|Welcome to the first edition of Message from the RIGHT. I’m Steve Wilson, and I’m the current chair of the Republican Central Committee of Howard County. I’ve been Chairman for eleven months now, and, whether the committee sees fit to have me continue in that position or not, I’d like to take a minute and tell you why I was willing to serve and what my vision is for our corner of the Party in the months to come.
As I talk about serving as Chair, I have to thank my wife, Renee; because I couldn’t do anything I do without her support. It takes a lot of patience to be the partner of someone who’s serving as a leader, and it takes a lot of patience to live with me anyway. Her patience is even more remarkable because, well, she’s a Democrat.
That’s significant to my vision. My parents were also members of different parties. My father was a poor Republican from the hills of Western North Carolina, and my mom was a Democrat girl from the town. Living with those differences in my family has taught me that we are each bigger than the differences that separate us.
It is especially important for our party to remember in this time of divisiveness. We have name calling: Trumpers, RINOS, Never-Trumpers… We have public spats between members of local parties. We haven’t exactly been kind to each other, and we don’t exactly seem to know who we want to be.
I get that. Although I’ve been a Republican almost as long as I’ve been an adult, I’ve never been comfortable with the label “Conservative.” At a very young age, I was told that “conservatives” were people who thought that life was better in the past. That seemed uninformed to me. So, while I believed strongly in individual rights and the free market, I didn’t want to be tarred with the label, “Wants to move backwards.”
We’ve probably all heard the joke: Politics is like driving. “D” takes you forward and “R” takes you backward. (Someday, I’d like to ask the humorist how he reckons a stick shift.)
But, yeah. We need to take control of our brand.
We need to inform voters that conservative does not actually mean, “Wants to move backwards.” It means “Wants to conserve“—to save and protect—what we have. It means to be careful.
Remember Hill Street Blues? Back when TV viewers liked the police? At the start of every episode, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would hold a morning briefing with his officers. Before he sent them out onto the streets, he would always shout out, “Hey – Hey! Let’s be careful out there!”
Sgt. Phil Esterhaus was a clearly intelligent, experienced guy who really cared about people.
Republicans get accused—a lot—of not caring. Lately, it’s gone beyond being too traditional, too insensitive to those not like us, too pro-business in the face of environmental and social concerns. Now it’s said that we’re “denying lives”–denying trans lives, denying lgbt lives, denying black lives. Every policy question is portrayed as a matter of life and death. We’re in danger of getting swept away in the emotional backwash.
We need to tell voters we do care about the issues, but we also care—and thus will be careful—with their rights.
I’ve seen Republicans respond to “Black Lives Matter” or “Trans Lives Matter” by saying, “All Lives matter.” I wouldn’t say that, only because it just throws fuel on the fire. My gut response has always been to say, “Of course they do!”
But… being careful… thinking about what’s actually being said in all the rhetoric in all the protests and demonstrations, I think I’d rather answer with the question, “Do you think each black life matters? Each trans life? Each life?”
Because I wonder if—in fact doubt that—these movements see people as individuals.
In the United States, each life matters. It’s in the Declaration of Independence. It’s in the Bill of Rights. It’s fundamental to our system of government.
We have rights. Government does not.
Thomas Jefferson said it, we only establish governments because we have rights, and we need to protect them.
I’ve heard extremists on the left say that they don’t care about the Bill of Rights as much as they care about ending racism. I’ve heard them say that the Constitution is a document written by colonizers and slavers, and as such should be burned. Well, I’ll defend your right to burn a flag but if you want to, burn my Constitution, you and I are gonna have words.
Too often in history – in the Soviet Union, in Cuba – we’ve seen rights steamrolled in the name of the collective good. Groups cannot possess rights. Only individuals can. Because when groups try to take ownership of rights, rights wind up being unevenly parceled out to the individuals in that group based on favoritism and pull.
We must be careful with our rights. So we can’t let ourselves be trampled with bad P.R. We need to show everyone that the “R” does not stand for “reverse” or “rejecting science” or being “reactionary.”
The R stands for “rationality.” We’ve got to cut through the emotional static from the left, and say, “Be careful!”
The “R” stands for “rights.” We’ve got to protect them. No other party has the resources to stand against the progressive excesses of the Democrats. If we let ourselves fall apart, I hate to think what happens next. We need to stay a strong party and bring balance.
So, whoever’s serving as Chairman this time next year, I hope you’ll all join me in maintaining the energy we see here tonight, and in looking after our County, our responsibilities as a party, and our rights.
Let’s be careful out there.
The Spirit of Censorship
“It’s not censorship, because it’s not the government doing it.” It’s a common argument—so common, alas, that it’s a tired one. It’s also specious.
Censorship is the act of suppressing objectionable content. Sometimes censorship is “official,” sometimes it’s just done by an eager volunteer.
Either way, censorship is thoroughly un-American. America supports a marketplace of ideas. Any and all ideas are brought out, offered up for sale, and purchased as the market will bear.
“But private companies like Facebook have a right to censor.”
Absolutely true but having the right to censor does not make you not a censor. And if your intent is to prevent some ideas from reaching the marketplace, you’re conflicting with the liberal, American tradition of free inquiry.
Last week, the Howard County Education Association (Self-described as “The Union for the Teachers in Howard County.” Note the deifying caps on “Union” and “Teachers.” ) used intimidation tactics to censor free speech.
The facts:We The People 2, a political group, organized a panel discussion on the rights of parents to participate in the selection of curriculum and library materials in public schools. That discussion was to be held at a Columbia restaurant on November 9th.The HCEA posted an event on actionnetwork.org, calling for members and supporters to come early to the restaurant’s parking lot, bringing homemade signs. Scott E’s blog called this action a protest.The post on ActionNetwork was edited more than once, removing words, and then removed outright.About a day later, the restaurant announced that they were canceling the event, citing their ignorance of We The People 2’s purpose and their unwillingness to host any political event. (This restaurant has, in this year alone, hosted more than one political event.) HCEA’s mission was accomplished, and their mission was censorship.It is possible to protest in the spirit of the marketplace. If you do not bar access to the protested event, do not hinder people’s ability to hear the speakers, or do not discourage event attendance, then your actions are not censorship. Presumably, your intent is to have your say, to protect the rights of self or others.
But intent matters. If your goal is to stop the spread of ideas—be they good or bad ideas—then you are a censor, and you are un-American.
HCEA’s intent is made clear in one of the earlier versions of its call to action: “We cannot allow them [emphasis mine] to gain a foothold in Howard County to promote their agenda.”
“Them” refers to We the People 2, described in the same post as “anti-public education, anti-BLM activists.” “Gain a foothold” means to place one foot in a manner advantageous to climbing farther up a slope. In other words, HCEA wants to see their opponents fall and never rise again.
How un-democratic. But, of course, the education orthodoxy—like all orthodoxies—is un-democratic to its core. It does not want just anyindividual person to have a voice, it only wants right-thinking people to share a common voice, and it will decide what right-thinking is. And you can bet it doesn’t mean right-wing-thinking if a teachers’ union is involved.
Steven H. Wilson, Chairman
Howard County Republican Party