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Is the Republican Party at War? Media Says Yes, Optimists Say Otherwise

Maybe I’m the crazy one. Bloggers on both sides of the political aisle are ready to declare open war in the statewide Republican Party and I just don’t think that’s really what’s going on.

Let’s get nuanced here. I think there’s plenty of evidence that some are creating situations that make it seem like that, but these feuds are overstating the situations.

My denial of how fractured Republicans are might be fueled by optimism. Optimists are often criticized for not being realists, yet a realistic review of the outcomes of open war are three-fold: one side wins, the other side wins or nobody wins.

The optimist recognizes this, but also sees there is another path forward to avoid one or both sides losing: avoid the war altogether. We might have passed that point.

The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) is about to host elections for its statewide executive officers. In order to hold one of these positions, you have to be in a leadership position within your local party. This is part of what made the Citrus elections earlier this month so important - Citrus Chairman Mike Moberley is also the treasurer of the RPOF and will be running for re-election. He would have been ineligible had he not won his local post.

At least one other chairman election around the state had a dramatic change on the upcoming RPOF elections. Former State Representative Anthony Sabatini won the chairmanship in Lake County and will likely immediately file to run for chairman of the RPOF in a contest that includes current RPOF Vice-Chair Christian Zeigler from Sarasota and Leon County Chairman Evan Power.

All the names are likely getting a little confusing and it’s only going worse so let’s take this in a different direction quickly. The core of what is causing the war is over Republicans who believe the party should support former President Donald Trump in 2024 and those who want someone new (who likely have their candidate of choice already picked out.)

At least five counties have elected or re-elected leaders who are ready to fight the establishment in the name of defending the way for the former president to once again rise to power: Alachua, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee and the above mentioned Lake. Lee County’s chairman won on the third round of ballots 96-95 over his opponent after the previous round of ballots had resulted in a 96-96 tie. Presumably someone was either in the bathroom or gave up on voting by the third round.

This is significant because the Lee County chairman has now aligned himself with Sabatini in Lake County by naming him the local party’s general legal counsel. Coalition building like this is likely going to intensify as the elections draw closer. And it’s not just at the statewide level.

Nationally there is about to be an election for the Republican National Committee (RNC) as well. Current Chair Ronna McDaniel is running for a fourth term but will face a challenger whose law firm represented the former president and is a staunch defender of him. McDaniel was seen by some as sabotaging the Trump-endorsed senate candidates and she’s also Sen. Mitt Romney’s niece, someone who has become the ire of many ardent Trump supporters.

Has this been kind of dry? Is it like eating toast that isn’t buttered and a little burnt? Good. It’s supposed to be boring because the media alternative is to spice it up. The AP characterizes the RNC election as “an ugly fight” while the media outlet Florida Politics run by Republican Peter Schoresch is quick to call what is happening at the state-level an act of war.

This is why I took such issue with how Mike Wright covered our local elections. He saw that there were two sides, figured one side had won and said this means the other side needs to “hit the road, Jack” which would make sense if it was an all out war. The defeated must be punished.

But that’s not the Republican Party I know, at least not locally. It’s possible to debate ideas and not declare war. There's a middle ground between those outcomes if the media and the most passionate act responsibly.

The Republican Party is going through some significant changes right now, but it’s evolving for the better, not slipping into chaos. I shouldn’t be the crazy one for recognizing that instead of cheering for war. The media needs to do better.

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