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Sometimes a threesome just sucks

Welp. Primary Election Day is now behind us. Thank God.

Yesterday’s bright moment was Andrew Lewis running and winning against a large part of the GOP establishment in the 105th State House District.

It lies around out through Harrisburg’s eastern suburbs and could easily swing “RINO,” but yesterday it did not. Proving the power of staying positive and of doing door-to-door, Lewis impressed so many voters that many of them eagerly relayed to us volunteer poll workers their happy experiences meeting him at their home’s front door.

That said, much of yesterday’s political outcomes were unfortunate, for those of us who trust and hope in We, The People and who have learned not to trust the GOP establishment.

Woody Allen once quipped “I believe in relationships. Love between two people is a beautiful thing. Between three, it’s fantastic.”

Well, sometimes that truism just doesn’t hold water, and nowhere was this observation more evident than the results from yesterday’s political threesomes in Pennsylvania.

As we political watchers and participants have seen repeatedly, and as I myself have experienced as a candidate for office, three-way races can and often do allow liberal Republicans to prevail. And in fact, it now seems that the threesome approach is a significant strategy for GOPe candidates.

Yesterday, Dan Meuser won the PA 9th congressional district election (he lives in the 8th District) through the benefit of the two grass roots candidates  (Halcovage and Uehlinger) each siphoning off sufficient votes to allow the establishment candidate to get the plurality. There is some question out there about whether Uehlinger was, in fact, a conservative, or even a Republican; despite getting in the race first, his campaign seemed the least organized. Halcovage was not terribly organized, either, and did not respond to important questionnaires from interest groups. Firearms Owners Against Crime advised voters to select only Meuser of the three candidates.

Actually, Meuser may have obtained more than 50% of the vote, which is an indication that he might have won on his own merits (e.g. he was the only candidate deemed acceptable on Second Amendment rights to FOAC). All his negatives notwithstanding.

One lesson for sure comes out of that particular three-way race: If you cannot present yourself as an organized, credible candidate, then please spare everyone the drama and do not run.

People who wake up on some Thursday morning and say “What the heck, I am gonna run for office” have every right to do so, but recognize that there are consequences to this. Better to have a one-on-one clear choice for the voters. We will almost always have an establishment candidate, so pick the one best grass roots candidate as The People’s champion, and chase off the rest.

In the PA governor’s race, liberal dark horse Laura Ellsworth knew she had no chance of winning. I mean, with liberal policy positions like hers, she should run as a Democrat (she said she would not accept money from the NRA). But run she did, and though she obtained less than 20% of the vote, she siphoned off sufficient votes (especially in Western PA) from true conservative and US Army veteran Paul Mango to get Scott Wagner the plurality.

Mango is from western PA and would have otherwise obtained most of Ellsworth’s votes.

Yesterday I was a volunteer poll worker from 7:00 AM until 7:35PM in the Harrisburg area.

What I heard from GOP voters (and mostly from women over 50 years old) at several different polls was that they were angry at both Mango and Wagner for all the negative ads. They knew Ellsworth was liberal, but they were voting for her as an alternative to the two boys engaged in distasteful roughhousing.

Wasn’t this a variable we were picking up from women voters weeks ago? Yes.

Did someone pay Ellsworth to run? One asks, because she knew her chances were very low to nil, that her liberal ideas and policy positions are way out of synch with the vast majority of Republican voters.

Ellsworth the Spoiler has now burned her bridges with about 40% of the state’s Republican super voters, which even the most obtuse political nerds would expect as a logical outcome.

So why else was she in it? One cannot help but wonder if she was paid to play the spoiler. It was done in the last race I ran in….by someone involved in the race she ran in…so…

When we look at Idaho’s primary yesterday, a similar scene unfolded. The unlikely liberal GOPe candidate beat the conservative, by way of siphoning of votes by a third candidate who himself had no hope of winning.

Folks, the only way these third candidates can run is if they are independently wealthy and just yee-haw running for office; or, they are willing to sacrifice their name in one race by trying to build it up for a future run at some other office; or, most likely, they have “other” sources of income or promises made to reward them for playing the spoiler in the current race.

So, as we move into a more experienced and savvy grass roots political landscape, begun just ten years ago as the “tea party,” we are learning that our own strength can be used against us judo-like by the same corrupt political establishment we are trying to defeat.

Threesome races may look democratic, and it is true that every American has the right to run for office. But sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes those threesomes are designed to undermine the conservative grass roots candidate, and to help the plain vanilla milquetoast establishment candidate win.

Sometimes political threesomes just plain suck. And not in a good way. They can be designed to exploit the big-hearted nature of so many grass roots activists, so that their enemy, the GOPe, can win.

Lesson learned.

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.

 

If you want freedom, you are going to have to fight for it

Nevada senator Harry Reid changed the US Senate rules last year, which may not sound like a big deal.  But those rules had been in place for about 215 years, a significant portion of America’s existence.

