Imagine for a moment that you are on a sinking ship. People are grabbing life vest, jumping into boats, and basically trying to get off the ship anyway they can. Nobody wants to say they were friends with the Captain; after all he’s 90% of the reason the ship is sinking. Your friends are leaving; your business associates are leaving. You look, and grab the nearest person and yell, “It’s time to go! The party is over and this place is a disaster. If we are going to survive, we have to jump now!” You leap into the unknown and hope that somewhere, somehow, somebody will pick up you and save you. Is this the latest makings for a movie? No. It’s a true story.
You see, the story you have just read is based on the good ship U.S.S. Democrat, and in Arkansas everyone is jumping off that ship and looking to be picked up by another. The major problem is, the nearest ship to the disaster is the U.S.S. Republican, and everyone is fighting to get a seat on that fine liner. In other words, it’s a “Grand Old Party” again. While this is good news, that the Republican Party is growing and gaining support, it is also disturbing for others.
Many Republicans have sat back in Arkansas for years and listened to the horror stories. “Don’t run as a Republican, you can not win,” “You’ll only win if you are a Democrat,” and “I always vote Democrat…it’s the south and that’s what we do here!” We have been told for years that you simply cannot survive in Arkansas as a Republican. Recently I even learned that so few are Republicans in some counties, that the filing fees are a single dollar…yes, one dollar (Doyle Webb). There are counties where there has never been a Republican run for Judge or any other major county office. Those counties have been die-hard Democrat. The Republicans in those counties have been looked upon almost as leapers. But now that’s all changing.
The same Democrats, many who have spoken negatively about the party for years, are suddenly switching gears. They are jumping off the good-ship Democrat and joining the grand old party. It’s happening all across Arkansas as a wave of Republican pride swells. Even in Miller County, there have been several Democrats cross the lines to the Republican side. Unfortunately, in Miller just as many other counties across the state, not everybody is happy about the sudden switch.
Most people on the good ship Republican have been fairly happy to stick close together. They have their own little group of supportive friends, they have parties together, they go to church together, and they badmouth…well, they badmouth Democrats and their polices together. It is really a grand little party, but now the Democrats are crashing the party. A lot of people feel that Democrats should remain Democrats and Republicans should remain Republicans. It’s a tough line to cross and a tougher issue to deal with for chairs, committees and the state.
In dealing with the Democrat wave, we almost have to consider them war refuges. They have fought long and hard and their own leader has abused and abandoned them. Many of them who promoted Obamacare as the best thing next to apple pie, now feel that it belongs with last week’s apple pie in the dumpster. Bottom line, their party betrayed them and now they are looking for a new home. However, this search for a new home does not ease the feelings of Republicans who have fought long and hard against Democrat policies and views. We can remember a time when Democrats proudly pushed through their legislation and told us to “deal with it,” or “it’s now the law, so deal with it.” They were not exactly friendly to us then. Sadly for them, the American voter has awaken and realized that the party of Clinton and Obama is no longer the party for America. They have realized what many of us Republicans have known for a long time….we are the party for America.
So how does a county committee deal with the flood of Democrats? Well, according to our own bylaws and rules, we really don’t have a way to deal with them. Every two years anyone living in the county can seek membership in the county committee simply by filing during the filing period (this year 11-2 to 11-9). Potential, major office holders can file at the county level for Judge, Sheriff, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Treasurer, County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, Coroner, JP, or even Constable. All they have to do is fill out the paperwork, pay the fee and submit it. The committee can do very little to stop either a potential member or a potential elected official. Basically the committee has three choices:
1. They can set up county rules to deal with Democrats jumping ship and hold elections during non-filing periods on new committee members-this may present problems though (see below)
2. They can openly accept the people filing, but watch them for signs of Democrat support and then bring them up on committee charges that they are not working in the interest of the Republican Party.
3. They can accept them and move on.
4. During the filing period or after, they can hold a special meeting with proper notification, and have a 2/3 vote to remove the person from the committee.
This all sounds fine and dandy; however, as noted in number one above there is a potential problem. The fact is the problems rise if number one or four should be implemented by a committee. According to Doyle Webb, if a committee decides not to accept a Democrat joining from the Republican side, there could be a lawsuit. In other words, the person or persons that the committee threw out could file a lawsuit against the committee. This would mean that the committee would be named in the lawsuit with the executive officers listed first – Chair, vice-chair, second chair, secretary, treasurer, state committeeman and state committeewoman. While the executive officers would be named, the entire committee could stand to suffer from the lawsuit. The committee representatives on a membership level and individually could find themselves in the middle of a lawsuit.
For most committees the answer should be simple. Accept the person and move on with business. Most committees cannot afford a major lawsuit, and certainly they cannot afford the negative press that would surround such a lawsuit. While accepting the people may be hard medicine to swallow, it should be noted that you can still watch the way they vote, how they conduct themselves, and how they deal with Republican issues. As a friend reminded me today, “We could find ourselves with these folks voting their Democrat agenda while calling themselves Republicans.” This same friend also suggested that we share the platform with these new Republicans and see if they can tell us why they want to be Republican. I think he’s right….even when I switched parties, I had a solid cause and answer when that question was presented to me, so why shouldn’t our new Republican friends know a little about the party they want to join?