-handed, controlling behavior that has alienated a growing number of registered Republicans, even the most dedicated. Republican voters and volunteers have been treated as wind-up toy soldiers, turned in a direction and told to march. Party intervention in primary races is one of the worst abuses. No matter how much the establishment may want Yes men to support the establishment’s intertwined political and business interests, the cost of alienating the base is too high. If the Party stays out of primaries and gives the people a voice, they’ll be rewarded with more inspired voters, more volunteers on the ground, more elections won.

The professional class of Republicans say they know what they are doing and everyone just needs to move out of their way and let them do their job. Maybe it’s true that the new grass roots activists lack credentials, but the professional class suffers from an inspiration gap, often pushing bland, plain vanilla, pre-fabricated, cookie cutter candidates who are “supposed” to win, but who fail after spectacularly expensive investments. The Republican Party does actually need Republican voters to get their candidates across the goal line, so will the Party leaders listen to the Party voters? For good reason, Democrat analyst Patrick Caddell recently asked “Can the Republican Party Avoid the Fate of the Whigs?”

Let us get an honest answer here: Is there sufficient humility among our Party leaders to learn from these mistakes, to look inside themselves, and take the necessary steps to reconcile?

If Republicans want to win elections, they need to be the Party of Opportunity, allowing the more conservative, independent-minded members to have a shot at full participation. If we are all in this together, then let’s start acting like it. Otherwise, factionalism and political irrelevance are staring us in the face.

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