Will Deschamps won re-election as chairman today at the GOP convention, and Jennifer Fielder, a candidate with ties to the militia movement and some of its shadier members, became vice-chair.
Derek Skees, who had run on a platform of requiring republicans to swear a loyalty oath to uphold Tea Party principles, lost. And Christy Clark, who was the incumbent vice chair, also lost, displaced by Fielder. Clark came from what she herself termed the “responsible wing” of the GOP–which is an automatic ticket home. Words like “responsible” or “reasonable” or “moderate” are not terms that a GOP politician can now embrace. They are radioactive.
An interesting item was mentioned in the Billings Gazette, though, that could make one wonder about the way that the GOP chooses its leaders. The results of the election, the full tally, are not disclosed to anyone. From the sound of it, Will Deschamps and his top man, Bowen Greenwood, who he hires and pays, are the only ones who have access to the vote tally. Why would election results be kept secret? And how can anyone verify that these elections are legit? This seems to be a situation where Deschamps and his top staff simply declare that Deschamps has won. What proof is there? If what I am reading is correct, then this is indeed a strange state of affairs to be found present in a political election. Openness and transparency, one would think, are principles that that a political party, out of all types of entities on earth, should adhere to.
I don’t know what the Democrats do but I’d be surprised if their election results, at least the raw tally, are not available for public inspection or the inspection of all who voted.
But back to the substance of the election, what we are seeing is a predictable rumbling of tectonic plates in the GOP. Deschamps has struggled to bring his party any statewide victories in his six years in office now. Everyone is getting bounced, notably Denny Rehberg in 2012. In fact for the last five years, the GOP has held, at any one time, only two statewide offices out of eight available (unless of course you count John Bohlinger, bwahahaha!).
And now that the libertarian party has effectively become the Tea Party ballot option, and is energized and taking significant votes from GOP candidates (Rehberg gave up over 6% in his race), statewide victories for the GOP will become rarer still. And, the GOP has an additional, tremendous weight around its ankles that is dragging it steadily down into the deep: with each additional year of extremism, fewer young people are becoming Republicans and fewer normal, successful, smart people from the private sector are taking a shot at running for public office as Republicans. It’s gotten too extreme; few normal people are willing to be associated with the nutjob core of the GOP.
Which means the legislature is all that the GOP has, and will have, for quite some time to come.
So in a way, I don’t blame the the wingnuts, the Tea Party types, for being pissed off by the fact that a few moderates in the legislature keep spoiling the fun, cutting deals with the democratic governor Bullock and refusing to go along with the right wing. After all, if the legislature is the only thing that the GOP can reliably control, if statewide candidates have no longer any serious chance of becoming governor or senator, then why not actually demand results as opposed to merely seeking electoral victories? Why would a Tea Partier care about having control of the legislature, if not to implement an agenda? Big victories in races for governor and the US Senate, when they exist as major end goals for a political party, tend to cause the party to be more moderate.
The GOP, though, is quickly pricing itself out of that scenario, and the legislature, which is tough for the Democrats to take back because of the way legislative districts have been drawn, is the only thing it has left. So it makes sense that Christy Clark should have no real chance, and that Jennifer Fielder has ousted her.