Last night the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee has its first meeting since it became known that there was a movement to oust Chairman Mike Collins. AP was in attendance—partly because he felt a duty to this blog, partly because he felt a duty to the Annapolis Central Committee, and partly because Shawshank Redemption was actually not being shown on TNT.
(AP has no reservations in publicizing these proceedings, because the CC itself made this public in the way the handled it. You will be able to read most of this, although with slightly less excellent insight, in the newspapers.)
The first thing one noticed was the heavy attendance. Reporters from The Capital, The Sun, and The Examiner were all there. So were the bloggers: this guy, this guy, this guy, and of course, this guy. So what happened? For the first 37 minutes, there was an embarrassing, politically motivated back and forth with both sides trying procedural tricks. After consulting with legal counsel and the State Republican Party Parliamentarian, Mr. Collins begrudgingly accepted a motion to change the agenda, and removal of the chairman entered debate.
Enter Debbie Belcher—the same Debbie Belcher that said a meeting to remove chairman Collins was unnecessary because the decision had already been made! There were 5 people on the agenda to speak, and custom dictates that the people on the agenda receive 5 minutes to speak and those not on the agenda get 3 minutes to speak. Mrs. Belcher quickly made a motion to limit all testimony to 1 minute! Attention Mrs. Belcher: we are the party of ideas, of dissenting opinions, and of inclusion. We do not need this—what are you thinking??
Every person who gave testimony opposed Mr. Collins’ removal. The themes of the testimony were basically the same: to remove a chairman for anything less than gross malfeasance sets a terrible precedent, and would destroy many years of hard work made by the people in the room. When speakers demanded a list of injustices perpetrated by Mr. Collins, here is the best they could come up with:
-We don’t like his leadership style.
-The name on the checkbook was not transferred quickly enough to the new officers.
-Sub-committees were not formed quickly enough.
-Mr. Collins sometimes interrupted people while they were speaking.
Even if there were good reasons to remove Mr. Collins—which is debated—we will never know. Do the above reasons sound like grounds for removal? For throwing the party into upheaval? For better or for worse, we did not get the whole story last night. Perhaps the committee members were acting in the party’s best interest by not airing all the dirty laundry in the presence of reporters. But somehow AP doubts this. A major allegation of the ‘overthrowers’ was that Mr. Collins bashed the state party at various club speeches. Mr. Collins denies this, but what is the truth? Every club in the county that Mr. Collins could possibly have spoken at was represented last night, but nobody spoke up. If he bashed the state party, these people would know—but they said nothing. At any rate, all of the clubs supported Mr. Collins, so it is reasonable to assume that he did not bash the party, otherwise the clubs would have different testimony.
The committee members paid absolutely no attention to the testimony of the people. They said “thank you for coming” and promptly voted the opposite of how literally every single person testified they should vote. The vote carried with a super majority, and Mr. Collins is no longer the chairman.
To some observers, this move amounted to a power play—an attempt by people who want to run for a higher office to get their ducks in a row. Mr. Collins is decidedly more moderate than the people who conspired to remove him. The problem is: the social issues that the right of our party espouse in no way define a conservative, or a Republican. And if our party narrows the scope of our appeal, we have no chance in this state.
Republicans debate in the realm of ideas. We believe in individual responsibility and lack of government control whenever possible. The entirety of conservative ideology stems from here. AP fears that this charade will remove focus from the real meaning of being a Republican at a time when we can least afford it. Furthermore, I think that things will get worse before they get better. The two sides didn’t air all of their grievances last night, and we were left with the instructions “if anybody wants to know what really happened, I will be happy to answer questions afterwards, as this information was not factually correct.” If past history is any indicator, we will find out the facts in a public forum, and a mountain will be made out of what should have been a mole hill.