The liberty movement in Iowa has had an interesting ride. The movement reached its peak in 2012 at the State GOP convention. While the liberty candidate (Ron Paul) did not win the straw poll on caucus night, liberty slates swept the four district conventions and earned supermajorities on all the state convention committees and the State Central Committee. At the district nominating conventions they managed to win the majority of district delegate seats to the national convention. And at our State convention, their slate of National convention delegates was approved and they managed to re-elect a sympathetic Steve Scheffler to the RNC.
As regular readers of this blog know, I ran against the liberty slate for SCC (I won), for state convention rules committee (I lost) and for national committeeman (I lost). The liberty movement has done a good job of associating themselves with name ‘Liberty’. From the Campaign for Liberty, to the Iowa Liberty PAC they have adopted Liberty as their label. They have been so successful that (statists, RINOs, the establishment, etc.) non-liberty folk are often referred to as “hating liberty”. As in:
Why does Kevin Hall hate liberty?
In recent days, the liberty movement has faced some setbacks. It really started with the Fourth District Executive Committee and their revolt against RPI and Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt. It has continued with liberty candidates losing county chair elections in several counties, including the liberty strongholds of Story and Jefferson. Most recently liberty-leaning SCC member Kris Thiessen lost her bid for re-election as Clay County Chair. TheIowaRepubican.com notes that this is the first time that a sitting SCC member has ever lost a re-election bid as a county chair.
The problem is that when the Liberty Folk took over, they were not gracious winners. Their strategy was scorched earth. In victory, and they did win, they were more Scipio Africanus than Douglas MacArthur. Roman General Scipio Africanus is credited (apocryphally) with not just defeating Carthage but with destroying the city and salting the land to make it unusable. MacArthur, after utterly defeating the Japanese, was gracious in victory, he could have humiliated the Emperor and by proxy, the nation. For example he could have imprisoned Hirohito, tried him as a war criminal, and ridden his white horse through the capital. Instead, MacArthur oversaw the re-building of Japan.
To paraphrase the spiritual leader of the movement Ron Paul:
The blowback experienced by the liberty folk and RPI seems to confirm that, “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.
When Steve Scheffler’s group (Christian Coalition, Iowa Christian Alliance or Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition) was in the driver’s seat, they worked with all of the Caucus campaigns and sent a delegation to the national convention that represented more than just the Christian Right. The 2008 delegation included people like David Roederer — prominent Republican but definitely not a Christian Right guy. The liberty folk could have learned something from the Steve Scheffler.
So where does that leave us as a party? It sounds like the blowback will continue. Every time RPI does something, even something good, like getting Rand Paul to headline the Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids — I get calls from county leaders and grassroots activists complaining. The first, second and third districts are planning on constituting District Executive Committees. I think this is a great idea and am helping to facilitate the effort in the 1st CD now that officer elections are almost over. I am concerned however, that many view theses committees as a way to push back against RPI.
So in this internecine conflict who is right and who is wrong? The answer is that there is blame to be placed with both the liberty folks and the statists, RINOs or establishment.
As a member of the Republican State Central Committee, I firmly believe that we at RPI must do some soul-searching. We must recognize that we have a credibility and trust problem with our county organizations. The problem is not that RPI is controlled by liberty folk — the problem is that the liberty folk who control RPI have not been able to convince our county organizations that they (we) can help them to elect Republicans.
We find ourselves in the position that when our Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt (with 4th District SCC member Chad Steenhoek and National Committeeman Steve Scheffler) went out on behalf of RPI to help facilitate the election of an SCC member and essentially said:
I’m from RPI and I’m here to help you!
The result in the 4th CD was open rebellion. I do not believe that Bierfeldt, Steenhoek or Scheffler went to that meeting with the intention of taking control. But the level of distrust is so high that as soon as the notifications were sent out, the participants were looking for a conspiracy. It was not helpful that Bierfeldt continued to assert himself once it became clear that the committee was not going to cooperate with him.
The current leadership of RPI promised to focus more on issues. They have kept their word. RPI has been very focused on issues. I was skeptical, but I think that RPI has pulled this of quite well. But now, RPI must work on establishing credibility with the county organizations and their leadership. Of course this problem is not new to RPI, we have always struggled in this area. But the problem is worse now than at anytime in my memory.
There is too much at stake in 2014 to continue to fight the battles of the 2012 caucus to convention season.