What if the next RNC Chairman breaks the mold?
UPDATE: There's been some misunderstanding about this. What I'm suggesting here is an actual division of the responsibilities of the Chairman. Instead of consolidating a lot of unrelated roles under one Chairman, we should consider more specialization within those roles. One role for strategy, one role for tactics.
I previously suggested Mitt Romney might be a good RNC Chairman - not because he would be a transformational leader for the Right, but because he would be a tremendous CEO to help make it possible for a transformational leader to emerge. I think that's very possible. Kos' suggestion for RNC Chair - Mike Huckabee - would be great for Democrats (it would mean Republicans have ceded the entire argument about the role of government), but it would destroy the Right's coalition and turn the Republican Party into the Christian Democratic Party.
There are other choices, as well, and some of them may well be good at some of the roles - fundraising, operations, management - but none of them are inspirational. They are CEO's. When the Party's basic problem is a lack of vision and enthusiasm, that's a problem.
There are two absolute priorities for the next Republican Party Chairman.
- Vision for the Republican Party: The Republican Party is at an inflection point. It can go in a few different directions, some of them better than others. The RNC must be led by a person who has a clear, powerful and relevant vision for the Republican Party.
- Movement Leadership: The next RNC Chairman must be a credible Communicator who can unite the Party around his vision.
In essence, the next Republican Party Chairman must be a rallying figure. The transactional, bureaucratic roles the RNC Chairman fufills are important, but they are lesser roles. The Republican Party needs a visionary leader far more than it needs an attentive steward.
If John McCain loses the 2008 election, Republicans should ask themselves the question: Who do you want to make the GOP response to Barack Obama's first State of the Union Address?
For that role, who would be better than Fred Thompson?
- Fred Thompson's record gives him credibility. He has not sacrificed his integrity over the last 8 yeas, as so many Republicans have. People believe him when he talks about limited government and federalism, and when he criticizes the social engineering and big government policies of Democrats.
- Fred Thompson has not succumbed to the Republican echo chamber that perverted the ideas, ideals and messages of the Right (now or in his Senate days).
- Fred Thompson is one of the best communicators on the Right. His 1995 Republican response to President Clinton's State of the Union address was considered devastating and powerful, and while the years he spent living and working outside of politics had an effect on him during the '07-'08 campaign, Thompson ended up performing exceptionally well in the debates and at the Republican National Convention.
- Fred Thompson isn't just good at reading the talking points. He's a genuine intellectual - a policy wonk - who understands and talks about issues and ideas in a powerful, resonant manner.
- Fred Thompson has grasped the importance of the internet.
Republicans don't just need a manager. Republicans need a communicator and a visionary. That's Fred Thompson.
So, what if the Republican Party split the role within the RNC, tasking one of the potential candidates with the Management role, while Fred Thompson took the Leadership role? If there is any figure on our present stage who can credibly and powerfully take on Democratic leadership, it is Fred Thompson.
The progressives and netroots did not take over the Democratic Party by nominating Howard Dean for Presidential; they did it by putting Howard Dean in charge of the Democratic Party. If Republicans want to take back the Republican Party, then we may need to draft Fred Thompson again.
Journalist Quin Hillyer, responded to an email on the subject (analytically, not as an advocate)
A little history is in order here. There have been a number of times in the past 40 years when the "chairmanship" of the RNC was split up into two roles, with a public face as sort of chairman of the board (in this case, usually called "General Chairman") and a nuts and bolts, organizational, hard-driving guy as plain old "Chairman."
Under Ronald Reagan, if I remember correctly, Paul Laxalt served as General Chairman, and it worked quite well.
The General Chairman not only does a lot of TV interviews and speeches but also provides overall direction. But he usually isn't hands-on -- and the regular "Chairman" doesn't have to be a shrinking violet either. The Chairman can also do public appearances, and he would do most of the fundraising, too. A Katon Dawson could have a ton of room to operate as Chairman even with a "General Chairman" technically above him on the organizational chart.
But to have somebody with Thompson's star power able to make big speeches, call a few of the biggest donors (without having to make a regular habit out of it), and provide some good links to conservative senators, etc., could be a huge advantage. It's certainly an idea worth exploring.