The Next RNC Chairman

What if the next RNC Chairman breaks the mold?

UPDATEThere'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.


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Good choice on Romney and may I add...

that we need someone young, fresh to give the rebuttal to the State of the Union address.  I'm still a little befuddled as to why I'm thinking about the choice of this speaker (since the event is well over a year from now), but this more broadly underscores the need for fresh faces and new leadership.  We need folks who can match Obama's vigor, intellect, and communication to usher in new leadership for the Republican party and conservative movement.  Just as Bush's failures ushered in a new fresh face in Obama, so will Obama's inevitable shortcomings.  A whole host of new smart leaders like Jindal, Cantor, Ryan, etc. (FYI, the Senate is hopeless) must step up to the place and provide a new vision for America.

A brief note on Romney:  There will always be a significant part of the social conservative community that will despise Romney.  But they will accept him as RNC Chair, because he has such a fantastic record of executive leadership.  He may not be acceptable for President, but he would do well as RNC Chair.

You Know---

Given Mike Huckabee's opposition to the bail out and his stance on Joe the Plumber and "spread the wealth", and his ability to have Stephen Moore on in Common Cause, you could stop comparing him to the next coming of Chairman Mao.

He has been very clear on the role of government. He's not an Anarcho-Libertarian, but he is a conservative.

If you want to go that route: Bush, Romney, Huckabe, and Thompson for that matter have redefined conservatism. All of them favor the Department of Education which Ronald Reagan opposed and which our party platform opposed.

Mike Huckabee right now is endorsing candidate and campaigning coast to coast for conservative tickets. Yeah, 2012 will start here after the primaries, but maybe you could hold off until after 2008 is over to start the cheapshots at Huckabee.

As an aside, the election of party chairman doesn't redefine the party's platform or its beliefs. Neither Haley Barbour nor Jim Nicholson fundamentally changed the ideology of the party. Howard Dean didn't do it for the Democrats either.

However, given that Huckabee has expressed no interest in the job, you're just agitating people for no good reason, and detracting from your argument for Fred Thompson.


Huckabee's political philosophy is pretty straight-forward Rawlsian liberalism with a social conservative sensibility.

A 2nd Response Here...

The focus on RNC Chair as some sort of magic fix-it job seems a bit off. Howard Dean is getting a lot of credit now, but he took a ton of flak and deservedly so when he was running the party's coffers low.

Without a GOP version of Rahm Emanuel and Charles Schumer at the NRCC and NRSC, this is all academic. That plus we need a new House Minority Leader.


The chair seats of the parties seem very over-rated to me.  They sort of remind me of the position of "President" in a major sports franchise, where all the power really rests with the GM, the manager, and the star players.  Maybe there are some great logistical things involved, but I struggle to understand why the chairmanship has importance.

I thought you were joking

Thompson delivers a good speech and all, but he's in the rearview already.

Don't Waste Fred

The reason Howard Dean, and for that matter Barack Obama, have succeeded, is by mastery of the process of identifying and motivating voters in the age of the Internet, and that is what the RNC should be doing for the GOP.

Whatever intellectual and inspirational properties FDT brings to the table, I don't think mastery of the Internet GOTV process is one of them.

Not that I had anyone in mind, but it's a job more suited for the master mechanic than the professor.  Scotty, not Spock.

Mitt is probably too busy

Mitt is probably too busy scheming on a possible 2012 run and Fred would probably be a bad choice because no one would know which Fred would show up, the one who moped around in South Carolina during the primaries, or the one who fired everyone up at the RNC. Someone like Carly Fiorina would probably be better. 

Other Options to Consider

I agree that Mitt would be a good candidate for an executive role in the RNC, but I don't know if he'd accept it.  I think others in this space have wisely observed that he's got his sights set on 2012 should McCain lose and any kind of role in the leadership of the RNC is likely to be a losing battle until someone in that party realizes that the rudder has been destroyed.  I don't see that happening for several more election cycles ... there's still too much of a "blame the other party" mentality and not enough of a "what have we done wrong ourselves?"  I don't know if Mitt wants that kind of albatross around his neck.

Fred Thompson, on the other hand, is a terrific and passionate speaker, but we need someone who is eloquent and who is able to quickly rebut the talking points from the Left.  People like Obama and Biden make lunacy sound plausible and likeable.  They're able to make simple, probing questions sound sinister and take concepts like socialism and make them sound optimistic and hopeful despite their historical failures.  I don't know if Thompson's capable of doing that.

