(From the Dispatches)

It’s been a little over a month since I mentally said, “Oh, ALRIGHT already!” to ColdWarrior and Ron Robinson and got actively involved in the local GOP by attending my first event  – our county convention.  Now seems like a good time to offer a few reflections on the experience.  My purpose in writing is two-fold:  First, to express that – while you may understand, intellectually, how right CW and RR are every time you read one of their exhortations about the need to get involved – you can’t and won’t really understand how right they are until you actually do it.  Second, I want to offer the encouragement that you – yes, you – really can do this.  Right now, from where you are.  Wherever you are.

Here in Georgia, our county conventions were held on March 12th.  Counties with population over 80,000 held their precinct conventions a month earlier.  Smaller counties like the one where I live, with population under 80,000, held their precinct conventions on the same day as the county conventions, just an hour earlier.  This much I learned from our state GOP website.  I had to do some sleuthing to track down our county party.  There was no online presence whatsoever for the county party, and there were no specifics for our county convention listed on the state party website.  Several phone calls and emails got me in contact with our county vice-chairman and chairman; from them I was able to learn the location of the precinct and county conventions.  I showed up at the appointed hour for the precinct convention to find that I was one of five (yes, you read that right) people – all women -  who showed up in time to be officially seated.  One other gentleman wandered in late, after the convention had been called into session.

For perspective:  We have nine precincts in our county.  One of the other five ladies was from my precinct.  The other three were from different precincts.   Five out of the nine precincts had no representation at all. Since I was the first representative from my precinct to arrive, I more or less claimed the precinct chairman spot.  [“Ok, ColdWarrior,” I thought.  “I’m here.”]   All five of us automatically became  “precinct delegates” to the county convention.  This was simply a matter of filling out some “credentials” forms and verifying that each of us was, in fact, a registered voter in the particular precinct.  According to the allocation set up by the state party, there should have been 168 such delegates.  There were, I repeat, only five of us.

The second hour arrived, and the county convention was called into session.  We said the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer.  Since I was the one with a pad and pen already out, I became convention secretary.  And since I’m a lawyer and have some experience with drafting legislation, I also became chairman of the “resolutions committee.”

The convention went into recess while the rules committee, the nominating committee, and the resolutions committee (yes, the same five of us) met.  While I was intrigued – and rather proud, actually – watching the scene of the five of us meticulously carrying out the convention process in precise accordance with the rules (because the rules are important), there was another part of me that felt as though I had inadvertently stumbled into some sort of Monty Pythonesque skit, where folks were taking off and putting on imaginary hats to assume multiple and different roles.  I could almost hear Cleese and Palin (Michael, not Sarah) bantering:

“She’s the resolutions committee chairman.”

“Oh, she is not.  She is the convention secretary.”

“No, she isn’t!”

“Yes, she is.”

“No, no, she’s the on the nominating committee.”

“But, she can’t possibly be on the nominating committee.  She’s on the resolutions committee.”

Before I had time to think twice about it, I found myself nominated as county chairman – because I was willing to say yes.  The delightful woman who had served as our county chairman for years (one of the grand Republican ladies of Georgia; I want to be a lot like her when I grow up) had decided step down due to her desire to focus on state-level activities, and the amazing and energetic lady who was (and still is) vice-chairman declined the nomination for chairman due to her job. Our long-serving treasurer and secretary wanted to keep their same positions.  The convention went back into session.  We approved some resolutions (the rough drafts of them, actually – I cleaned them up after I got home and typed them up in final form). The slate of officers was elected.  Then it was time to select delegates for the district and state conventions.   According to our rules, you don’t have to be present to fill one of these positions, and it’s a good thing, since there weren’t enough of us there.  So we all got on our cell phones to try to round up enough people willing to agree to fill the slots.

By just after noon, we had filled out the appropriate forms and were adjourned.  And that is how I – feeling slightly dazed, and still hearing echoes of Cleese in my head – became county chairman, and my husband and I both become voting delgates to our district and state conventions.  I was elated.  I was terrified at what I’d gotten myself into.  And I was profoundly disturbed.  How is it that, in a county which votes solidly red, at least for state and national elections, we found ourselves struggling to round up people to be delegates to district and state conventions scheduled to be held less than a 30-minute drive away?  How the hell do we ever win any elections with this lack of participation and basic organization in the party?  Where was everybody?

The answer is, of course, that they were in the same places I’ve been all those times before I actually showed up – they were busy with family, home, job, church, volunteer work, little league, scouts, music lessons, etc., because those are the kinds of things that conservatives do, after all.  Our values dictate that we are generally busy people, and we are busy with worthwhile things.  But I will say this to those of you who remain on the fence about getting involved – you are needed.  Desperately.  You can do as much or as little as you feel that you have time for – but any time you can devote to your local party is needed if we are going to win fight facing us in 2012.

Later that weekend, after I calmed down, I realized that I’d been presented with a more or less bullet-proof opportunity to make a real difference.  After all, if we have even ten or twelve people at the next county convention, I will have grown the local party by 100%, right?  How badly could I screw up?  So I dived in.  For the past month, I’ve been working on very basic things.  Domain registered.  Website in the planning stages.   Logo.  Facebook page (facebook.com/jonescountygagop; if you want to “like” us, we’d be honored!).   Business cards.  Executive committee.  Post office box.  Trying to learn enough about the folks who want to run the district and state to make intelligent voting decisions at those conventions.  It’s been exciting, with lots of peaks and valleys along the way.  But what I’ve learned – and I mean really learned, deep down inside where I live – is that there is no cavalry coming. Believe that.  We are the cavalry. Me.  My husband.  And people just like us.

Like you, for instance.

I put off doing this for a long time because I didn’t feel like I knew enough.  I certainly didn’t know anything about “party politics” or “how it all works.”  But what I’ve discovered in the past month is that there is no magic quantum of knowledge that one must have in order to participate and make a real difference.  It’s mostly common-sense work that is needed – setting up structures, deciding what needs to be done, prioritizing the work, delegating tasks, and then doing it or following up to make sure it gets done.  These are the same sorts of things you already know how to do. If you’ve ever served as a room mother, coached a little league team, taken the scouts on a camping trip without losing any of them, organized a family Thanksgiving gathering, birthday party, or church bake sale, you already have most of the skills and knowledge you need. The rest, you can learn.

I’m going to offer one other observation here.  Those of us who have awakened to what it going on in our country in the last several years wonder how in the world things got so far off track.  How did the “D.C. ruling class” become the “D.C. ruling class”?  Where did they get the idea that they don’t need to listen to “ordinary folks”?  I think the answer is because we “ordinary folks” have, to some extent, abdicated our responsibility.  We stopped showing up and we stopped participating in the process, other than voting in primary (maybe) and general elections.  This allows the “ruling class” to remain the “ruling class” by putting “their folks” in charge of running the party.  The only real way to alter that dynamic is to get involved with your local party, and get enough like-minded people involved with you, so that “their folks” are outnumbered.  Each of “their folks” still only has one vote at the local, district, and state level.  Changing things only involves having more votes than they do.  We accomplish this by showing up. As Reagan said, there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.   We accomplish this by showing up.

Find our when and where the next local meeting is and get thee to it.

Kimberly_Schwartz
Southern girl and proud of it. Wife, mother, prosecuting attorney, political conservative, and home-based business owner; living and working in Central Georgia, USA. Dabbler in web design, photography, and mixed media. Still prefers reading and writing over math. Totally obsessed rubber stamper and scrapbooker. Shares several acres of easily-defensible farmland with husband, daughter, four dogs, and way too many cats.