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Stop obsessing about party unity!

By Scott Tibbs, October 27, 2013

We're hearing more about "party unity" at the national level, and that has trickled down to the local level. This continues a common theme, and shows that Republicans can be very short-sighted. Republicans' obsession with "party unity" ignores political reality, creates missed opportunities and actually divides the party further. It needs to stop.

The reason the obsession with "party unity" ignores political reality is because you cannot have "party unity" and a big tent. It is impossible and will never happen. A big tent means that all kinds of people are welcomed into the party, including people that disagree (sometimes vehemently) on core philosophical issues. You will always have factions within a political party that has a big tent. We can be unified or we can have a big tent, but we will never have both.

The missed opportunity comes from focusing on the negative instead of the positive. Suppose Bubba will not support Republican A, but will support Republicans C, D and E. Bubba is very motivated to help F. Instead of obsessing about Bubba not supporting A, channel his energies into supporting C through F, and especially F. Browbeating Bubba is a waste of energy, because you will not change his opinion about A.

Here is where the division comes in. By obsessing about "party unity" and bitterly complaining about any disagreement within the party, we only highlight those divisions and make them more visible. By browbeating Bubba or even attacking him, you make him resent the party leadership and harden his opposition to A. Minimizing what Bubba considers to be a core issue alienates him further and hardens his opposition to A even farther. Why not focus on where we are united, namely Bubba's support of B through F?

Having these arguments in public - as was done last week with an ill-considered blast e-mail - makes it even worse by making the Republican Party look inept and in chaos. All of this needs to stop.

If we are serious about winning elections in Monroe County, we need to put aside this foolhardy and counterproductive obsession with "party unity" and stop worrying about divisions within the party that will always exist. This is especially true for a party that has not won countywide since the huge Republican wave in 2002, where we picked up a 2-1 majority on the county commissioners and a 5-2 majority on the county council. (Individual candidates have won, but the party overall has done poorly.) Instead, we should focus on where we are unified.