Other choices that have been listed aren't as well known and run the risk of vanishing into the cacophany.  Dean was an enlightened and powerful choice for the DNC, even if it did lurch the whole party violently to the left.  For better or for the worse, it got that whole party fired up and moving.  It might be worthwhile to try to find our own Dean.  The nearest comparison I can come to is someone like Ron Paul, who has a fired up base (not me, admittedly, because I have my own reservations about him), but who brings with him a very clear message to those outside the party: we're changing.  ("It's not more of the same from us," the RNC would be saying.)  There's no question that Paul has a conservative/libertarian belief and a far right policy.  To be sure, his foreign policy would need to be moderated a bit to make things palatable, but there are others who could help with that to some extent.  Nevertheless, there's no question that he could passionately rebut the domestic policies that an Obama administraion and a Pelosi/Reid Congress will try to rain down.  And again, it sends a clear and loud message to the people watching that the RNC is changing. 

He also has credibility where Palin does not, even though some like her -- and please note that I said LIKE, not specifically her -- would help bring a more youthful vigor to a party that is unfortunately viewed as the party of the old white men.  None immediately spring to mind with a national stage presence though who are widely known and telegenic.

The next RNC chair is, of course, someone important, especially because the next two years look especially dark for conservatism.  There needs to be a clear rebuttal message being put out there by someone immediately recognizable to the populace, not by someone who the majority of Americans simply wonder who they are.  Although I say this with the full, cynical knowledge that the majority of Americans can't name their own Representative....


I don't much care who is picked to head up the RNC or any other national republican group because I simply do not trust any of them.  My view now is that nothing good ever comes out of D.C.  (Excluding our men and women in uniform.  They are the best and the brightest.)  Since I began voting back over 30 years ago the republicans have never failed to fail.  Even Reagan could only slow the growth of the Beast. 

So I have lost all trust in them.  I stuck with them, and voted all these years for republicans.  I'll pull the lever for McCain, but it isn't a vote FOR him.  It is a vote against Obama and FOR Sarah Palin.  But this is it.  The Republican Party will have to see if they can bring my trust in them back from the dead.  I imagine there are a LOT of people out there like me.

A good start would be the firing and clearing out of ALL of the current Republican "leadership".  A complete purge, nothing less.

it depends

It kind of depends on what you want the RNC Chair to do. If it is simply to run things and oversee the various strategies of the party, then Fred would be good, as would any knowledgeable, organized person. But if you want someone to excite the party and lead them in a new direction, someone young and energetic is necessary. I don't think Dean was responsible for the Democratic success, but I do think he energized the base and made them excited, not depressed after Bush and Republicans kept winning, which is what the right will need.

I think the argument that Huckabee would turn the party into the Democratic Christian party is you think he would do that more than Palin? More than it already is? In my opinion, fiscal conservatives have taken a back seat to social conservatives.

One last point, I really think the Republicans need someone who can reach out to young people. A lot of young people don't hear the issues they care about being discussed among party leadership. As someone mentioned above, it really does have the reputation of a club for old, white men.

The problem with Huckabee

is that he supports welfare diguised as "christain charity" such as the One program which is basically a religious left movement for an international welfare state.  By contrast Sarah Palin does not support such movements as she is a genuine Christian conservative (that actually has some libertarian leanings).

what are her libertarian leanings?

Just curious...

Yea, I know Huckabee was big into government programs...seemed like a social conservatice/fiscal liberal. But he was "likeable" and the base liked him right? I think they like Palin more, but who knows, a lot can change in 4 years.

Well lets see,

the fact the she supports private charity over welfare, her support of hunters (which puts her in the same category as Ted Nugent), her willingess to take on her own party's establishment (which are basically corrupt RINO moderates like Ted "the Alaska porker" Stevens) and the fact that she even admitted trying pot when it was legal in Alaska.


i dont get the whole "take on her own party" argument....has she fired a lot of corrupt Alaskan officials? She didn't say Ted Stevens should step down even after he was convicted.

That last point is funny...I do like when politicians admit the truth like that.

(and just a note, just asking this in an honest manner, i feel like i dont know a lot about her because the campaign tried to force her into mccain-VP mode)

I guess you could make that argument but I think compared to someone like Ron Paul, or the libertarian candidate for governor here in NC, she seems more traditional Republican.

