I was hoping that we were done with most of this, and I am reluctant to revisit the past election season to this degree, but it must be done.
Today I had the opportunity to attend the District 26 monthly meeting which hosted the Kenskis as the featured speakers. They shared many of the “lessons learned” from the past election season from their perspective, and were overall very informative. I did notice however, that there were many points of revisionism that more than likely did not originate with them, but are nonetheless being passed along. Here are a few of the canards that need to be corrected in general:
1. The District 8 primary was a nasty affair on all sides. It really wasn’t. All of the nastiness began and continued with Steve Huffman, period. Steve attacked Graf, he attacked Hellon, and ran an overall despicable campaign that did major damage to the party in Southern Arizona. Now there can be disagreements as to how this is to be handled going forward, and the prices that those involved will need to pay, but if the state and local party believes that Huffman’s behavior can ultimately not be addressed or at least recognized, the damage will continue. Especially dangerous is the idea that Huffman could be simply inserted back into area politics without the issue being discussed and a solution going forward agreed to.
I am inclined to be forgiving to a point. However, the most disturbing issue is that we all knew who Huffman was when he began the campaign and where he would ultimately go. There was no controlling authority in place to dampen this and to make the competitors stick to a certain code of conduct or face a withdrawal of support. Or, if there was, those involved failed miserably and should be called on to offer a plan of how things will be handled differently in the future. This is the action item that must be addressed by 2008. I fear that covering up this issue will preclude that from happening.
2. The Kyl campaign was masterful and the lone highlight in Arizona politics. I am as glad as the next Republican that Kyl won, and recognize that a lot of hard work and money was poured into his reelection bid, however, the major saving grace for Kyl was that Pedersen was just plain unlikeable. Let’s face it, had Janet retired from being governor and run against Kyl, there is a better than even chance she would have won.
As Republicans we have been doing a lot of coasting, all the while depending upon Democrats to run terrible candidates. Most of the time they have been happy to oblige us. This election cycle, this attitude finally caught up with us. Instead of running on new, innovative ideas, we have clung to the “same old, same old,” volunteered with our checkbook rather than time and shoe leather, and sneered at longtime loyal subgroups with “What are you going to do, vote Democrat?” Low and behold, the Democrats found some candidates that made some of us say “perhaps.”
To not recognize this and adjust is just foolishness. Kyl benefitted from as much sheer luck as a masterful campaign. To anoint those involved as some type of political geniuses will only create more Karl Rove-type mythical heros. The decisions Karl Rove has made over the past two years helped directly contribute to Republican failure this cycle. He began to believe his own hype, and it cost us. If we are not careful, the same thing could happen to the Kyl campaign organizers. We got lucky this time, next time may not turn out as well for us.
3. Area Republicans are ready to put the last election behind them. There are rifts to be healed, not glossed over. Problems need to be recognized and steps put in place to make sure that the same problems do not arise again. Some of the ones that I have heard about, if not personally experienced:
1. Personal attacks in primary campaigns.
2. Republican leaders (not voters) crossing over to support Democrats
3. The suppression of feedback in party meetings
4. Single-shot voting in the state representative races
5. The perceived usurpation of the Graf and other local volunteers to work for Kyl, with no reciprocation from Kyl, either in endorsement or fundraising.
6. The throwing around of the “RINO” label.
7. Any process that circumvents the spirit of democracy in party governance.
8. The perception that National, State, and Local elements of the party are working at cross purposes.
Even if all of these slights are in some portion imagined, they must be addressed and a contingency must be put into place to deal with them BEFORE they become a problem again. There is plenty of time to get this done, and it will all need to be in stone especially with the added dimension of a McCain presidential run.
Update. . . . In rereading this, it does appear that I was a little hard on John Kyl and I didn't mean it to look that way. I did volunteer work for Kyl as well and recognize that he is a very good and respected senator that deserved to win. He also ran a very good campaign and is good on most if not all of the issues that I feel are important. All that said, Republicans lost this cycle that were just as talented and strong as Kyl, and it happened because the Democrats ran strong candidates against them. Respected incumbent senators should win by 10 points, we simply did what was necessary in this race to do the expected. We were also gifted with numerous flubs and missteps by Pedersen. Absent those, this is an entirely different race, and little to none of it had to do with Jon Kyl personally.
For the record I would have given the same analysis about Bush's victory over John Kerry if I would have had a blog back then. We deserved to pat ourselves on the back in 1980 and in 1994. With the victories we have been eeking out lately, there is still plenty of room for humility.