By Tim Hannigan
A strategy, approach, and organizational structure for the Fairfax County Republican Committee (FCRC) that delivered GOP electoral successes 25 years ago when Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the county has produced dreadful results for GOP candidates over recent election cycles. Donald Trump received 28% of Fairfax County’s vote in 2016. FCRC-endorsed Chris Grisafe garnered 32% of the county vote in the special school board election in August 2017. Ed Gillespie won 31% in his bid for governor in November 2017.
Such abysmal showings did not materialize overnight. The upsurge in Democrat voting reflects the high influx of Democrats into the county and more aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts by the Democrat Party and supporting organizations. The net effect is the Republican Party now ranks as the clear minority party in Fairfax County with a declining trajectory foreboding even worse electoral results in the future.
Unless—unless the FCRC acknowledges the political reality of the GOP’s current minority status and the need to change strategies and tactics to broaden the Republican base and get out Republican voters for elections. And unless the FCRC is willing to act imaginatively, comprehensively, and decisively on the need to make such changes.
The time has come for the FCRC to fight or flee. Either reunify, restructure, and revitalize the FCRC, or concede Fairfax County (and state-level positions in Virginia) to Democrats.
As the minority party, Fairfax County Republicans must welcome citizens who embrace the Republican Party of Virginia’s creed, even when they collegially disagree on implementing its principles on specific issues. Too often, such intra-party differences get magnified to the point that they drive voters and volunteers away from the party. The FCRC needs to focus on expanding the party, not allowing or encouraging practices that contract it.
Party expansion means drawing upon all available Republican talent, emphasizing vigorous internal discussions, but standing united when confronting Democrats—whose policies and practices too often constitute full-scale threats to our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This means we follow President Reagan’s 11th Commandment not to speak ill of fellow Republicans, including NOT labeling them as “establishment,” Tea Party,” “RINO,” or other such descriptive terms that highlight party division rather than commonality.
Party expansion also means reaching the tens of thousands of Republicans across the county who may not even know they are Republicans. Such not yet identified Republicans—people who faithfully attend their places of worship, join veteran and service organizations, reject restrictions on their rights to own and carry weapons to protect themselves, value a quality education for their children untainted by social experimentation, hail from ethnic communities that value hard work, fair opportunity, and the rule of law—will welcome Republican principles and messages when they hear about them frequently enough so they understand and appreciate the true Republican brand.
The FCRC must actively attract and unify all Republicans across the county—the known and the unknown.
Attracting and unifying Republicans will require a major transformation of the FCRC. Electoral results routinely hovering in the 30th percentile call for more than a reform here or some tinkering there. The FCRC must restructure its organization, approaches, and processes that will enable political candidates from the Republican minority to defeat candidates from the majority Democrat majority consistently.
Restructuring will require building effective precinct organizations in all 244 county precincts (many of which don’t currently have assigned Precinct Captains) and reorganizing the FCRC staff. An imposing challenge, but one that must be met if Republicans are to succeed in the county.
It’s at the precinct level that the FCRC must make most contact with voters. And the best way to do that is for neighbors to talk in person or on the phone with prospective voters and encourage them to vote. For most effective precinct-based get-out-the-vote efforts, the FCRC must recruit, train, and support Precinct Captains and teams for all 244 precincts—an arduous task but one that has proven over and over again to deliver expectation-surpassing outcomes.
Moreover, to be effective, the FCRC must accomplish a wide scope of staff tasks, many of which it currently does not address. The proposed FCRC “scope chart” below lists these tasks, assigning accountability to “Directors” for completing them and teams of volunteers to work with the “Directors.” “Many hands make light work,” so a team to work each of the tasks will minimize the burdens of any one individual volunteer.
These task-oriented “Directors” and teams will work year round, not just during the fall election campaigns, to:
- Develop and communicate targeted Republican messages throughout the county relentlessly so that voters understand what the Republican Party stands for and political candidates can leverage such messaging in their campaigns.
- Wage ongoing, dynamic campaigns to broadcast Republican positions and messages to religious, ethnic, and other special interest “communities” across the county and cultivate Republican voters within them.
- Track the operations, tactics, and general ongoings of the Democrat Party and candidates in the county so our party and candidates can exploit their weaknesses.
- Establish and maintain a voter database year over year that will support get-out-the vote targeting.
- Recruit and train volunteers to fill a wide range of FCRC, magisterial district, and precinct positions that are suitable for their talents, interests, and time availability.
- Identify, orient, and support strong candidates for all elected offices that serve all or parts of Fairfax County.
- Staff all polling locations throughout the county with Election Officials and Pollwatchers.
- Raise the funds necessary to strengthen the Republican Party’s presence in the area, support aggressive FCRC operations, and provide material support for local Republican candidates.
- Manage all organizational tasks and activities efficiently and professionally so as to deliver effective results and boost party morale.
A comprehensively organized, fully staffed, and professionally managed FCRC will inevitably yield much improved election results.
Can small organizations defeat large organizations? Read up on the history of General Washington and his rag tags defeating the larger and much better equipped British army. Look into how a small Catholic school in Indiana rallied around a man named Rockne and soundly defeated the big football schools of the east. Check out how a man named Jobs built a device in his garage and then refined and promoted it to such great success that it dwarfed mighty IBM. And have you observed how this long-shot fellow named Trump soundly trounced the mighty Clinton machine?
What did these audacious “minority parties” have in common? They out-thought, out-innovated, out-planned, out-hustled, and out-worked their larger opponents. It has been done. It can be done. And the FCRC can do it here in Fairfax County.
A reunified, restructured, and revitalized FCRC that galvanizes the 70% of registered voters who traditionally do not vote in local elections can take control of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board in the 2019 elections. Is that really possible? The answer is yes, if the minority Republicans convert their visceral distaste for losing into the unified, organized, disciplined actions necessary to turn out the GOP vote.