There are limits to what she can do

Basically I get the sense that the national party told her to keep quit about Stevens, but the two have never gotten along.  Then there was the flap for firing the state public saferty commissioner wlater Monegan for protecting state trooper Wooten (her fromer brother-in-law) who is basically thug with a badge.  He is the bastard who tased Palin 11 year old nephew when he was married to her sister, who had admitted to drinking on the job and of course threatned her familiy when her father offered to get her sister a divorce lawyer after that incident.  That guy is being protected by the union up there.  She wanted Monegan to fire him and he refused, so she fired him which she has authority as governor to do but that is still a crime according to the liberal Anchorage Daily News.  Recently the state legislature (full of partisan hacks who want their pork and our mad at her for refusing to go along) ruled that she didn't violate any laws but still somehow  abused her power!

I never liked Huckabe

Huckabe seemed to be to much like John Edwards in his Populism.  He is not really a conservative, he is more Polpulist than Conservative. And with him the Left would have a hayday with saying the Christian Right is taking over the RNC.   Which is something I do not think we need. 

The only other person I would not have voted for other than Huckabe in the Primaries was Ron Paul.

Fred was my first choice.

Palin is more liked by the base.   She maybe a Christian, but she does not wear it on her sleeve like Huckabe does.  She has more in common with Reagan than all of the candidates for President.  She is for limited government and for the end of corruption, which Huckabe had trouble with in Arkansas on both accounts.



I agree

I think that Thonmpson would be a good choice, but if we are looking fort he future, we need someone young.  If McCain/Palin does not win,I think that Palin would be a great choice. Michelle Backman also would be a a good choice. JIndal also, but I think he needs to stay and get more experience in Louisianna.  Or even Michael Steele.

There are plenty out there other than the Romneys, Huckabes and the Old White Guys.  Not that there is anything wrong with beig the Old White guy.

Huckabe would turn the Republican Party into the Chrisian Socialist in Europe.  he is not a Conservativein my mind.  He is a good guy, but just not in leadership capacity.

Process or Policy?

Repack Rider best "gets" that Dean's main contribution has been about process, identifying and motivating existing and potentially new voters.  And making a real, concerted effort to increase competitiveness in more states (the 50 state strategy).  As a consequence of the voters being reached, policy has shifted, mostly to the left, but not always -- for Dems to be more competitive in red or purple states, they've had to find relatively conservative candidates.  But more to the point, contrast Dean's process-focus with the policy-focus of the DNC under the leadership of the DLC faction.  Their aim was to shift policy from the left toward the center so that  Dem candidates would be more electable. 

All of which is by way of posing a question for this group: Do you advocate a Rep version of 50 state strategy as the chief goal of the new RNC chair?  Or should it be more about establishing a policy program with wider popular appeal, a la the DLC?  Is the Rep party at a point more like the Dems were after losing to Reagan and Bush I, needing to move policy to the center, or more like the Dems were after losing to Bush II, needing to establish a clearer alternative and mobilize on its behalf? 


Moving toward the center

Is the Rep party at a point more like the Dems were after losing to Reagan and Bush I, needing to move policy to the center


The Republican Party has been moving to the center for the last decade, and is now to the left of where the Democrats were a decade ago. It has become much less popular as a result. This a marked contrast to the Dems in 1992.






Spot on.

Sen. Thompson is the sort of man that we need to helm the GOP.

 I voted for him despite the fact he'd already withdrawn.

I would have as well

but his name wasn't on the KY GOP primary ballot, so I voted uncommitted.

"the Christian Democratic Party"

Thanks in large measure to the libertarians, we're rapidly reaching the point where the best we can hope for is some sort of Christian Democratic Party to counter the Atheist Socialist Party.



Funny, but not quite on the mark

Socialism is the state ownership of industry.  That's advocated neither by Christian Democrats nor the Dem party here.  They both advocate a market economy with extensive public welfare programs, i.e. contemporary social democracy.  When it comes to economic and fiscal policy, they're pretty much the same.  The contrast kicks in over culture issues, abortion, gay marriage, faith in the public sphere, etc.  So the contrast in the US would be between a Christian Social Democratic Party versus a Secular Social Democratic Party.  In the US, they'd differ over the extent of welfare programs, the funding of faith-based charities, the underlying rationale, etc. but in the grand scheme, this would be a quibble.  As you note, each is (would be) at odds with the economic libertarian strain in the US.  Frankly, I'd love to have a system where the four natural parties* were viable so that you wouldn't have parties twisting themselves in knots trying to get to 50% +1. 

