BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff @Keithplunkett
It seems my last commentary got a few people’s hackles raised when I questioned the apparent lack of interest by the state Republican party in a top-tier presidential candidate visiting Mississippi.
Frank Corder, fresh off of a campaign of his own, is back writing for Yall Politics. And-lucky me-I got the honor of being one of his first targets since resuming his duties.
On Tuesday, just minutes before joining Sen. Ted Cruz on his bus tour through Mississippi, I received an angry call from the state GOP Executive Director, Spencer Ritchie. He tried to convince me that I was out of line and that he had only just heard about the Cruz visit on Monday, the day before the event.
Yes. He did. I know. I’m shaking my head too.
The Cruz visit to Mississippi was all over national and state media for a week, and all over social media for 3 weeks.
So, Ritchie’s statement can only be deciphered as one of two things; a poor attempt at diversion, or an admission of ineptitude.
I don’t believe he’s inept.
During our conversation-and that’s putting it kindly since mostly what I did was listen-he repeatedly referenced the United Conservatives Fund that was launched just a few months ago as an organization set up “to compete” with the state party.
Apparently UCF, of which I am a director and Sen. Chris McDaniel is Chairman, is of great concern to state party leaders. The Cruz Campaign’s Mississippi Leadership Team, which Sen. McDaniel and I co-chair, has quite a few of our UCF Executive Committee on board.
Let’s clear up what should be obvious. UCF doesn’t seek “to compete” with the state party. It’s not even set up that way. However, I make no apologies for the fact that we seek to hold feet to the fire, legislatively and organizationally. And, I’m sure that does make a few people nervous.
There is a simple truth that is the foundation of UCF and the foundation of our action that both the state party and their friends at Yall Politics can’t, or won’t, wrap their head around. That is this: Conservatism isn’t a product that is property of an individual or a group or a political party. It isn’t a label that can be worn regardless of substance, and it isn’t a formula that can be changed at the whim of party bosses. Conservatism is a social contract that belongs to the people. It is a set of tried and true tenets that history shows has worked time after time when followed. Our mission at UCF, and my goal personally, is to make sure the truth of that message is heard loud and clear and then vigorously acted upon whenever possible.
Sen. Cruz’s speech yesterday was as pure an example of the hopes of that mission as could be recited. And it is widely supported by conservative Republicans across this state and nation. So why the angst from state party officials?
If the party didn’t want to mention the Cruz event that’s their prerogative. As a Republican I think it stinks, and I’m not going to fall in line and sit quietly. I’m going to tell people that I am of the opinion that it stinks, as have quite a few other people across our state who vote Republican. Somewhat telling is that the party felt enough pressure to finally put something on their Facebook page about the Cruz visit, even if it did come an hour after the last event in Olive Branch.
It’s unfortunate that me pointing out what I did publicly makes people at the state party headquarters uncomfortable. I wish it were otherwise. But it’s also a good sign the conservative message we’re communicating is being heard, that the McDaniel coalition we built is alive and well, and that UCF is successfully building a solid infrastructure.
In the end, it will be good for the Republican Party, the conservative movement and the entire state as we plant the seeds for more discussion about why conservative policies are better and why more citizens should become involved.
Meanwhile, as these guys begin to tire of spewing venom about the work we are doing, we’ll still be busy doing it, speaking to groups both big and small across the state, and uniting conservatives.
I hope every conservative will join us. As the big crowds at Sen. Cruz’s stops yesterday so perfectly illustrate, it’s not a matter of “if” the conservative movement in Mississippi will have its say. It’s a matter of “when” the political establishment will stop fighting against it and recognize it’s good for the party.
Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett