The New Face of the Mecklenburg County GOP

Meet Brad Overcash, who's going to have a difficult time swimming against the blue current
Wilkins Tipton

I'm reading Richard Ben Cramer's mammoth What It Takes, his exhaustive account of the 1988 Presidential race as revealed through candidate biography, and he recounts the story of George H.W. Bush's advisors telling him on the campaign trail, "George, loosen up, just be yourself!," and Bush's usual take on the matter, later, to audiences: "… so I did. Maybe that was the problem."

It appears Poppy had a shred of self-awareness, or at least self-deprecation, that his eldest son clearly lacks — along with the modern-day version of his party.

The Mecklenburg County Republicans named a new chairman the other day. His name is Brad Overcash. He's an attorney in town. He's no suited, impeccably coiffed, stuffy old white guy. He's 32, and therefore a suited, impeccably coiffed, stuffy young white guy. Overcash believes his primary duties are to improve organization at the precinct level, increase voter registration and place "a new emphasis on fundraising," an agenda that for a county party chairman is analogous to a Meineke employee announcing that his primary goal is to work on cars.

Anyway, Mr. Overcash is the new custodian of the Mecklenburg County wing of the reworked, rebranded, rebooted GOP, the "Growth and Opportunity Party," as detailed in the Republican National Committee's recent assessment of how Republicans might change with the changing times and demographics, which do not favor them. If you haven't taken a look, do; it's a peculiar document.

It contains moments of what seems at first to be genuine insight — an admission that "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself," which it certainly does (see Rove, Karl, Nov. 6, 2012); an unequivocal statement that "We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare," which would be welcome indeed, from either party; and a warning against strict ideological purity as a standard for advancement in conservative circles.

But each nugget of common sense is balanced by a head-scratching (and contradictory) chunk of nonsense, such as the truly strange assertion that "while Democrats tend to talk about people, Republicans tend to talk about policy." (Actually, Democrats tend to talk about policy in terms of its relation to people, while Republicans tend to talk about "principles" and mold policies around them, regardless of their effects on people.) And this:

If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.

I agree. That'd be awesome. Tell you what: There are a few things you might want to consider before you trek upriver to make your case. Stop trying to make it harder for minorities to vote, for one thing. If you want to appeal to gay Americans, bring the hammer down on clowns like this when they wave the dumb-ass flag. Want to shed the label of "the stupid party"? Tell Paul Braun to shut his mouth and step aside in favor of a Republican who's advanced beyond the late Medieval. If you worry that conservatism is too small a tent, open only to the devoutest of the devout, tell Rush, once and for all, to start his own Dittohead Party if he's so adamant about traditional values.

But they won't, because they wouldn't, because alienating Rush means alienating the base, and compromising your principles in any way means defeat, and committing such acts of treason as supporting comprehensive immigration reform and becoming "inclusive and welcoming," as the RNC report recommends, means they might as well join the Democrats. As observed in other quarters, Republicans have a curious tendency to assume, post-defeat, that their problem is "messaging" rather than policy, when policy is the crux of the biscuit. It's why, whenever the GOP undertakes this kind of reform effort, it always turns out to be a half-assed rebranding/20-car pileup rather than genuine reform. If your principles are eternal, flawless and as unchangeable as the Word of the Almighty, how can you reboot without ceasing to be?

Those are the rough dimensions of the corner the party has painted itself into, and that's why Brad Overcash — GOP chairman in one of the few North Carolina counties that's blue and turning bluer — has a near-impossible task ahead of him. Not that we should expect anything but sunny skies in the messaging.

When asked about the report, Overcash said he believes the party taking an inward look is important, but as a whole, the party is moving forward.

“The Mecklenburg County Republican Party is, as of this convention, fully united and open for business.”

Maybe that's the problem.

UPDATE: I wrote the above post yesterday afternoon. Last night, here comes The Daily Show with this and this and The Colbert Report with this, and The Onion with this. C'mon, man!

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest