PETER ROFF: Here’s What Harmeet Dhillon And Ronna McDaniel Are Missing About The RNC Chair Race
Peter Roff on January 26, 2023
The people in charge of the annual Republican National Committee (RNC) now underway at an Orange County, California, luxury resort ought to have given it a name. Something catchy, like “The Noint at Dana Point” that political writers could use to describe what’s going down.
It’s not so much a political meeting as it is a brawl. Or a mismatched title bout in which the challenger, California Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon is trying to take incumbent, six-year RNC National Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel out.
The scrappy Dhillon, who swings wildly but hard, hasn’t yet landed any blows on McDaniel that seem to have done any lasting damage. The incumbent, meanwhile, is an experienced combatant who throws a punch only when she knows it will do some good.
If that sounds like an odd way to describe a political gathering of one of the two major political parties, it is. The election, though is unlike any other, at least not any in recent memory.
McDaniel became chair because she was picked for the job by Donald Trump, who chose the former and largely successful Michigan party leader partly as a jab at her cousin, failed GOP presidential candidate and Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney.
She’s led the organization for six years — which, in RNC years, is a lifetime. She’s raised tremendous amounts of money and has led successful efforts to grow the national GOP vote. Trump got 11 million more votes in 2020 than he got in 2016 — it just wasn’t enough to win.
In 2022 more people voted for Republicans running for the U.S. House of Representatives — the best available proxy for the national vote for president — than voted for the Democrats.
Still, because the GOP didn’t win more, Dhillon is bashing McDaniel for failing to produce results that lived up to expectations.
That may not seem fair but, given that resources in 2022 were plentiful, people are right to wonder whether if they were put to their best use– something the members of the committee should consider when picking who will lead it into the next presidential election.
Of course, by focusing on resource allocation, as Dhillon has done, the party can avoid having to discuss the elephant in the room: former Trump’s impact on candidate selection in 2022 and what his post-election temper tantrum in 2020 did to GOP campaigns and their ability to get out the vote.
Pollster David Winston has demonstrated through exit poll data that turnout was not, as Dhillon and others have charged, that much of an issue in the last mid-term.
Candidates who lost, especially those running in marginal by still winnable states and districts lost because they failed to explain well why they were running and what they’d do about the problems facing America if they were elected.
Dhillon’s also going after McDaniel about sweetheart deals between the RNC and name brand consultants, vendors, law firms and state party organizations which, some Dhillon supporters suggest, are an effort by the establishment to buy the votes McDaniel needs to be re-elected.
That’s an all too common trope that folks who’ve been in politics long enough have heard from every insurgent candidate and campaign going back decades.
“Upend the Establishment” is about as effective a slogan as “Immanentize the Eschaton” — especially if you’re planning on winning elections in state elections in 2023 and a national contest in 2024 against the most corrupt, inept administration since the turn of the last century.
The party needs a vision, but it’s not up to the RNC to define it. That comes from policymakers and no one wants the 168 members of the national committee or the chairman making policy.
Whoever the chairman is must understand it and defend it, and both McDaniel and Dhillon appear able to do that, but it’s not the party’s job to make policy. If it was, the “Reagan Revolution” would have died from neglect in its infancy.
More transparency as Dhillon has called for, would be good.
Helping the state parties stand up their get-out-the-vote operations — and McDaniel has pledged to expand on her previous efforts which, as the vote totals show, have borne good fruit.
For the people watching the race, the contest between McDaniel and Dhillon has been an education. No one is sure what the RNC does anymore or even if it’s needed.
The rise of the Internet as a political tool, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, and the adoption of personality politics in both parties as an avenue to winning elections be rendering the organization obsolete.
What the RNC members need to hear and haven’t from either candidate — is a clearly articulated vision for winning elections in the future. The party is about strategy and tactics.
The campaign for chairman has been about the two candidates landing body blows and bad press.
Neither seems to understand that whether or not the GOP wins Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for president in the next election is more important than who wins the right to be national chairman until the next party nominee is chosen sometime in July 2024.
A former UPI senior political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff is now affiliated with several public policy organizations including the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network media fellow. Contact him at RoffColumns AT mail.com or on Twitter & Truth Social @TheRoffDraft.
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