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Young Republicans Go Off the Rails

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Reports coming out of the Young Republicans convention last week in Indianapolis range from the disappointing to the disturbing. The organization which represents Republicans under 40, who are a demographic where the GOP has been rapidly losing ground, seems to have taken a radical turn with this convention which does not look good for the future of the party. Controversy at the convention centered around the election of the new YR chairman, where a moderate candidate was beaten out by a narrow margin by a candidate who has been accused of racism, homophobia and engaging in dirty campaign tricks.

According to a series of reports in The Daily Beast and confirmed by other sources, incoming YR Chair Audra Shay has a history of attacking other Republicans and making racially insensitive and homophobic statements and engaged in a smear campaign before and during the convention against her main challenger for the chairmanship, Rachel Hoff. Shay describes herself as a "true conservative" and seems to be a movement conservative in the tradition of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater who took control of the College Republicans through similar divisive tactics and dirty campaigning back in the 1970s. In contrast, Hoff is a moderate interested in party reform and notable for her support of same-sex civil unions. To observers Shay seems to represent the entrenched interests and failed agenda of the religious right and neoconservatives, while Hoff at least offered an alternative and relatively innovative perspective which would certainly be more appealing to a young audience. The candidates were also quite different in age, with Shay at age 38 almost too old to even run for the office and Hoff in her early 20s and more representative of the demographic the YRs are supposed to represent.

John Avlon's coverage of Shay has been absolutely merciless, depicting her as an embodiment of the ugly face which the left likes to try to paint on Republicans. Much of his criticism centers around racist remarks made by one of her Facebook "friends" which she appeared to endorse or at least condone and around Shay's vocal criticism of President Obama which is really not out of the norm for even more progressive Republicans, and could be considered legitimate given his professed beliefs and policies. But Shay has also said things herself which are troubling and suggest a cavalier intolerance of minorities and for that matter anyone who does not share her exact beliefs.

Certainly Shay has said some intemperate things and comes across as bitter, egotistical and vindictive, but it's not entirely clear that she's as bad as Avlon makes her out to be. On the other hand, reports of her campaign techniques are less equivocal. She seems to have benefited from a vicious rumor campaign suggesting that Hoff was a lesbian based on her choice to wear a suit instead of a dress at the convention and her support of civil unions. Perhaps most troubling was Shay's successful effort to block a motion to hold the vote for chairman by secret ballot, opening the door to intimidation and reprisals against delegates who supported Hoff.

Shay's victory by a margin of 470 to 415 votes is sure to prove divisive. At the convention there were already delegates who had been elected to office who were refusing to serve on a board headed by Shay, and scuffles on the floor during the election came close to breaking out into full-on fisticuffs. This struggle within the Young Republicans, where progressive reformers were stomped on by hardliners seems to mirror a struggle which is going on party-wide. Unfortunately, if the pattern shown here continues the GOP is likely to lose a lot of traction with younger voters and minorities which it desperately needs to increase its membership and broaden its appeal.

Shay's election and her remarks certainly alienated black Republicans, including Lenny McAllister of HipHopRepublican who commented:

“They just voted for a candidate who has a demonstrated tolerance for racial intolerance. She has joked about lynching and then claimed to be a victim. As a black man, I still don’t see what’s funny about that.”

In reference to comments Shay made about criticisms of her which she compared to a lynching. McAllister went on to write of the convention outcome:

"I do not advocate, support, or condone the failure of leadership recently exhibited. It is my ardent belief that the Party of Lincoln will return to its proud history of being avant garde regarding freedom, equality, and prosperity. I personally will not rest until the battle of conscience for what’s just within the Republican Party and throughout America has been won by the side of equality sans bigotry. I believe that there are plenty of Republicans and Americans throughout our nation that share this sentiment with me, one that strongly contrasts the one supported by Ms. Shay."

McAllister's concern about the direction which the party is going is shared by many young Republicans who characterize themselves as "progressive" or "moderate" and whose beliefs are usually more centrist on issues like the environment and civil rights. Although they failed to prevail at the Young Republican convention, they still make up 47% of the constituency of that group, and with Audra Shay in charge there is a real danger of a split in the younger wing of the party or that many of them will just drift away from the party or even become Democrats.

