Last December liberty activists from Snohomish County gathered to form the Snohomish County charter of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
There was just one problem: the “Abortion” section of the Statement of Principles (SoP) of the national RLC. (http://www.rlc.org/about/statement-of-principles/)
Prior to forming our county’s charter, the statewide ad hoc (now the elected) chair was recruiting liberty activists to charter in their counties. Some shared their concerns about joining because of the SoP’s statement on abortion. At the time, she assured us that all of the members in her home county of Yakima and all of the members from the other chartered Washington counties were pro-life and if we had a majority of pro-life members in our respective counties and around the state we could get that statement changed from the ground up. So, trusting that she was right, we decided to give our support to Brian Landsberger, who was forming the Snohomish County charter. We held our first charter meeting at his house. Most of the Snohomish County RLC founding members found the national statement on abortion completely unacceptable. We were told by some in leadership that this statement isn’t what we all knew it to be. We were told that it is both “neutral” and “nuanced.” We weren’t convinced.
Abortion is a critical life and death choice for every pregnant woman. Whether government should intervene to influence that choice is dependent on the legal status of the fetus. We acknowledge that there can be honest and ethical differences of opinion on that status, the rights of the woman, and the proper role of government.
We favor civil discussion of this question, but take no position on the merits of conflicting legal, ethical, and religious viewpoints on either side. We oppose any allocation of government funds or resources to facilitate abortions, advocate in the public discussion, or to jeopardize the right of any woman to defend her own life and health.
We support a resolution of this issue through the proper judicial and legislative channels specified in the Constitution.”
Nuanced? Nope. Pro-abortion? You got it. That was our problem. We brought our concerns to leadership; some to the County leadership, some to RLCWA Chair Brendale. We were assured that we could revise the national SoP and adopt it for our own county, so that’s exactly what we did – unanimously. We adopted it (http://www.snocorlc.org/index.php/platform/), considered the matter closed and moved on, looking forward to fighting for liberty in our county! As it turned out, the matter was far from closed.
The SnoCo RLC Statement of Principles had come to the attention of the National RLC and they were not happy. I received a call from the SnoCo RLC Chair, telling me that we were going to have to change our SoP. He had allegedly been contacted by RLCWA Chair Brendale who told him that our SoP was in conflict with the National Statement. I was told that the RLC allegedly threatened to dissolve our Chapter based on nothing more than our pro-life statement! How could this be? How could our Statement be in conflict with the “neutral” statement by National? Fellow founding member Mrs. Michelle McIntyre and I spent many hours on the phone with our County and State Chairs, trying desperately to find a solution. We could not sit by and let our Statement be changed without a fight! An agreement was finally struck: The SnoCo RLC would rename their Statement of Principles. It would become the Platform. It was unclear whether or not National would let this slide, but the State Chair was satisfied, and for the moment, so were we. We followed that up by immediately passing a resolution at the County level that was to be taken forward to the RLCWA State Convention.
Fast forward one month. I contacted the Chair and Secretary for the RLCWA, asking for the procedure for bringing a resolution forward to the RCLWA Body. After some pestering, the State Chair gave me the procedure for bringing the proposed resolution to the convention body and said that I would “be presenting it from the floor.” But once the proposed resolution was emailed out to the membership by the RLCWA, there was a distinct change in Chairman Brendale. Her public statements contrasted sharply with her private assurances. Discussion began on Facebook groups. Brendale commented that it would be unlikely the resolution would even be heard and since the resolution was “improperly formatted” anyway, it didn’t really matter. The “formatting” unfortunately, was a result of following Chairman Brendale’s instructions.
The discussion surrounding this proposed resolution was intense. I do have a tendency to take a “damn the torpedoes!” approach, but this was and is a vital issue. To be successful, the RLCWA needed to defend life. How could we hope to defend the rights which God has given to all men if we could not find it within ourselves to defend the most basic of rights – the right to exist? After all, “The god who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, and he was right.
One of the most vocal critics of the resolution was Matt Dubin, King County RLC Chair. Throughout the Facebook discussion, I, along with others, were accused of saying things that we did not say. What we did say and do was to point out the harsh reality and horror of abortion. Abortion methods were described, and photographs from the Center for Bioethical Reform (http://www.abortionno.org/) that show murdered babies were posted (the latter, specifically by me and I take full responsibility for that). This issue is so urgent, how would we do any less?
The discussions revealed a clear divide amongst the membership. What was shocking is that the leadership seemed to be more or less in lockstep on the issue. It was very clear that Mr. Dubin did not want this proposed resolution heard, and it was becoming apparent that RLCWA Chair Brendale was committed to squashing it by not allowing it to be heard. These tactics of autocratic suppression, in common use by the GOP establishment in Washington State, are one of the primary reasons the RLC has risen in opposition. But I don’t think I heard anything from more than one or two county RLC chairs in support of the proposed resolution.
Some who had conversations with Chairman Brendale in the week leading up to the convention report that she did not hesitate to let people know she considered Snohomish County RLC members derelict in their duty to “grow their membership” and wasting time over “resolutions” that should properly be handled at the county level. She freely opined that our chapter was causing her major distress and taking up valuable time she ought to be spending on the upcoming convention as she “put out fires” caused by “vile, vicious attacks” on facebook.
We went to the RLCWA State convention unsure of whether or not we would be allowed to present our proposed resolution. We’d been told that if there was time, we could present our resolution for consideration. With nothing being certain, we prepared. Some of us prepared statements in support, and we discussed how we might respond if we were barred from bringing it forward. We knew that if it was allowed, it would be an uphill fight, but it would be a necessary fight.
R. Clayton Strang is the Republican Precinct Committee Officer for the Lynnwood 2 precinct in Snohomish County, Washington. Clayton has served as Washington State’s 21st Legislative District Chair for the Santorum for President Campaign (2012), assistant to the Snohomish County Chair for the Santorum for President Campaign, Deputy Director of Public Relations for the Hadian for Governor 2012 Campaign. He also has served as a Delegate to the Snohomish County Republican Party’s 2012 Convention and the Washington State Republican Party’s 2012 Convention. Clayton is also a husband, a father of four and licensed funeral director and embalmer in Washington State.