Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ellen Sauerbrey: "Showing Up Counts for Something"

One of the iron laws of MDGOP politics is the fact that, other things being equal, the establishment of the past will always support the establishment of the present.

We witnessed this phenomenon last year when a variety of party elders – the mausoleum wing of the MDGOP – lined up in support of Audrey Scott’s unsuccessful bid to become national committeewoman.

At the time, one of Mrs. Scott’s most ardent backers was former GOP gubernatorial nominee, House Minority Leader, and Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey.

Well, Mrs. Sauerbrey has jumped into the fray again, this time by circulating a letter in support of interim MDGOP Chairman Diana Waterman’s bid to serve out the remainder of departed Chairman Alex Mooney’s term.

Mrs. Sauerbrey’s message follows in its entirety:

GOP Friends, 
The Maryland Republican Central Committee will make an important decision in a few weeks, selecting a new Chairman to fill out the remainder of the term to which Alex Mooney was elected. Needless to say, the coming year is a critical one, leading up to the 2014 election.  Our priority and our common mission must be to elect Republicans dedicated to our values of conservative limited government, personal responsibility and individual freedom.  We cannot afford the luxury of division and infighting. 
Congratulations on the excitement and debate surrounding the campaign for chairman.  However, instead of a spirit of unity, I hear concerns about   “the establishment” vs “the activists”…  “insiders” vs “outsiders”.   Clearly, we need both.  We need  seasoned leadership and experience and we must fully embrace new activists,  new energy, and new ideas  if we are to turn around the declining trajectory of the Maryland Republican Party... 
Diana Waterman has shown me both.    For the past few years, she has worked tirelessly on campaigns and party building activity.    Showing up counts for something and Diana seems to be everywhere.  Being State Party Chairman is hard and often thankless work. I believe  Diana is prepared to put the time and energy into the job. 
I share the concern that our party has failed to fully embrace groups like the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty,  that are a source of highly motivated, dedicated, and often young volunteers.  Diana has committed to me her intent to establish an Advisory Committee that will welcome  and involve the vital  energy and ideas of these groups. 
She has given considerable thought to a comprehensive program to move the party forward.  I hope you will give her a chance to implement it..I support Diane’s candidacy and will do what I can to help her and the party succeed. Ellen

Let me go through Mrs. Sauerbrey’s letter line by line.

Ellen Says: “Needless to say, the coming year is a critical one, leading up to the 2014 election.  Our priority and our common mission must be to elect Republicans dedicated to our values of conservative limited government, personal responsibility and individual freedom.  We cannot afford the luxury of division and infighting.”

My Take: This is a pervasive thought among members of the MDGOP establishment: Dissent in any form constitutes “division and infighting” and is unacceptable. This same sentiment caused a Talbot County central committee official to purge from that party’s website comments that were critical of interim GOP chair Diana Waterman. How ironic that a party which stresses personal freedom would resort to Soviet-style tactics to insulate its leaders from fair criticism.

Ellen Says: “However, instead of a spirit of unity, I hear concerns about   ‘the establishment’ vs ‘the activists’…  ‘insiders’ vs ‘outsiders’”.   

My Take: For me, this was the most interesting part of Mrs. Sauerbrey’ statement in that, based on the language she uses, she seems to be responding directly to points I made in a prior blog post, and in a subsequent op-ed which recently ran in the Baltimore Sun.  I’m certainly flattered to have drawn a rebuttal from one of the MDGOP’s barons. In any event, these are organic and not contrived concerns resulting from the disconnect which exists between party regulars and grassroots activists.  Unless the MDGOP addresses them directly and honestly, they will remain.

Ellen Says: “We need seasoned leadership and experience and we must fully embrace new activists,  new energy, and new ideas  if we are to turn around the declining trajectory of the Maryland Republican Party...”

My Take: No argument from me there. Indeed, I give Ellen credit for offering a sanguine view of the MDGOP's political fortunes.

This contrasts with the fanciful account presented by Louis Pope, who in his recent letter writes: 

“After all the harsh and nasty emails and comments by some in our Party I feel terrible to have put Diana in such an awkward position, over the last three years she has been a driving force on the success of the Maryland Republican Party. She has given of her time, talented, and her own financial resources to keep our Party strong and vibrant…”

Um, let me review modern history:

2006: Bob Ehrlich loses.

2008: Andy Harris loses as John McCain carries his district by 19 points.

2010: Bob Ehrlich loses by a bigger margin than he did in 2006.

2012: The GOP loses one of its two remaining members of Congress, and is badly beaten on the ballot questions.

Exactly what “success” is Louis Pope referring to?

Ellen Says:Diana Waterman has shown me both.    For the past few years, she has worked tirelessly on campaigns and party building activity.    Showing up counts for something and Diana seems to be everywhere.  Being State Party Chairman is hard and often thankless work. I believe  Diana is prepared to put the time and energy into the job.”

My Take: Woody Allen famously said that, “Half of life is just showing up.” I’m not sure that is the primary characteristic people want in a party chairman. Vision matters as well. Based on Mrs. Waterman’s performance at the Montgomery County chairman’s debate I attended, she appears to be a caretaker for the party’s status quo. In other words, she’s an Aaron, not a Moses.

Ellen Says:I share the concern that our party has failed to fully embrace groups like the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty,  that are a source of highly motivated, dedicated, and often young volunteers.”

My Take: The rules changes adopted at the GOP convention in Tampa last summer are a major reason the groups Ellen mentions feel alienated towards the party regulars. Diana Waterman served on the Convention Rules Committee alongside Louis Pope.  Yet she has never publicly disclosed exactly what her role was with respect to the rules changes.

Ellen Says:I support Diane’s (sic) candidacy and will do what I can to help her and the party succeed.”

My Take: If you’re taking the time to endorse someone, one would hope you’d at least get the person’s name right in the endorsement.

Anyway, reading Mrs. Sauerbrey’s missive makes me wonder when other past GOP luminaries will weigh in on the chairman's race as well.  

Rest assured that, should Bob Ehrlich, Michael Steele, Roscoe Bartlett, Charles “Mac” Mathias, or the Teds (McKeldin and Agnew) opine, I’ll letcha know. 

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