On the other hand, this could present an opportunity for a powerful alliance between moderate, young Republicans and the Liberty Republicans of the Republican Liberty Caucus. Although their beliefs are not identical they do have many interests in common and the membership of the RLC skews very young demographically, possibly younger than the YRs are as a group. The RLC has lots of college-age members and young professionals and has a reform agenda whose goal is to return the GOP to its ideological and constitutional roots, an interest which moderate Republicans seem to share with their frequent allusions to the "Party of Lincoln." The RLC believes in individual liberty, smaller government and personal responsibility, a simple and appealing platform which is not incompatible with support for many of the positions which moderates advocate.

As the Young Republicans descend into chaos and lose their relevance in a party which desperately needs reform, this would be a good time for Liberty Republicans to reach out to their disaffected members and show them that with common interests and an established nationwide organization the RLC can offer young Republicans the opportunity to put their energy to work making a better party which we can all be proud of. An alliance between moderates and Liberty Republicans could be a powerful force for change in the GOP.

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About Dave Nalle

  • Glenn Contrarian

    The ‘alliance’ is not going to happen, Dave. As I’ve stated more than once, I do NOT want a one-party system in America. However, it’s obvious that the Republicans, in order to be endorsed and supported by the party, are increasingly playing to the base of the Republican party. Problem is, the deeper one delves into the Republican party, the less tolerance one finds for women, minorities, and LGBT’s.

    The quest for political gain in the Republican party is turning into a vicious circle, because as the tolerance diminishes, the smaller the tent becomes…and the Republican party eventually becomes an ideologically-united ‘small tent’.

    The Republican party will have some successes as the years go by, but the lack of tolerance by the Republican leadership will result in the effective marginalization of the Republican party whether you like it or not.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – either work toward real tolerance within the Republican party, or go the way of the Whigs.

  • rock creek

    Audra Shay seems to have exposed herself with the most revolting and stupid thoughts, and reinforced the belief of what most Americans outside the party believe rightly or wrong about republicans. The Republican Party will never progress with this type of influence.

  • Ben Redpath

    The ignorance and hatred of Palin and now this illiterate and uneducated person is why I left the party. WE need to unite our country. NOT continue to tear it apart with racism and homophobia. Where did she learn this much hate?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/realist Realist

    I commend you on a thoughtful article, Dave.

    While my personal leanings are in the opposite direction, I recognize that honest conservatives (as an ex-Chicagoan, my personal favorite examples are Everett Dirksen and Paul Simon) do have value to any society. Someone has to be able to respectfully ask the tough questions, or else bad ideas dominate. Today’s Democratic Party – especially under Obama – sadly represents this condition, because the GOP is not currently being honest with their objections. Nor did they rule honestly when they were the majority.

    Today’s GOP is also all about bad ideas dominating, as the “young” leader of the Young Republicans amply demonstrates with her personal history. She is hardly alone, as any random viewing of Fox, CNN, CNBC or the morning version of MSNBC proves.

    But until both major parties return to concerning themselves with the benefits to the majority of the population, nothing is going to improve. I doubt that either party cares that China is patiently waiting in the wings, maneuvering to curry favor with the many nations angered by US excesses in the past, and able to damage what recovery occurs should another insult be issued by either party while in power.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good comment, Realist. We should be building bridges, not tearing them down.

  • Sooth Sayer

    karen Sautter is to blame for all of this FALSE character assassinations she is putting forth in the YRs. She frequently participates in character attacks that are unfounded and without justice on good Republicans, some even her peers. She will stop at nothing to discredit her own fellow republicans and has no shame. When she does not get her way, she yells, screams, cries, and even threatens organizations. The evidence is on her twitter. She can’t deny it! Karen Sautter you should be ashamed of yourself for the way you conducted yourself with the Young Republicans, just because you didn’t get elected. You have made your self irrelevant. If you would have been a gracious loser instead of a bitchy one, people would have welcomed you back into the fold as we did with other losing candidates. OH and by the way, maybe you should color those roots, because FAKE redheads are not real redheads, and you are giving good redheads like GingerGOP a bad wrap. She is a wonderful girl, and how you treated her this weekend was bologna! She is twice the woman with grace, dignity, and honor than you will ever be. And we all know the character assassination you tried to pull on her too. Well guess what you silly bitch, it didn’t work.

