Santa Maria Valley Republican Club (SMVR) members were urged to stop giving money to national organizations at their meeting last Sunday, February 24. The message from Robert Jeffers, an Orcutt resident whom club president Marlin Brown introduced as a Tea Party movement spokesperson, was to keep funding local and use it to aggressively recruit and support candidates for local office.
Despite their diversity in other ways, Tea Party groups across the country are in agreement on this strategy, claimed Jeffers, who introduced himself as a coordinator with Central Coast Freedom Rallies. “Local issues are a winner for Republicans,” he said, citing as examples “the future of our children’s schools and the sustainability of pensions.” Another reason for the approach Jeffers called “get local and get connected” is to groom new and better candidates for state and national office.
Under the title “What Is Wrong with This Picture?” Jeffers projected PowerPoint images of House Speaker John Boehner, Senator John McCain, and other Republican leaders laughing and otherwise demonstrating camaraderie with Democratic legislators and administration officials. (In response to the question, one ramrod-straight club member in the front row, with a haircut strongly reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, dryly quipped, “They’re being kind to each other?”) The current Republican leadership in Washington cannot be trusted, Jeffers explained. They are either too ready to compromise or “ineffective” — he specifically cited Karl Rove and his American Crossroads organization — or both. Jeffers pointed with approval to a Tea Party frosh who, alone out of a gaggle of grinning Republican legislators, remained stone-faced and glaring during President Obama’s Inaugural Address.
Many others, he said, had “gone moderate.” He observed that Boehner had “never been a Tea Party activist,” “caved” on the budget, and even purged four Tea Party freshmen Congressional representatives from committee memberships for refusing to go along with the Republican leadership in budget battles.
Earlier in the evening, over the objections of some passionately pro-life club members, the SMVR had already taken a step toward becoming better connected locally. Its members had voted overwhelmingly to continue exploring the possibility of dissolving their club in order to join forces with the California Congress of Republicans, Tri-Valley Chapter (Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria). Jeffers was among those speaking in favor of the joining, which would not technically be a merger, though it was casually referred to as such. After dissolving their own club, SMVR members would be encouraged to join the Congress of Republicans, which is apparently less unified on questions of abortion.
“Why would we jeopardize what SMVR is about?” asked one member. “What do we give up next?” demanded another.
In response, other members cited strength in unity. Internal dissension is “why the Democrats are beating us hands-down” in California, said a member who supported joining the CCR. More than one noted that it’s hard to organize locally when there are three Republican clubs active in Santa Maria — the SMVRC, the CCR, and the Lincoln Club.
Kristine Mollenkopf, who is the chair of the Republican Central Committee and who also sits on the board of the SMVR — and who was wearing a form-fitting T-shirt featuring a pair of pistols crossed over her chest above the legend “I Don’t Call 911” — said, “It’s not really about abandoning issues; it’s about platform: strong defense and fiscal responsibility.” She reported that the Republican Central Committee is busily recruiting young Republicans and also engaging the multicultural community. “We can be a red state again,” Mollenkopf said.