By Ron Robinson
It's not that hard to become a voting member of any political party. What is surprising is how few people participate in party governance.
Did you know that nationwide, half the voting seats in our parties are vacant? Unoccupied. Empty. When Ben Franklin emerged from the constitutional convention, he was asked what sort of government they had created.
He replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."
No doubt he was fearing exactly what we witness today: so few people are interested in helping govern our country, that half the governing seats of both our parties are unoccupied.
If we could fill all those empty seats, we would own the party, because many people who feel as you and I do are already working (and voting) inside the party - they're waiting for us to show up and help them.
You could be filling one of those voting seats, probably pretty easily.
Our parties are governed just like the rest of our country: people show up for a meeting and they vote. Further, the parties are governed in truly Republican fashion: citizens elect official representatives to carry out their will in governing the party. Even the Democrat party uses the Republican system to govern their party!
So when I hear complaints from Tea Party or Liberty Caucus members that this or that political party is not doing what they want, my immediate questions is "Why aren't you inside the party helping govern it in the direction you desire? Why aren't you in the room to have your vote counted?"
We have no ground to stand upon to complain if we are not present in the room and casting our vote for the party policies and officers we want.
Believe it or not, there are already many people inside the party who believe as you and I do. They are not in the majority yet. But our task is not so gargantuan and discouraging as to need to start from ground zero to assemble a 50% + 1 vote majority inside the party.
More than half of the majority we need is already working inside the party.
They just need you to join them to form the required majority for Tea party ascendance.
This article relates how to become a voting member of the party in California. There are many other sites that can tell you how to do this in other states. Since this is a CRP Caucus, we'll just discuss California.
Voting members of the party in California are elected on the presidential primary ballot every four years - they are called Central Committee members. 'Way down-ballot, you will see the names of the people running for the party Central Committee. You can only vote for Central Committee members within the party with which you are registered to vote. If you are not registered to vote as a member of a given party, you cannot vote for party central committee members.
There is no Central Committee for 'decline to state' -- so by registering so, you are ensuring you have no voice in the politics of any party. That's exactly what the proponents of that recent 'reform' wanted.
The people who are thus elected are the people who govern the party. You can easily run to become a central committee member - many people run and are elected unopposed!
Some file for the office and never need to appear on the ballot - they simply assume office - because there were fewer people who filed for the office than slots available on the ballot. All are assumed to have 'won'. In California, if fewer than 7 people file for a given district, all people who filed are simply seated and assume office.
In California, seven people are elected from each district to govern the party in that district. Those same seven people also wear a 'second hat' governing the county party with the district members of other districts in that county. Depending on the county in California, the districts may be either County Supervisor Districts (mostly rural counties where it may take several counties to make up a single assembly district) or Assembly Districts (mostly urban counties).
But many seats are left empty - nobody runs for them. To fill these vacancies, district and county chairs may make appointments - you can seek one of these appointments.
This method may be available to you no matter where we are between election cycles. Get appointed to a vacant seat. If you're going to gain an appointment, you need to find out who can appoint you. Here is the official contact information for each county chair (and web site) in California. Many counties, such as LA County, publish the contact information for each district chair right on their web site.
Contact your district chair. Ask if there is a vacancy on their central committee that you could be appointed to. There's a better than even chance that this district chair will be very glad to hear from you and will be willing to discuss it.
It may be that nobody is serving on the central committee in your district. If that's the case, the county chair can appoint you to your district - probably making you the chair of the district at the same time! This is exactly what happened at the first organizing meeting of the Los Angeles County GOP in January 2013: one district had no central committee members, but there was a single individual from that district who wanted to serve. All business before the county party stopped long enough to get this individual certified and seated on the county party as a voting member.
District and county chairs are unpaid, overworked public servants (although you may not agree with that characterization) and they may not return your phone call or answer your email unless they think it's important. Don't give up. Pester them until they finally respond.
