News & Politics

'Reports of the Death of the Republican Party Were Greatly Exaggerated'

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In a secret conference call to Republican National Committee (RNC) members, outgoing Chairman Reince Priebus told Republican insiders to be patient about the RNC chairman’s race and announced that “details will follow.”

Morton C. Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute and Republican national committeeman from Virginia, told PJ Media about the call in an interview on Monday. He stressed that President-elect Donald Trump will name a candidate for RNC chairman, and that person will likely be elected unanimously. He expressed a sense of deep optimism about the forthcoming administration, and praise for the people Trump has elevated to key positions.

“I don’t Twitter very often,” Blackwell said, but he did send out a tweet on Election Night: “The reports of the death of the Republican Party were greatly exaggerated.”

While many conservatives have long harbored doubts about a Trump presidency, Blackwell was very optimistic. “I’m very happy with Mike Pence being chosen to lead the transition,” he said. “Mike Pence is a full-spectrum conservative in the likeness of Ronald Reagan on any issue that I know about. His designation as the vice presidential nominee by Trump was extremely welcome to me and to grassroots conservatives all across America.”

Blackwell praised Pence as “a very accomplished person,” adding that “not only is he completely committed to conservative principles, he is personally effective and he is personable.”

Blackwell recalled how Pence rose among the ranks of the D.C. leadership of the Republican Party. “I’ve known him since 1988 when he made his first and unsuccessful race for Congress,” he recalled.

In January 2011, Blackwell and other conservatives, including the Media Research Council’s Brent Bozell and former Congressman Dick Armey, urged Pence to run for president in 2012. “We obviously didn’t have the influence that we would have hoped, but that’s an indication of the high regard that conservatives had for him.”

As for the upcoming administration, Blackwell argued, “I think [Pence’s leadership role] will make Trump a much more effective and successful president, because Mike has experience and knows how to act on principle but prudently.”

Next Page: The importance of hiring the right people, and why 2016 was a victory for women.

“I teach students that personnel is policy,” the Leadership Institute president explained. He described the “big job” ahead of Trump’s transition team — “to fill the 4,000 politically important presidential appointments.”

The importance of selecting the right people for the job could not be overstated, Blackwell said. “You’re not going to be able to advance your political principles unless you can bring on people who believe those principles,” and “you’re not going to achieve much if you run a top-down structure where people are allowed to do only what they are told to do.”

Blackwell recalled serving in President Reagan’s personnel office and helping him select qualified staff. He selected “people who shared the president’s conservative principles and independently worked to advance those conservative principles.”

He added that Trump’s most recent campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, “another movement conservative who I’ve known for a very long time,” did an excellent job helping Trump win. He predicted that she “will have a position of considerable influence in the administration.”

He pointed out Conway’s success as a counter-balance to the liberal argument that Hillary Clinton’s loss represented a setback for women. “I could introduce you today to the first woman who has won a U.S. presidential election, and her name is Kellyanne Conway.”

Blackwell also praised Priebus’ work in helping Trump get elected. “He did a great job of raising money and of building a ground game and he did it even though there were people falsely claiming that the RNC was not helping Trump,” the RNC member said. He called such claims “preposterous.”

 With the Leadership Institute, Blackwell works to train young people on college campuses, and he predicted an increase in young people supporting Trump. “The fact is that in every time period, the vast majority of college students are not politically active,” he explained.

“For conservative students, there’s been an awful lot of pressure from political correctness,” he admitted, pointing to “vicious attacks on students discovered to be for Trump.” But following the election, he predicted that “being for President Trump is going to be much more acceptable, just because a lot of people want to be with the winner.”

Let’s hope the protests die down and Blackwell turns out to be right.