Will their tangled web come to haunt local pols?

Virginia’s long-time Republican National Committeeman Morton C. Blackwell also heads a non-profit political training group called the Leadership Institute (www.leadershipinstitute.org). Proven successful in training political operatives of all political stripes, Blackwell years ago came up with and published 45 “Laws of the Public Policy Process,” laws which should be required reading for anyone who aspires to participation in and understanding of politics in modern America.

More than a few have come to mind in recent weeks, as various candidates have dropped into and out of various races for public office in the upcoming election. At least one, the most entertaining, if only for farcical value, has acted as though they don’t exist.

Gainesville Supervisor Ed Wilbourn recently announced his exit from the GOP to great fanfare.? To the uninvolved observer — that is, to one who has never felt or expressed strong feelings about him one way or the other — the entire imbroglio is alternatively farcical, and/or maddening, and/or outrageous.? Blackwell’s Rule No. 44: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.”

Just after the deadline for filing for the Republican primary in Gainesville arrived on a late Friday afternoon, Wilbourn announced that he was leaving the GOP to run as an independent.

Lest one think this was a principled move, it is useful to note the inconsistencies between Wilbourn’s pretentious statement and his behavior in the months, or rather years, leading up to his decision — after being twice elected as Gainesville’s Supervisor as a Republican — to present himself to voters without the GOP nomination.

First, one should consider the circumstances of his exit. Wilbourn only announced his decision after he had already exercised his authority as the incumbent elected with the GOP nomination to choose a primary as the process for nominating the GOP standard bearer in the race. Anyone active in politics knows that the process most likely to discourage challengers is a primary, as the entry costs for primaries are much higher than other methods of nomination, such as a convention or a mass meeting. In races where the incumbent is not a Republican, or is a Republican not previously nominated by primary, choice of the method of nomination is left to the Republican Committee.

Wilbourn, like virtually every other GOP incumbent (and Democrat, for that matter), insisted that the GOP confer its nomination by primary.

Of course, there’s a method to his madness. Wilbourn was facing stiff competition from John T. Stirrup, a principled conservative who has proven himself quite popular among Republicans in Gainesville and countywide. He compares favorably to Wilbourn on issues important to conservatives, most recently and importantly, as a leader in Republican efforts to defeat the sales tax increase supported by entrenched politicians in both parties, including Wilbourn. He was among the six-member board majority voting to endorse the increase, a proposal rejected by 60 percent of voters countywide, and by an even larger margin in the Gainesville District he purports to represent.

The more likely explanation of Wilbourn’s action, of course, is raw, personal political self-interest. Wilbourn can hardly have forgotten his nomination fight of four years ago, in which he carried only a plurality of GOP votes with a winning margin of only 11 voters. And Wilbourn himself became a supervisor when he knocked off the well-liked by eccentric Bobby McManus. So how much credibility does he have when he complains, as he did in one journal, about others being “divisive.”

But you really have to love Wilbourn’s rhetoric. It combines the inconsistency of a man motivated by no identifiable principles with the sanctimony that suggests that he would find a happy home in the Democrat Party.?He was quoted in this journal, for instance, by declaring that he “will not pledge to support those who put their personal agendas before the public’s interest.”

What a wonderfully vapid quotation. To what “personal agendas” was Wilbourn referring?? Potomac News reporter Chris Newman’s article did not specify, but by implication, it appears that Wilbourn self-righteously equates his personal agenda with the public’s interest and dismisses anyone who disagrees with him has merely pursuing a personal agenda.

Equally trite was Wilbourn’s nonsense about “consensus,” a claim that will doubtless play well with the “Can’t-we-all-just-get-along” whiners who are of two sorts. Invariably, they are those who are either in a partisan minority, or those who so lack the courage of their convictions that they have no principle that isn’t worth abandoning.

But even more outrageous is accusation, quoted in another journal, that local GOP leadership “has abandoned some of the national Republican policies and platforms of smaller government, less regulation and more property rights,” and, in yet another, that he thinks the local GOP is moving too far to the left.

Wow! That’s quite an indictment. Particularly coming, as it does, from an elected public official who only a few months ago endorsed a tax increase. A public official who, in his interview with our Chris Newman, cited as progress the fact that, unlike in 1995, when he took office, “county staff was frozen.” Presumably, Wilbourn was not making the inaccurate claim that county staff has declined since 1995.

So, tax-increaser and government-grower Wilbourn thinks local GOP leadership “has abandoned some of the national Republican policies and platforms.” Most of our parents described that exercise as the “pot calling the kettle black.” Except that even that indictment requires that the accused be possessed of the same attributes as the accuser, an utterly nonsensical suggestion in this case.

And it’s difficult to take seriously a man whose presence over his present term of office at local county Republican meetings can be counted on the fingers of one hand when he complains about the direction of the local GOP.? Blackwell’s Rule No. 22: “Never miss a political meeting if you think there’s the slightest chance you’ll wish you’d been there.”

But Wilbourn may be dealt the most effective blow by those many Gainesville voters who have supported him in the past for no other reason than his GOP credential, mostly because he has disregarded Blackwell’s Rule No. 34, “You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends,” and because they remember Rule No. 21: “An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

An attorney, Young lives with his wife and their two sons in Montclair.