The former senate rules ensured that a slim majority of senators could not win important votes by a slim majority of votes.  Important votes like confirming federal judges, whose stamp on the nation’s character lasts for decades.  Some federal judge nominees are extremists, nakedly partisan political activists who only wear the black robes for effect, not because they are truly dignified and above the political fray.  The former rules prevented those extremists from being confirmed to the bench unless a super-majority of US senators agreed.

Harry Reid’s rule changes allowed his party to ramrod through a whole freak show of kooks, anti-American anarchists, and other assorted wing nuts.  These are not people dedicated to serving American citizens; these people are at war with the America we grew up with.  They think that Communism only failed because the Soviets didn’t implement it correctly, not that Marxism is a bad idea.

Last week I sat about ten feet away from where US Senator Pat Toomey was speaking at the Perry County Republican Committee Fall Dinner (kudos to county chairman Don McClure for getting Toomey to speak to us).  Sure, Toomey said a lot of good stuff.  But then he dropped a bombshell, even worse than his ill-fated anti-gun legislation last year: If the Republicans regain the US Senate in two weeks, they will return the Senate rules back to the old set.

Toomey said that this would be done to “prove” that Republicans are “better” than Democrats.

Well, what the hell, Patrick?  The liberals are playing to win, to win everything, to win all the power, to take over the entire nation, and the Republican party establishment is engaged in a game of checkers.

In Houston we got to see what Liberals-Gone-Wild really looks like, as the new mayor there served subpoenas on many of the pastors in the city, who had dared to exercise their First Amendment rights and oppose the mayor’s policies.  In other words, the only free speech under liberals is speech that they approve of, using the full force of government coercion to achieve their goal.  In other words, we are in a fight for survival, for the basic core of American democracy.  We have to win this fight, because if people like the Houston mayor win, if people like Barack Hussein Obama win, every citizen loses.

Here’s the thing that people like US Senator Pat Toomey just do not understand, that they will never understand: A gentlemanly duel with the liberals will not succeed.

Instead, a bar room brawl is what is needed, and frankly, it is what is desired by the disaffected grass roots activists who otherwise fuel the Republican party.

If you want to hold onto your freedoms, you’d better fight like hell to hold onto them, fight at least as hard as your opponent, if not harder.  That means letting the people who changed the US Senate rules learn to live with that change under Republican administration.  The Republicans should run the US Senate for at least one year, maybe two years, under Harry Reid’s new rules.

Any Republican senator who cannot support this stance is not really committed to winning back the America that the liberals have dramatically damaged over the past six years.  Republican senators who are only committed to the meaningless game of checkers, to the effete gentlemanly duel, what are they doing there?

Step aside, Patrick.  The rest of us are rolling up our sleeves and grabbing something solid and heavy to set this situation right.  That’s right, that heavy lifting is always left to the grass roots activists, isn’t it….

Is our intraparty war “Mars vs. Earth”?

Scott Wagner’s crushing defeat of PA State Rep. Ron Miller (a very nice man, for those who do not know him) last week is just one more political race in a string of races over the past few years that have seen the Republican grass roots increasingly stand up to or defeat Republican establishment insiders armed with faux endorsements and tons of party cash (that should be used to defeat liberalism, not defeat conservative Republican candidates).

Here is an article from this week, in which Josh First is quoted about this sad phenomenon:  

(Although I am conservative, I don’t know how I became a “hardline conservative,” but in the context of the grass roots vs. the GOP establishment, I’ll take it, as I am passionate about politics being an open, accountable, and transparent process)

This present situation (hopefully to be ended soon) reminds me of this scene from the movie Mars Attacks!, where Jack Nicholson is the grass roots activist and the Martians are the GOP establishment insiders…   

Goin’ to the big show

The NRA may not do a great job of thanking, recognizing, or appreciating its members’ grass roots work that shut down the Eastern Outdoors Sports Show and turned it into the Great American Outdoor Show, but the show is on, nonetheless. I’ll be there all week, off and on, and I hope to see you there.

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

By Josh First

November 14, 2012

More than enough recriminations are flying around about who and what caused Mitt Romney to lose last Tuesday’s presidential election: Foolish staffers, inaccurate polling, Obama redistributing private property of America’s makers to the takers and thus buying their votes, a prolonged, punishing primary, poor ground game by complacent Republicans, uninspiring/insipid/kind/tepid/limp/weak/tame/nice/flaccid moderate Republican candidates, etc. Rather than re-hashing and reassigning the blame, let’s move America and our core, traditional values forward, analyzing things we can change to guide us.

Out of all of the reasons, causes, and excuses for last week’s unimaginable election failure, two solvable challenges do stand out: 1) Biased media reporting, and 2) the poor relationship between many Republican voters and the Republican Party establishment.

‘Media’ includes both the various faux news political advocacy outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, NYT, MSNBC, Washington Post, etc. and otherwise known as the mainstream media, as well as the entertainment shows like Letterman, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, et. al.

Republican Party ‘establishment’ includes the careerist elected officials, 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 tea party activists are not necessarily included in this group.

