The need for outreach and how best to promote it was an underlying theme during the recent Virginia Advance for Republicans in Chantilly, Virginia. But perplexing comments by Virginia Delegate David Ramadan over the word could prove insulting to Hispanics and other minorities.
Fortunately, the damage was limited because of the lack of conservative outreach. Few, if any minorities were actually in attendance.
Ramadan stated, “From now on let’s not use the word ‘outreach’ anymore,” during the RPV’s “engagement” breakfast, suggesting the new directional buzz words conservatives are trying for are “engage” and “include.”
He encouraged banning the word completely, never wanting to hear the word “outreach” used again. Stafford’s lst District Congressman Rob Wittman paid little heed to Ramadan’s command by using the word several times in discussing his outreach success. Minorities and veterans in Stafford rewarded Wittman’s demonstrably successful outreach program by reelecting him to a fourth term with a landslide victory in November. Nevertheless, eyebrows were raised when Ramadan interrupted Wittman with a rude rebuke over using the word.
Wittman immediately delivered a polite but firm rebuke of his own to the junior Prince William and Loudoun county statesman by saying, “Outreach is the first step … engage and include is the second step.” Aside from that misunderstanding the only other noticeable concern from the rank-and-file was who would be replacing the retiring RPV chairman Pat Mullins in January.
Several prominent party leaders including First District Chairman Eric Herr endorsed 10th District’s John Whitbeck who joined the Republican Party’s hall of shame by telling a racist joke about Jews before the introduction of then gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli at a campaign stop. Incredibly, those like Ramadan who state “the man just made a mistake” fail to grasp the gravity of the upcoming state central committee’s action if they elect Whitbeck.
Unlike the unfortunate incident that plagued Senator George Allen over a word he used on the stump, unaware all his life it was even remotely insulting, Whitbeck’s genuinely bigoted words are gargantuan in contrast and indicate a perceptible character flaw.
If Republicans elect a man to head the RPV who lacks the political maturity to acknowledge racist jokes are indefensible at any time, they indeed deserve to continue to reap what they sow. That so far has included losing the presidency, all three top state offices, and both U.S. Senate seats. But there’s still time, and other more suitable candidates exist who independent minority voters can respect.
In spite of that political dilemma, five hundred party loyalists listened to the repeated messages of the need to have a positive strategy with humorous remarks from keynote speakers including Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former RNC and RPV chairman Ed Gillespie who came within a whiskers’ hair of defeating Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
Perhaps select Republican psychology to no longer use a word like outreach is because they refuse to advance substantive immigration legislation as they attack President Obama’s compassionate but controversial executive actions regarding the undocumented.
And the reality is that divisive politicians like Stafford’s Speaker Bill Howell and tea party supporter and former Supervisor Susan Stimpson, who announced she will challenge him for his seat, both have severe outreach problems. No doubt the Stafford Democratic Party is keeping close tabs on those forthcoming political fireworks.
The Republican Advance was an opportunity to motivate the conservative base with hope and positive change. I joined political powerhouses Linda Bartlett, President of the Virginia Federation of Republican Women, and legislative committee co-chair Jean Gannon, making the rounds at the key hospitality functions where the future of the party nationally may rest with stalwart conservatives like Wittman and Congresswoman-elect Barbara Comstock.
Wittman, who recently returned from a visit to the Middle East, shared his concerns with constituents visiting his suite about the need for military vigilance through strength as well as the reality that Muslim leaders and clerics he met renounced violent actions that terrorists suggest are mandated in the Koran.
Comstock, clearly on a well-deserved election honeymoon with supporters and friends, was mobbed while recently named chief of staff Susan Falconer, the loyal former campaign manager, was formally and deservedly recognized for coordinating a brilliant campaign victory.
In the wings striving for relevancy were also-rans Tony DeTora and Shak Hill who were soundly defeated by Gillespie during their party convention at Roanoke in June. With the poor showing Hill made during his senate campaign, a future “Shak attack” could be considered another political liability for Republicans.
And one of the more contemptuous breakout sessions was over “The Red Card Solution.” Moderator Danny Vargas, one of the handful of Hispanic Republicans present, refereed the discussion on border control and guest worker permitting. The concept, originated and discussed by Helen Krieble of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, suggested the privatized program would eliminate government intervention and was the answer to the nation’s existing illegal employment problem.
Reminiscent of the Bracero Program of the 60s, Krieble’s program sadly does little to address the present situation and can be viewed as political genocide for undocumented Hispanics and families, many who have served with distinction in America’s armed forces. Sadly, until Dream Act legislation is responsibly addressed nationally with bi-partisan legislation, Presidential action through executive fiat will continue, rendering Krieble’s program unrealistic. That, or Republicans actually uniting to win back the White House and the Virginia mansion.
Nevertheless, the loyal masses strived to see and be seen with the party’s superstars. Barring a major scandal, expect to see Gillespie, State Senator Mark Obenshain, and Delegate Rob Bell as part of the next Republican slate. But should Gillespie hold out for another U.S. Senate try, pistol Pete Snyder, the gregarious conservative Northern Virginia entrepreneur, will be in the mix. Ramadan, sadly, still may not get it … but that’s why you need outreach. Fortunately, others with a history of winning elections, do.
Daniel Cortez, a distinguished Vietnam veteran and award winning writer-broadcaster, is active in veterans and political affairs with an independent voter perspective. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.