Of course the best way of obtaining an appointment is to simply appear at the county or district party central committee meetings and get to know your officers face-to-face. If you have trouble learning where the central committee meetings are held, the staff at your county supervisor's office or your assemblyman's office (of the same party) should be able to help you determine when/where the Central Committee meetings are held. By all means join the mailing list on your state and county web sites.
If no seat is available for an appointment, ask for an alternate appointment so you can vote in the absence of your primary committee member. This is an excellent way to learn the ropes, assess your other central committee members, and prepare to run for (and win) an elected seat in your own right.
Remember: when you're appointed, what the district or county chair giveth to you, they can also taketh away. So getting elected to your seat is really the best route.
This method is tougher, but ultimately more reliable: get elected to the Central Committee by the citizens of your district. This article was written in August of 2013, so the next presidential primary will be in June of 2016. If 2016 seems like a long way off, please refer back to the 'Appointment Method' above.
In January of 2016 (or any presidential primary year), contact your county clerk to learn the filing dates for being placed on the presidential primary ballot. Most county clerks put this 'filing calendar' information right on their web sites.
This is important! If you miss any one of several filing deadlines, you'll have to wait 4 more years to try again.
Details are available elsewhere, but basically, the process looks like this: in January (usually) you file for the office of 'Party Central Committee' for your district (for your party) and pick up petitions to get signed by people in your district. Usually only 45 signatures is enough to get you on the presidential primary ballot. You usually have until early March to gather your signatures and turn them back in to the county clerk to be checked. The county clerk checks carefully to be sure that each person who signed your petitions is registered to vote both in your party and in your district. Do not let people who are not registered to vote in your district circulate your petitions for you (the county clerk checks this, too). You can walk you neighborhood with petitions, or take petitions to club meetings or other events full of like-minded people who want you helping to govern the party. Just be sure everyone who signs your petition is registered to vote in your party and in your district - otherwise, their signature will not be counted - it'll be thrown out.
Finally, your petitions have been turned in, and the county clerk has certified each signature (if you do not have enough signatures, most county clerks will notify you and give you a few days to make up the shortcoming).
You'll get a letter from the county clerk that your name will appear on the presidential primary ballot for the party central committee. You are now an old silverback of the electoral process and a leading citizen of your community! Congratulations!
It's kind of a thrill to see your name on the presidential primary ballot at a very exciting time in the presidential primary political race. Have fun.
Some folks simply file and get elected. Some folks file and don't campaign, get defeated, and wonder what happened. If you are in a contentious district, you may have to campaign hard to get elected. Your best clue is to see how many people also filed to run - if there are more than 7, and most are incumbents, you may have a fight on your hands. Roll up your sleeves and wade in.
I came in second of 12 in my first election (my mentor was #1, how could I bear her??), and I was the 'big spender' in the race. I spent $125 to be on a slate mailer, and $100 in mass email expenses. For my second election, I skipped the mass email expenses and simply paid the $125 for the slate mailer. In 2016, I probably won't spend a penny. Most candidates spend nothing, or way under $100.
Your victory will be celebrated on election night with as much enthusiasm as if you'd won a US Senate race! Presumably, you're at some politician's victory party (hopefully also victorious), and your friends at the party are proud to know you - glad that you stepped up to serve your community.
This is retail politics at its most basic. Abraham Lincoln started this way.
Party work can be highly rewarding. As suggested above, you're going to be welcomed by many fellow travelers who respect small government, liberty, and self-reliance just as you do - your arrival to help them will be celebrated - it's highly gratifying to get to work with them, because we're doing the highly essential work of the party and the country.
Get a committee assignment. Lead the less experienced volunteers on precinct walks. Become a delegate to the state party. You, like many of us, may find that helping govern the party is immensely rewarding and satisfying.
But it's essential, too, if we wish to retain our liberty.
Ron Robinson is a businessman in Alhambra, CA. He was first elected to the party central committee in 2010. You can reach him at ron (at) procinct.net and on Twitter at @WatchCenter.