Updated 1/16/13 at 2:10pm to include point about non-partisan requirement for some organizations.
The Maryland Conservative Action Network’s “Turning the Tides” conference was this past Saturday in Annapolis, filling a ballroom at the Doubletree Hotel. The event conflicted with a state party event in Annapolis the same day, which I thought, while not intentional, was decidedly apropos to the relationship between the party and the Tea Party Movement.
I attended as a vendor, but also with a well-rounded perspective, as not only an original Tea Party Movement activist, but as a former elected member of the Maryland Republican Party as well.
A colleague noted that the vendor tables were occupied by conservative political organizations that would never have a table at a state party function. Among the vendors were Help Save Maryland, Leadership Institute, Americans For Prosperity, FairTax.Org, The Maryland Republican Network, Institute on the Constitution, RedMaryland, Election Integrity Maryland, Accuracy in Media, the Franklin Center, Conservative Victory, Montgomery County Republican Women, and Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland.
One reason some of these organizations do not actively participate with the state party is that many are non-partisan organizations and are therefore not permitted to do so in order to maintain their tax exempt status. Several others are part of party coalitions, and all of them share common values with the Republican Party. Still, there is a disconnect like one would see in a family rift. I sense that both sides want a coalition, indeed full integration; but neither fully trusts the other.
Attendees of MDCAN blame the party for not reaching out to conservative groups or Tea Party Movement candidates. The party looks at events like Turning The Tides and asks, “Where were you during the election?” The anti-establishment group feels betrayed by some party officials who have acted in a manner they view as “party over principle”. The party sees the anti-establishment as snipers, doing little to help us win elections (indeed, undermining) while being armchair quarterbacks with only criticism to offer.
The exchange must be a popcorn moment for the liberals in Maryland, whose Alinsky techniques of divide and conquer have worked in a textbook fashion.
My view is that anti-establishment conservatives, who consider the party as being a good ole boy network, are extremely dedicated and principled, but an exclusive, purist club itself. That may work in Oklahoma, but not in Maryland. They are the ones carrying a grudge, but they’ve also been the receivers of party blunders.
Most recently, there was the hesitancy of the party to take a stand on some of the referendum questions. Once they finally did, then along comes letters from Michael Steele and Audrey Scott in favor of the gambling expansion. There was the vote to waive Rule 11 in 2010, which allowed the party to receive RNC money for Ehrlich and Harris prior to the primary, to the dismay of challenger Brian Murphy. But I’m not trying to rub salt in open wounds, just acknowledge some actions by the party that alienated the anti-establishment.
On the other hand, the anti-establishment may be assigning evil where only a little exists. There is a lack of practical understanding on its part, forced out by pragmatic stubbornness. The fact is that Republicans must win elections in Maryland to make gains. The Tea Party Movement, through various organizations and efforts, have had about as much success in Maryland in furthering conservatism as the state party has had in electing Republicans.
I think this session will prove we have reached critical mass in radical liberalism in Maryland and we can no longer indulge our conservative fantasies. It’s time to relearn how to walk, talk, and feed ourselves after years of living in a coma. We are the radicals now, and have to start as the socialists did decades ago, with patience, unity, and a steadfast local ground game.