|St. Charles GOP Central Committee Chair, Jon Bennett|
Well I saw who it was that made the comments, the committee chairmen, Jon Bennett. And as I watched him pepper his comments as chairmen of the committee, with
, he came off, not too surprisingly, as frustrated, cornered and scared... which partially answered my first question.
- "Because I can",
- "Because I said so",
- "If you don't like it, too bad, I don't care"
He made every attempt possible to brush past the Facebook/Twitter issue (which was the reason for the crowd in the room) and not have it addressed, bristling at any hint at all that he might have acted foolishly. And it was only after a couple false starts where other committee members motioned for audience participation, and then seconded despite him, that anyone else had a chance to engage in the matter. He clearly would have preferred to 'move on' without acknowledgment or resolution.
Be all of that as it may, clearly, the members of the committee, displeased with the negative attention his comments had garnered them, decided to adopt a new media policy, but as it still allowed individuals to post their personal comments under the St. Charles GOP banner, it will still (or so their reading of it seemed, I haven't seen the actual policy) require the committee to meet later on and vote on countering any inflammatory ones. Oh, they also expect those who are allowed to post, to add their initials to their posts, when they're making any comments that express a personal opinion.
Guys, really? I kind of assumed that that was what the policy already was... that's the solution? Why would that result in anything different than what already happened? I doubt he'll realize next time, that he's stuck his foot in everyone else's mouth, any sooner than he did this time. He still thinks he acted 'with transparency', saying that
"I quickly identified myself", well, if 10 or so comments and insults on Facebook and Twitter later is quickly, ok, sure. But maybe if they set their page up with page moderators posting in their names on the page, maybe that would help make it clear?
Possibly a problem...
During his comments upon their social media policy, Bennett actually remarked that,
"I don't get Twitter, or care about it at all.", apparently not grasping that that might not be the best basis for an effective policy directed towards building a larger social media following. And people wonder why the GOP (as opposed to Grassroots) lags behind in social media.
Along the same lines, he seemed unaware that his several attempts to move past the issue without allowing comments from the committee or the audience, saying:
"I'm done with this subject, if you don't like it, I don't care.", might also be a tactical policy more likely to limit the effectiveness of GOP outreach, than to expand it. Neither was his grab for sympathy and justification for his manner very effective, when he said:
'I've... personally received... threatening email and phone calls, so I don't want to hear it from anyone!'Any of us who've been in the fray, even on the edges, for the last few years, have had some share in both of those. And I've seen some of Dana's email... I'll guarantee you that his little flurry of poison pen messages don't stack up to a single afternoon's worth of hers.
For him to have posted his personal opinion under the banner of the St. Charles GOP, putting Dana down, accusing her of taking money to divide the party, and implicitly accusing everyone else who might agree with any part of her position, was itself extremely divisive, putting both words and silence into the mouths of those who otherwise thought to see themselves as being aligned with the St Charles GOP.
To put forth under the name of the St. Charles GOP, the idea that disagreement is bad, that one particular side of a hotly contested debate is the one that all must either agree with or else be considered 'ill-informed' , was itself highly 'divisive'. Worst of all, to do that under the misguided notion of promoting (demanding) party unity, was downright boneheaded.
That seemed to be an issue he couldn't grasp. He kept asking me if someone with millions of listeners, who called for 'defunding the GOP, isn't that divisive?!'; the issue isn't whether or not such a thing is divisive, the issue is that an individual can put their personal opinion out there without it being an issue. But putting your own personal opinion out there under the banner of representing the entire organization - that's a problem. THAT is not only divisive, but wrong and destructive to the aims of that entire organization.
The simple solution to this kerfuffle, one that should have followed within hours, would have been to acknowledge that he unintentionally put the GOP's foot in it, say he's sorry, and be done with it.
But nope, that's not gonna happen. The committee might stand up to him in the future, but not now, and there are certainly no apologies coming from either him, or from the committee, not while he's chairing it.
Learning the wrong lesson again
But one abrasive person is really not the issue, or at least it shouldn't be. There was a far worse lesson that those present seemed to be taking from this, which was that disagreement and argument were bad and should be avoided at all costs. Several people commented to the effect that::
"If you feel angry, wait till the morning before posting.", to which all nodded sagely.
Sorry, no. Not the case, not reality, and certainly not the social media world the rest of us are living in today, and which the GOP is being left further and further behind in.
But worse, that's the wrong approach for a conservative party which claims to be a party of principles.
To be a party of principles and ideas means, must mean, that there will be disagreement and much argument over how to implement those principles which everyone holds. It is only through discussion, sometimes, often even, heated discussion, that good plans are finally found. For those who think the Founders were of one mind with never a raised voice or dissent to be heard, they haven't looked into the matter much.
Yes, threats and insults are over the line and should be condemned, but disagreement, even angry disagreement, is not itself divisive. A party that seeks to be a party of principle is going to have to realize that there will be much disagreement and discussion, and that it cannot, and should not be avoided. Their greatest strength is to embrace that and to forcefully proclaim those ideas and their principles wider meaning and application (which is precisely what thrilled so many of us when Sen's Cruz, Paul & Lee took to the senate floor with them the previous week).
The Party leader's job is not to tell people what to think or shove them into line - that sort of 'unity' is only weakness - but to moderate the discussion, to do their part to provide a framework for that discussion and to keep it moving along, so that decisions can be made. Only then can a unified effort can be found and taken a stand upon. And note: It will NEVER be a decision which all agree with, but principled people understand that; they don't want blind obedience, they simply want the opportunity for a fair and full hearing.
That is not divisive.
Argument and disagreement are not divisive. Those are the natural, and proper, results of adults attempting to implement principles in particular situations.
Preventing discussion, argument and disagreement, attempting to co-opt the agreement of others, discounting and denouncing disagreement, THAT is divisive.
As I tried to point out during my few moments to comment last night, I'm all for disagreement and discussion, no problem there, but as individuals. The St. Charles GOP banner should be used for making unified statements, or for prompting principled discussion.
Had Bennett simply posted, as the St. Charles GOP, something like:
, he could then have, under his own name, legitimately, endorsed Blunt's position and disagreed with Cruz's, and of course even have questioned Dana Loesch's assessment of the issue. That's disagreement and debate, that draws people to the discussion, rather than repelling them, and the last person that would have taken personal offense to a good argument would have been Dana Loesch.
- "Disagreement over Senate strategy - do you support Sen. Cruz or Sen. Blunt?"
But to attempt to put words, or silence, into the mouths of others... that's never going to end well.
But hey, the Central Committee is thinking of boosting GOP popularity by having a band for the next Lincoln Days event.
I'm sure that'll bring unity and turn things around.