    On a second note, if you think it takes 4k to build a website, you are full of it, and skimming off the top. Real transparent and honorable. If you want people to donate, post your budget so we can see what we are really donating to, not your personal pocket book.

    Oh and your assassination on Elizabeth Miller today too… PATHETIC. You look like a child. Grow up Karen Sautter, grow up, and maybe just maybe the YRNF won’t sue the pants off you for all of your malicious intent that you are putting out on the internet. Personally I hope they do, and then all of this pretty donation money will go to an organization that will actually be able to revolt agains democrats and RINOs like you who only want a title and attention.

    And by the way, where did you find that fiance of yours. He is a real piece of work and a hottie . I thought you could do much better, but seeing your childish ways this weekend, I now know the reason you could only land the guy you landed. No one else wants you.

    Audra Shay is a personal friend of mine, and I happen to be black. Audra does not have a racist or bigotted bone in her body. This entire thing was made up, contrived, and stupid. People maipulated the situation to be what they wanted it to be, and they should all be ashamed of themselves. Rachel Hoff is also to blame for letting a negative campaign to happen anyway. Is that how you want to win? With an asterix on your game ball?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Elephants rolling in the mud and goring each other? Is there no joy in mudville?

    Heh!!

    Glad I was never a joiner. Glad I never wasted my time on this garbage in my youth. Spending my time with the Jewish Defense League was a far better use of my time.

  • zingzing

    that certainly explains some things.

  • Baronius

    omg dave i herd audra dissed rachel on facebook and she friended a guy who said coon

    rachels totally fugly pants!!!!!
    (dike or what??)

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Well put, Baronius.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    “The candidates were also quite different in age, with Shay at age 38 almost too old to even run for the office…”

    What does it say about the demographics of a party when a 38-year-old is still considered to be a Young Republican?

    It’s a bit like the news story that goes, “It’s expected that Justice Methuselah, 75, will bring an injection of youthful vigor to the Supreme Court…”

  • Baronius

    Doc, Young Dems cut off at 36.

    Politics is a second career for many, begun after 20 years’ active duty and reserves, or after earning the first million, or after the kids are out of the house. Unfortunately, these people are essentially in mid-life crises, and are prone to making very stupid personal decisions. But that’s a digression.

  • Lumpy

    At 38 Shay ought to be past behaving like a power mad prom queen.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Lumpy –

    Now, now…SOMEbody had to take over for Leona Helmsley….

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Dave, this is great. For months I’ve been urging a revolution within the GOP which forcefully goes after the Far Right fringe like a vampyre in a blood bank.

    Shay and NOM President Maggie Gallagher a/k/a Grand Duchess of Pit Bulls, come across as ugly inside and out. It’s obvious that they’ve channeled their angst over years of rejection into promoting intolerance. If Maggie Gallagher is the face of heterosexual marriage in America today, men will be converted by the thousands to the dark side of Stonewall.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    At 38 Shay ought to be past behaving like a power mad prom queen.

    She was denied entrance to her prom. The chiffon and taffeta gown turned to sackcloth and ashes the moment she slipped into it.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Silas, I’d rather marry a nice man than some of these crazy fundamentalist ballbusters, truth be told. I wouldn’t be able to get it up for either of them, but at least with a nice man I’d be able to have decent conversations.

    Dave

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Hmm. Dave, I always said if you decided to hop over to the Dark Side I’d be the first in line to perform the conversion. After all, I DO need a new microwave.

  • Bliffle

    There’s a lot of advantages to a gay relationship:

    -When you break up you can take your gifts back and use them yourself.

    -when you walk into a bar there’s 40 guys there for every guy!

