On the heels of David Jennings’ pointed article on Chris Busby’s recent experience before the Harris County Republican Party Vacancy Committee, Chris Busby’s follow-up, and buzz and comments among activists, is there more to say? Yeah. Lots. Let’s keep talking.
There’s always tension between political activists, and their party’s candidates and officeholders. Activists advance principles. A party elects candidates. But their interests have to be balanced. A party that advances no principles is meaningless. But a party that wins no elections is irrelevant.
Everyone has a pet reason for the GOP losses in 2012. You can fault almost any factor when elections are close. I for one don’t believe standing for traditional principles is to blame. Not only should we stand for our beliefs – we can win with them. The Reagan/Edmund Burke/Bill Buckley coalition of economic, social, and foreign policy conservatives is still viable. But it needs updating.
I believe the Texas GOP has the right policies in place. But the irony is that demanding adherence on every issue can lose them all. How critical is opposing initiative and referendum? Or limiting jury service to registered voters? Did you know those are positions in the Texas GOP platform? Enforcing purity at all levels of party activism is not a winning formula. A party is a coalition. Winning in politics means building coalitions with those we don’t always agree with on everything.
We need what some call “infighting” to forge a new path for the GOP in Harris County. That means those of us who call ourselves conservative – including those of us who are pro-life and socially conservative – have to keep the big picture in mind. The status quo is hurting the cause of all conservatives, economic and social, because we are losing Harris County. More of the same – more of the status quo, more cowbell – will deliver Harris County to the Left for the foreseeable future.
Consultants and paid opinion makers exert too much influence in Harris County Republican primaries. Chasing money and (short-term) power, they fiddle while the Party burns. They play in the primary sandbox – focusing on winning half of the mere 8% to 12% of voters who bother to vote in springtime Republican primaries. Then the GOP gets washed away by the waves of November elections.
This ain’t news. The Democrats have won the top of the ticket in Harris County three cycles in a row: 2008, 2010, and 2012. That followed the Dem takeover of Dallas in 2006. The Republican Party in Harris County has shriveled for over a decade. In the mid‑90s, there were over 700 Republican Precinct chairs in Harris County. Today, the County GOP has fewer than 500 precinct chairs – a 30% decline in the face of a 40% greater County population (3 million then; over 4.2 million today).
Where do these trends lead? Do we abandon the urban battleground – in Houston, the most ethnically diverse big city in the country – so the Democrats can occupy it uncontested? Can the Harris County Republican Party keep retreating west, until it ends up in Waller County?
Something’s gotta change.
Let’s learn from the Left. After getting whupped in 2004, the Democrats doubled down on their statist ideology, fortified by their Right & Left Coast cultural shock troops. They built coalitions of like‑but‑not‑identically‑minded people with a focus on advancing their cause, by little steps and big steps. They won Colorado. But it’s not plausible that our country swerved so far to the Left so quickly. Rather, our side has been outmaneuvered and outhustled for a decade, locally and nationally. Read The Blueprint and Inside the Cave see what the Left has been up to. And now they have Texas in their sights.
We need to get serious about winning Harris County. That means more grassroots activism, reaching real voters in communities the GOP has long ignored. The GOP needs better (modern!) technology, real marketing, sound finances, empowered activists. Quit preaching to the choir and start winning converts. We need to focus on beating Democrats and the Left.
Harris County ConservativesInAction is focused on equipping and training our activists with tools they can used to win elections. We will work this year with GOP activists, trainers, and precinct chairs, and other conservative groups across Harris County to help grassroots be more effective in their neighborhoods and precincts to win elections. We ask those with interest, ability, or money to pitch in. We need your help. Rome wasn’t built, and Harris County can’t be regained, overnight. But enough of us working together can carry the day. Don’t wait. Our country is at stake.
Paul Simpson is a lifelong conservative Republican grassroots activist, campaign organizer, and former Harris County Republican Party precinct chair, legal counsel, and treasurer; a lawyer, engineer, husband, and dad; and co-founder of Harris County ConservativesInAction. You can contact him at psimpson@ConservativesInAction.net.