What precedent have we set? If a candidate can’t win an endorsement, they must simply join forces with other candidates who lack sufficient grassroots support and spoil the process for frontrunners.
If you told me two years ago that I would be a Republican Party delegate at the Wisconsin GOP convention, I would not have believed it, not in a million years. I considered it an honor to join the over 1,500 dedicated conservative grassroots activists this weekend. Our goal was to endorse state candidates that we feel best represent conservatism and have what it takes to defeat the radical left-wing Democrats in the Fall and continue to fight for conservative principles as elected representatives.
For hundreds of first-time delegates like myself, the endorsement was considered a recommendation from the most involved activists in the conservative movement. We are the ones who have heard the speeches, attended the parades and fairs, ran for office, knocked on thousands of doors, distributed the literature, gone through the training, and organized the speaking events. We spend a great deal of time getting educated, working with the candidates, volunteering for campaigns, and running for elected office. The argument that we shouldn’t make an official recommendation to other conservative voters is absurd. Every day, I am thanked for all the work I do, but this weekend was different.
On Friday, the convention began as an aspirational event: A meet-up with like-minded conservatives energized for the upcoming primaries and general election. We were there to make difficult but essential choices. Unfortunately, the convention became a demoralizing blur of confusing votes and long hours of frustration and fatigue by Saturday evening. New attendees – who took time away from our families, and spent our family funds on hotel rooms and travel expenses – were shocked to discover that their vote didn’t matter. The sacrifice of a great deal of time and energy for candidates and causes couldn’t outweigh the temper tantrum of a few. Apparently, an endorsement isn’t fair. I didn’t realize we were the party of participation prizes and equalizing outcomes.
The rhetoric that the endorsement option negates a primary is wrong, yet that’s the narrative. No matter who is endorsed, the primary in August continues, and every Wisconsin Republican can make the ultimate decision. I often heard chants, “let the people decide,” and I was confused. Did they even know this wasn’t a primary election, just an endorsement?
Another argument made was about fairness. Not every delegate could join us and vote on Saturday. They had family commitments; the drive was too far and too inconvenient. For those reasons and more, the endorsement process was unfair and inequitable. I am bothered that my compatriots are making arguments that only validate the same worldview that we oppose. How can the same folks fighting for election integrity, who favor same-day in-person voting in local, state, and federal elections, and resist the idea of equity over equality, make arguments which validate the absentee voting boxes in every county of Wisconsin?
Many friends I admire, those with noble motives and who have a good argument for an earlier primary election, have made an unforced error this weekend. Opportunists have stoked a reasonable and justified outrage against the “establishment” political class. However, one is not “establishment” simply by holding slightly differing views. Let us not engage in the same repressive tolerance of the woke. We are better than that. In truth, a large contingent of parent activists support frontrunner Rebecca Kleefisch, including many moms who worked their tail off fighting their school districts. They are new to the conservative movement; some previously voted Democrat. These are not the Republican establishment. They aren’t country club RINOS either; the only clubs these folks belong to are Costco and Moms for Liberty.
I am a parent activist, recall organizer, and two-time candidate. I have spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars out of my pocket to be an involved and engaged crusader for liberty and parents’ rights. Like so many, I spent a weekend away from my kids and missed events to be present and endorse the candidate I believe will best support the top issues affecting Wisconsin families. There is a level of involvement and commitment to the Republican organization that places upon delegates an honor and a duty that every other conservative Wisconsinite can fulfill if they so choose. While meant as a ploy to stop the momentum of the frontrunner, for first-time attendees, the “no endorsement” push felt like a vote of no confidence in our dedication and sacrifice. What transpired Saturday hurt the conservative movement and our ability to recruit new members. I can tell you many of our best organizers and volunteers left Saturday evening with no plans to return as a delegate in the future.
What precedent have we set? If a candidate can’t win an endorsement, they must simply join forces with other candidates who lack sufficient grassroots support and spoil the process for frontrunners. Now that this loophole is exposed, future conventions are now committee hearings. Grassroots activists like myself will not sign up to be a part of a process that makes it impossible for viable candidates to win. My time is better spent knocking on doors, doing lit drops, volunteering in my community, and speaking to groups so I can help change hearts and minds.
Many are thrilled at the outcome; I got the campaign emails this morning. But I am troubled. Deeply troubled. I saw swaths of dedicated volunteers, current and former elected leaders, written off without a second thought. I am troubled. I realize I have some thinking to do myself, I am not guiltless. I see a party that needs healing. I see the anger that needs channeling into productive work for change. I see fences being ripped down without first questioning why they were built in the first place. I am a conservative because I believe in second-order reasoning, not blind passion ruling the day.
G.K. Chesterton wrote,
“The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'”
Chesterton’s admonition to not remove a fence until you know why it was there in the first place reminds me that we don’t always know better than those who made decisions before us. We can’t see all the nuances to a situation until we’re intimate with it. Decisions have consequences and ones like those made this weekend will as well. Perhaps I am more unsettled by the rhetoric and gamesmanship than the outcome this weekend. What happened should not be considered a win for the people. Continued division, confusion, and “win by any means necessary” tactics against fellow Republicans will hurt us all…only emboldening the left while demoralizing the conservative base and grassroots activists needed to win these races in the Fall.
There is nothing more powerful than citizens fighting for survival, for the continuation of their way of life. We cannot spend more time fighting each other than that which threatens the very foundations of our constitutional republic. Together we are unstoppable. I went to the convention to endorse the candidates I believe are the warriors we need. They have earned the loyalty and respect of conservative grassroots activists and the recent influx of conservative candidates for local office.
This support cannot and should not be twisted into something ugly. I am not a RINO. I am not the establishment. I am just a regular mom who stood up and fought for my kids and all kids affected by COVID tyranny and ideological indoctrination in classrooms. I did so with the encouragement and support of Rebecca Kleefisch, and many others in the Republican Party who do not deserve to be maligned as they were this weekend. In particular, the disrespect shown towards my dear friend Brian Schimming, the most beloved Republican in Wisconsin, was a bridge way too far for me. I hope it was for many others as well.
I hope we can all unite, with the spirit of a joyful warrior, against our common foe: the woke agenda seeking to destroy all we hold dear. I know I was made for such a time as this; you were too.
Disclosure: Scarlett Johnson is a volunteer for the Rebecca Kleefisch campaign as 6th district chair. She writes this in her personal capacity as a conservative activist and not as a member of the Kleefisch campaign.
About Scarlett Johnson
Scarlett Johnson, daughter of a Marine Corps veteran, is a Political Scientist and proud Latina mom of 5. She is a Parent’s rights activist, Mequon-Thiensville school board candidate and Chapter Chair of Moms for Liberty-Ozaukee.