Jan 18

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Guest commentary: The Republican Country Club does not host TEA parties


Commentary by Tony Corvo - 20150118Bushwood Country Club was the fictitious private upscale country club in the 1980 hit comedy Caddyshack. The club had an eclectic array of rich and powerful club members as well as caddies and other employees.

Four of the major characters in the movie were: the snobbish Judge Elihu Smails, played by Ted Knight; the libertine Ty Webb, played by Chevy Chase; the slow-witted grounds keeper Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray; and the fun-loving land developer Al Czervik, played Rodney Dangerfield. Added to this mix was an assorted array of lesser known actors playing caddies, club employees, and in other supporting roles.

Over the years, and especially serving as a county party precinct captain, I have come to the conclusion that political parties are much like private country clubs, which in turn have much in common with Bushwood. At Bushwood, you had distinguished members such as Smails, caddies and other workers like Spackler, and irritants like Webb and Czervik. In a political country club, elected and other officials are the distinguished members; precinct captains are the caddies and the other grunt workers; and for the GOP country club, the irritants are Tea Party members, conservatives, and other right leading groups.

If you are a political club member, you find that membership has its privileges, and members in good standing will circle the wagons to protect their positions and each other from any outside threat. They go to great lengths to write rules and establish customs that favor people like themselves – in this case, other members of the political class. This defense mechanism works fairly well even when members, given any other time and place, would sell each other out for much less than 30 pieces of silver. Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Do you know who your Precinct Captain is?

Precinct Captains—elected in each county voting precinct to be a member of the party’s county Central Committee—bear the burden of providing services to the party members but must not assume that they can socialize with members or have input to club (county Republican Party) operations. In Caddy Shack, this class distinction, between the club’s members and its workers, especially the caddies, was epitomized by the snobbery of Judge Elihu Smails. Nevertheless, once a year, Bushwood held a Caddy Day, where caddies and other workers were invited to enjoy some of the club’s amenities, including the golf course and the swimming pool. Later that evening a formal dinner was held.

Political parties have similar outings. At fund-raising events, such as the Republican Lincoln Day Dinner and the Democrat Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the greater the attendance the greater the take, so the upper crust of each party submit themselves to associating with the caddies of the club. It must be painful for them, because getting the rabble to work campaigns for you is one thing, but having to spend hours exchanging pleasantries and small talk with political peasants is another thing all together.

As for me, besides not being very good at pleasantries and small talk, one reason I don’t usually go to these events is because I don’t relish the prospect of spending time with people who wouldn’t normally want to associate themselves with me at any other time. I’m not saying this to be mean. I’m sure on a personal level many club members are decent folks. But it would be like attending a social gathering where I would be considered an Al Czervik or even a Carl Spackler among the sea of Judge Elihu Smails.

I’m sure the Democrat Party has divisions in its base too, but I don’t think the differences in what it promises and what it delivers is as great as with the GOP. Therefore, a great struggle is occurring within the GOP. It is between the Republican political class desperately trying to hold onto power, and the rank and file tired of being lied to, taken advantage of, and discarded like broken tees. Many of the rank and file have joined other groups such as Tea Party chapters.

You would think that the GOP, a party that calls itself a conservative party, would fight for smaller government. Therefore, you would think that the GOP would welcome the energy and organization of Tea Party-like groups. Most importantly, you would think that the GOP would not want to alienate a good chunk of its base.

You could think these things but you would be wrong. The Republican Party, regardless of its platform, is still a political party, and the goal of all political parties is political power. Threats to shaking up the political status quo to make government smaller will never be welcome. Therefore, the GOP elite have made it quite clear that the Bushwood Republican Country Club may accept your application as a caddy but it will never serve you TEA.

Tony Corvo

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