Last Tuesday’s voting data show that Romney received fewer votes than McCain received in 2008, even as Obama also received far fewer votes than his all-positive campaign got in 2008. So, despite Obama’s catastrophic economy, foreign policy failures, gaffes, corruption, and bizarre running mate, Republican enthusiasm for Romney was actually lower than Republican enthusiasm of four years ago. Despite all that was on the line, Republicans were unwilling to go to the polls. Why?

As noted, the anti-Republican mainstream media artificially propped up a failed, corrupt Obama administration, and the Republican Party establishment again demonstrated its disdain for Republican voters and activists. These two issues are totally fixable. If Republican leaders want to fix them.

That the American mainstream media are political advocates first and foremost, and won’t report facts unless they hurt Republicans and conservatives, is well known and easily proven. Well, folks, stop whining about it! Fix it, change it, shape that battlefield! For all the money that goes into promoting Republican and conservative causes, why can’t we come up with more friendly news outlets, comedians (like Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy), and TV shows set up for them? Breitbart, The Blaze, Drudge Report, Washington Free Beacon, Frontpage Magazine, Project Veritas and other new media deserve our support and are making headway, but wouldn’t it help if wealthy Republicans purchased some of the nation’s failing newspapers and rejuvenated them to get back to reporting factual news, like the Benghazi cover-up? Wouldn’t it be enjoyable to see some of Breitbart’s investigative reporting show up in print in hometown newspapers, or on a news channel? Can no one create a conservative stand-up comedy club, or a conservative comedy TV show, to give a platform to Jon Stewart’s alter ego? Yes, we can. Richard Scaife can’t do it all by himself.

The second issue is Republican Party vs. Republican voters, sometimes called the grass roots. As in, profit vs. principle, or, “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,” said Lehigh University professor Frank Davis, back in February. “The Republican Party has used these grass roots individuals to further the party establishment’s interests, and I think these people may want to choose their own representatives, rather than rely on the leadership,” Davis observed.

The onus for reconciling the two groups is fully on the Republican Party leaders, staffers, and functionaries; 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 final costs are just too high. Stay out and give the people a voice, and you’ll be rewarded with more inspired voters, more volunteers on the ground, more elections won.

Some examples: First, running a gazillionaire for president during the worst economy in 70 years, where his wealth contrasted with citizens’ daily needs…does that make sense? It sure did to the Party establishment, which was long ago greasing the skids for Romney staffers into county Party offices well before the last primary closed. 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 needed to connect to and persuade regular Americans.

Second example: 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 week’s general election. These candidates made perfect sense to insiders. But when trotted out into the public venue, these perfect candidates went down in flames.

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 professional judgment, but the professional class suffers from an inspiration gap, pushing plain vanilla, pre-fabricated, cookie cutter candidates who are “supposed” to win, but who fail after spectacularly expensive investments. The Party does actually need Republican voters to get their candidates across the goal line, so will they listen to the voters?

Which leads to the second solvable challenge — successful candidates, their Party backers, and establishment leaders must unify the Republican Party. That means putting aside egos, picking up the phone, calling their opponents, and asking to meet with them, for their support and help. Having myself run in two Republican primaries in the past three years, let’s look at how that works. In one race, the insider victor, state senator Dave Argall, graciously contacted me, asked me for help in his general election, gave me opportunities to speak in public on his behalf, and turned my hard work into a benefit, rallying the Party. Dave has had a lot of races in the past few years, and he has won all but one of them. Establishment or not, the guy knows how to treat people right, he benefits from it, and so does the Party.

Contrast Argall’s generosity of spirit with the treatment I got over the past eight months from state and local Republican officials, who did everything possible to exclude and punish me for exercising a simple American right. Despite running one hell of a strong, last-second, pick-up campaign for state senate back in January (thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court), most of the establishment pros treated me like some sort of disloyal pest, with a couple guys behaving outright disrespectfully to my face. One primary voter, a supporter of my opponent, gave our volunteer the middle finger from his front door; when we looked him up on the Internet, it turned out he is a leader in our opponent’s church. You know what? My supporters noticed this stuff. The establishment candidate from my race lost in the general election, attracting far fewer Republican volunteers and votes than he should have otherwise gotten in Republican bastions. From these circumstances the Tea Party recruits its newest members, and Republican voters stay home.

If I sound cranky, let me just get an honest answer to this one question: Is there sufficient humility among our Party leaders to learn from these mistakes, to look inside, and make the necessary tough changes?

In sum, if Republicans want to win elections, they need to be the Party of Opportunity. Change the media battlefield, and also act like a good man to your Party members, including the more conservative, independent-minded ones. We are all in this together, let’s start acting like it.

Stay in the conversation at www.joshfirst.com and on our political Facebook page

Rule 15 Fight at Convention

Three Romney mailers arrived over past two months, asking me for money.
Sure, I said.
Then came the Rule 15 fight at the convention. Establishment wants us hard working conservatives to move the party ball forward, but then they strip away our influence.
Good luck, guys!