The grassroots are on fire

Fault lines in the Nevada Republican Party were revealed this November, as an email exchange escalated to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s cancellation of a public appearance in Northern Nevada.

“Conversations from the Capitol” moderated by Washoe County Chair Tom Taber, the weekly Republican talk show on FM 99.1, featured a lengthy discussion of women in the workplace on Nov. 2 that was dubbed “Caveman Radio” by eagerly tweeting pundit Jon Ralston. The discussion, led by Sierra Sage publisher Len Semas, consisted of a litany of troubling signs of the decline of the American family. Complaints included the number of female graduates from colleges compared to males, as well as the number of kids who turn out bad due to ambitious parents dumping them into daycare.

There were references to the number of children with ADHD. There was even a reference to kids “building bombs in the garage.” Were the Boston Marathon bombers the product of too little maternal nurturing? Apparently, as the rise of women in the workforce was blamed for the “lack of nurturing” that leads to these problems. On the other hand, District 31 Assembly candidate Jill Dickman worked to restore balance by asserting that the rise in working women was because society has been male dominated for so long. She even suggested that maybe male domination was a cause of too many wars!

This show, while amusing at times, touched on legitimate conservative concerns. Some women find they really can’t do it all, or choose not to have kids and later regret that choice. The liberal war on males is a conservative theme just as legitimate as the conservative war on women is to liberals. Libertarians want a frank cultural acknowledgment of tradeoffs and consequences. Personal, peaceful life choices should not be subsidized, mandated or forbidden by the state. Politicizing these personal choices does more harm than good.

Then Washoe County Commissioner Martha Berkbigler (R-Dist 1) put her “ability to clarify and resolve polarizing issues” to work by submitting a letter published in the Reno Gazette-Journal pining for the good old days of “Grandma’s GOP” when women were truly welcome in the party! That started a flurry of emails between her and local Republicans, wherein she called the show’s participants “Neanderthals.”

Sen. Dean Heller and Sandoval got into the fray, issuing hasty statements that of course they were for women’s rights, and Republicans were not Neanderthals at all. (OK, that’s not what they said, but their knee jerk response could just as well have.) Sandoval went so far as to cancel his appearance at a Northern Nevada fundraiser. This upset local activists the most.

The grassroots and the establishment, otherwise known as the “Tea Party Whacko Birds” and the “Establishment RINO Sellouts,” are at odds in Nevada and across the country. Nevada has many activists who were abused at the shut down 2008 Nevada Republican Convention and who defied the Republican National Convention in 2012 by casting votes for Ron Paul. Romney’s establishment campaign later went nowhere. They have hung on and worked hard to grow the Republican Party in a small government direction. The establishment fears their policies will reduce the party’s contributions, especially from the military industrial corporate donors at the top of their Rolodexes.

Many expect Sandoval to challenge Sen. Harry Reid in 2016. Is the governor signaling his displeasure at some grassroots conservative views? Does Heller agree? Or is it that the establishment simply wants to remind any insurgents that they are still in charge? If so, they may find they are in charge of an even smaller Republican Party.