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    It must be tough to be gay. There are a whole ‘nother quantity of people you can fall for who won’t reciprocate. I wonder how often that happens.

  • zedd

    Dave,

    Its this type of healthy introspection that will rebuild the party.

    As for the Rep electorate, the spin masters designed the party and the rhetoric that would define what they value. It will take a few more years for your party to be about substance. Right now you have nearly two generations that believe that being Rep has to do with espousing platitudes and sneering and jeering at fictitious communists (or some form of a bad guy). Many believe that there is a slew of people who hate families, WANT big government, a free ride and bad education- who need to be stopped. All this distortion may have created a fervor for a few years in the party but in the end you end up with a dumb electorate that doesn’t understand the relevant issues that impact their lives directly.

  • t

    “Perhaps most troubling was Shay’s successful effort to block a motion to hold the vote for chairman by secret ballot, opening the door to intimidation and reprisals against delegates who supported Hoff.”

    Please get your facts straight. Please name one national convention that elects their officers by “secret ballot”? You can’t. The RNC National convention elects their officers by open ballot. You probably also don’t know that EXTRA ballots were being distributed to delegations!!!!! So if a state delegation had 4 delegates the delegation was receiving 6 ballots!!!! That’s not a secret ballot. That’s voter fraud.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    The RNC National convention elects their officers by open ballot. You probably also don’t know that EXTRA ballots were being distributed to delegations!!!!! So if a state delegation had 4 delegates the delegation was receiving 6 ballots!!!! That’s not a secret ballot. That’s voter fraud.

    And your point is? There’s voter fraud across the nation from both sides of the aisle. When mega-corporations manufacture voting machines AND contribute dollars to political campaigns, there’s bound to be a problem. George W. Bush will be viewed by history as the anti-President. He illegitimately ascended to the Oval Throne. But that’s water over the damn. We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. In America, we tend to repeat them.

  • t

    “And your point is? There’s voter fraud across the nation from both sides of the aisle. When mega-corporations manufacture voting machines AND contribute dollars to political campaigns, there’s bound to be a problem. George W. Bush will be viewed by history as the anti-President. He illegitimately ascended to the Oval Throne. But that’s water over the damn. We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. In America, we tend to repeat them.” And your point? what does your rant have to do with an inter-organizational election you apparently know nothing about?

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    And your point? what does your rant have to do with an inter-organizational election you apparently know nothing about?

    Perhaps you feel I know nothing. That is your opinion. I know what I know, and I’ve seen what I have seen. This little “inter-organizational election” has everything to do with it. Elections — be they national, local, inter-organizational, UNION, right down to the damn dog catcher — should begin on a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. I don’t think that is too much to expect, it should be our standard. But like everything else in American life if it don’t happen in a 20 second sound bite, we forget it.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    It must be tough to be gay. There are a whole ‘nother quantity of people you can fall for who won’t reciprocate. I wonder how often that happens.

    I dunno about that. I think it’s tougher for straight men these days since women have finally discovered that they don’t “need a man to fix it” if you know what I mean. Straight men are so intimidated by “today’s woman”. Perhaps that’s why so many men on the Far Right are cheating on their spouses or hanging out in airport men’s rooms. I’ll have to ponder that one.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    “t” — all of these conventions are run under Roberts Rules of Order, which specifically states that a secret ballot can be introduced by motion and should be used in some circumstances. That they don’t choose to use a secret ballot in most cases does not mean that they can’t do so.

    And in this case where there was a real possibility of reprisals — a trend which has become increasingly common within the GOP — a secret ballot was entirely appropriate.

    Dave

  • Arch Conservative

    “According to a series of reports in The Daily Beast and confirmed by other sources, incoming YR Chair Audra Shay has a history of attacking other Republicans and making racially insensitive and homophobic statements and engaged in a smear campaign before and during the convention against her main challenger for the chairmanship, Rachel Hoff”

    Sounds like she’d make a good Democrat.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    and yet she is a Republican

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    The worst part about being gay is that my lover might know more about sports than me.

  • areyoukidding

    fucking bigots. all of you.