A bit of a late post today. There’s no good excuse—after a productive Friday afternoon of grading and errands, I indulged in a decadent, three- or four-hour gaming session with the new Civilization VI expansion, Gathering Storm. The verdict so far: dynamic weather events are fun, and the World Congress is interesting, but it doesn’t seem like $40 worth of new material. I am, however, enjoying colonizing Australia as Phoenicia.
But I digress. This morning the Florence County (SC) GOP held its county convention, an event that occurs every two years. I’ve moved out of the county, so this convention marked a transition for me: the end of my formal involvement with the group as Secretary and an executive committeeman.
It was a great convention, with none of the squabbling or jockeying or tedious proceduralism of the first FCGOP County Convention I attended six years ago, in 2013. It was a different world back then in many ways, what with the different factions of the Right trying to come to terms with another bitter presidential loss, each little group blaming the other.
There were the “professional” pols, what we might call the “Establishment” Republicans, who dominated the writing and amending of by-laws; these were the folks that used by-laws like a bludgeon, catching people in procedural traps and using every trick in the book to achieve their agenda. On the other hand, you had an active T.E.A. Party contingent, the upstarts trying to get a slice of the county pie. And then you had folks like me, coming in fresh and confused, just trying to get involved.
Indeed, it was at that county convention in 2013 that I was elected Third Vice Chair of the FCGOP, a position responsible for youth outreach and development. If you’ll indulge me, there’s a mildly interesting story about how that came about.
I’d attended precinct reorganization a few weeks prior to the convention. That’s a major process that every county party in the United States goes through every two years, in which the party reorganizes as many precincts as possible, thereby reconstituting its executive committee It’s a process that’s not well understood if you’re not in the GOP, but it’s fairly simple: you show up and organize your precinct, which means electing a president (who, in theory, organizes volunteers to campaign in the neighborhood) and an executive committeeman (who serves as part of a kind of “board of directors” for the county’s party).
Anyway, the weekend before the convention, the sole candidate for the 3VC position backed out, apparently because of withering comments that he was too young to do the role justice (the fact that he backed out for that reason demonstrating they may, in fact, have been correct). As such, there was no one running going into the convention.
Upon arriving at the convention, I floated the idea to a friend of mine (who would go on to become the Party Chairman a few short years later, and, as of today’s convention, the State Executive Committeeman for Florence County) of running to fill the position. I’m a teacher and enjoy working with young people, and if there was no one to fill the role, why not give it a shot?
He agreed to second my nomination if I could find someone to make the initial nomination. In the meantime, one of the “professional” types in the Party approached me, saying he’d heard I was interesting in running for the position. He then said that “they” had a candidate picked out, and not to worry about it; that, instead, I could get involved in the fall in some other capacity.
The way he approached me—and the fact that some shadowy group had their own pony they were trying to set up to win—made this dark horse all the more determined. What started out as “I want to serve” became, quite quickly, “Now I have to run out of principle.” Even if I lost, I didn’t want heir-apparent waltzing into the position.
So, I made a beeline for the one other person I knew, an elderly man I’d met at precinct reorg a few weeks earlier (I was from the 12th precinct, he from the 11th). He happily agreed to nominate me (he would later be expelled from the GOP for publicly endorsing a Democrat in a local election).
It came time for nominations, and my folks came through for me (albeit in reverse: my elderly friend seconded the nomination, and my destined-for-greatness buddy ended up nominating me, as I recall). Then, there were other nominations—for the young man who’d pulled out of the race! The third candidate—the one “they” had picked—was never nominated (I found out later that he pulled his name from consideration once he realized he’d have to run against someone).
With a competitive race, we had to give speeches. Recall, I’d come into this convention blind, not even sure if I was going to run. I had to craft a compelling, quick speech on the fly (as this blog attests, brevity is not my strength). I introduced myself to the convention, mentioned my experience teaching, and said that my opponent was far more knowledgeable of the Party’s mechanics than I was, and would do well.
When it came time for him to give his speech, he simply said, “I decline the nomination.” I was actually quite disappointed here. I was hoping he’d give it a shot, and we’d have a fair vote. But that statement cemented that, indeed, he was probably not ready for a leadership position (as I recall, he was quite young). There was also a whiff of loafer-lightened melodrama to his withdrawal, but I can’t say for sure.
Fortunately, there were no such behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Every officer was nominated and elected unanimously, with a strong slate of leadership to continue the FCGOP’s impressive growth.
After that, I headed to the Darlington County GOP’s precinct reorganization, so my little precinct in Lamar is now organized. I met a few folks and starting making some connections. I met a lady who taught at the school where I currently work years ago, before her children were born; I also talked to a Convention of States guy about that concept (a topic for a future post, perhaps). All in all, I met several nice people, with whom I look forward to building up the DCGOP.
That’s pretty much all politics is: talking to people, building relationships, and getting those folks to vote.