Intra-party infighting is occurring within the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Infighting occurs, especially after success but there are several principles in group dynamics that are being ignored by Party officials. That is at the heart of the division.
Anybody who understands group dynamics knows that keeping everybody together in a group or movement is a never-ending challenge. Whenever there is human interaction, which is what group dynamics involve, there will be the potential for conflict. That conflict has to be managed. If it is not or it is ignored things will unravel and fast.
People involved in any type of group or movement will not always agree on everything. Addressing the grievances of those who have a different view on things is paramount. People have a desire to be heard in group dynamics. It doesn’t matter how wrong or uninformed they might be. The most effective mechanism to use toward the minority opinion or a disgruntled individual in group dynamics is to listen and understand where they are coming from. In other words, put yourself in their shoes for just a moment. Sure, maybe they have taken their eye off the prize but when people feel that they aren’t being heard, they won’t care about the prize.
This is, in my opinion, at the heart of the in-fighting within the state GOP. There is a critical mass of base conservative voters who feel they are not being heard by Party officials and elected representatives in the legislature. In other words, their grievances are not being addressed. It is the number one complaint I hear from base voters. I am at ground level. I, unlike GOP Party officials and elected members of the legislature, have my finger on the pulse of the base voter. There is a huge disconnect between what the base sees as important and what the political class sees as important. The question becomes, how to bridge the divide and keep it from becoming an underground effort to torpedo the movement.
One of the mistakes that the GOP establishment is making, is taking for granted that the disenchanted base at election time will automatically acquiesce and turn out to vote the Party line. That is a huge miscalculation. These are not your grandfather’s conservatives who will toe the line and do what they are told. In the Georgia Senate run-off in 2021, the GOP lost both races because 30 plus percent of GOP voters who turned out in November 2020, did not return to participate in the January run-off. When polled, voter apathy and disenchantment were the reasons. GOP voter grievances about the 2020 election weren’t being heard. Right, wrong, or indifferent is irrelevant. They didn’t show up.
Currently, these angry voters are being told to sit down and shut up by the arrogance of Wisconsin GOP officials and elected reps. They are being ordered to get in line. That is not an effective strategy to deal with these independent-minded voters. One of two things will happen or both if they aren’t listened to. Some will bow out in upcoming elections and some will do everything they can to metaphorically burn the house down.
Memo to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader LeMahieu, and Republican Party Chair Paul Farrow: Stop dictating to the disgruntled base. Meet with them and keep your trap shut. Try listening. Give the impression that they are being heard. They can be brought back into focusing on the target but not with arm twisting tactics or dictating to them. That dog won’t hunt this time. Not with these folks. Rid yourselves of the hubris you are currently displaying in order to narrow the divide and bring people back into the fold.
David A. Clarke Jr.
President, Rise Up Wisconsin Inc.