Secular Libertarian: minimal welfare, minimal culture regulation

Christian Libertarian: minimal welfare, substantial culture regulation

Christian Social Democratic: substantial welfare, substantial culture regulation

Secular Social Democratic: substantial welfare, minimal culture regulation

The materialist faction of the GOP (business) inclines to SL, its idealist faction to CL.  The materialist faction of the Dems (labor) inclines to CSD, its idealist faction to SSD.  The idealists are the activists in each party, but the materialists have more votes.  So, the natural way of things is for the party to offer just enough social policy to motivate the activists, but to run on materialist issues in crunch time. 

Seems to me that today's GOP has turned off secular libertarians with its heavy emphasis on social regulation, ambitious geopolitics, and big deficits (the low tax-high spend gambit to become a durable majority).  But I don't think it's lost them altogether; they could be won back by restoring the balance between Christian and Libertarian in the direction of the latter, and easing back on the ambition of long-term political dominance at home and abroad.

Ross Douthat wants to go in another direction, moving the party toward CSD, which would mean founding itself on social regulation, cutting loose SL's, aggravating CL's, but peeling off socially conservative labor from the current Dem coalition.  I doubt you could simultaneously offer enough public welfare to steal them away and too little to lose business--seems overly reliant on idealism trumping materialism for the Dem faction that votes its pocketbook.  Only seems possible during times of broad-based economic prosperity. 




Socialism is the state ownership of industry.

Nope, it's not. At some times and in some places socialism has taken that form. But the basis of socialism is the notion that all of a nations wealth belongs to the government, which can and should redistribute it as it sees fit. This may, but need not, involve state ownership of industry.

By your definition, the PRC is not communist or socialist. Nor was Nationalist Socialist Germany. That's a sign you might need to take a second look at your definition.


That's advocated neither by Christian Democrats nor the Dem party here.  They both advocate a market economy with extensive public welfare programs, i.e. contemporary social democracy.


The Democrats oppose the market economy. They favor a state managed economy, complete with wage and price controls.


The materialist faction of the GOP (business) inclines to SL


That's a common misconception. Business does not neccessarily favor the GOP - there are many sectors which favor the Democrats. And of those businessmen who do favor the GOP, they are not in any sense of the term libertarian. Businessmen are rent-seekers. They almost always favor bigger and more intrusive government. So Milton Friedman thought anyway, and I think he was correct.


The reason the GOP has become the party of big government is not due to the nefarious influence of the "social cons". In truth they have none. The Republican Party is a big government party because it is the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce.


Ross Douthat wants to go in another direction, moving the party toward CSD, which would mean founding itself on social regulation, cutting loose SL's, aggravating CL's, but peeling off socially conservative labor from the current Dem coalition.


Demographically speaking, that is the future. It's wonderfully ironic that that future is being egged on by the libertarians. Look south of the border - you won't see a lot of libertarian governments in Latin America. Thanks to a coalition of libetarians, CoC types, and socialist Dems, that is America's not so distant future.





you are probably right.  I have hopes that genuine limited-government conservatism can thrive but given everyone's proclivity to foolishly turn to the state to solve their problems (despite as Reagan once said it doesn't solve them it instead subsidizes them).  We are going to pay dearly for this mistake but hopefully voters will eventually start to realize they are getting screwed as well losing their very liberties in the process.  Then we can hopefully we can trully swing the pendulum back to getting  to some real limited government.

If Fred is General Chairman...

... how about Tom Davis as managing chair?  He did good work as RNCC Chair for two terms (98 and 2000?) and he'll need a new job in January.


That's actually quite an interesting idea.

There's always...

Michele Bachmann and Michael Steel are interesting possibilities but do they have vision? Could either define the Republican Party for the next cycle much less the next decade?

Of course, there's always Newt...


Although last week I suggested Fred Thompson be considered for RNC Chair, reading this post also has me wondering: why not former Florida Governor Jeb Bush? (other than his obvious connection to President Bush) He's very competent and visionary leader, a policy wonk (much more than his brother), innovator, and a good communicator; he was governor of a key swing state, has impeccable conservative credentials, and could perhaps help the party with outreach to Hispanic voters. I'm not aware of how he is as a fundraiser, but he would be an intriguing pick for RNC Chair.

....And if he had a different last name he would have been a great nominee for president this year.

RNC Chair

I'd like to see Michael Steele as RNC chair. Was very disappointed when the Cuban from Florida (can't remember his name) was given the job. Where has he been?! One reason RNC has been so weak is no leadership.

The General Chairman not only

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.


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