The good old days of a mainstream Republican Party

An old friend of mine, businessman and retired Brigadier General Larry Lunt, recently came across a very interesting old document — the 1986 state convention newsletter of the Utah Republican Party.

The newsletter contained the agenda for the 1986 state GOP convention and listed the members of various party committees and party officers. Larry kept the tabloid newspaper-style publication as a momento because he was the GOP state chair in 1986.

The newsletter reveals a sharp contrast with the Republican Party in the Reagan days of mid-80s, and the party of today.

New Republican State Chair Rob Anderson appears to be trying to bring the Republican Party back into the mainstream.

In 1986, the party was the GOP mainstream. The party stalwarts were traditional Republicans, a who’s who of respected business and civic leaders. Yes, many party leaders were staunch conservatives. But they were conservatives who wanted to solve problems and not die on their ideological swords. They didn’t argue ad infinitum over arcane party rules and they actually welcomed elected officials as party leaders with real influence.

In those days, the GOP grassroots operatives got along very well with elected officials and worked closely with them. In fact, top elected officials had a big say in who was elected party chair and other officers.

Today, the party grassroots and its elected officials are often at loggerheads, with the party actually filing lawsuits against the Republican governor and Republican Legislature. The lawsuits attempted to overturn an election law (SB54) passed by a large margin by the Republican Legislature and signed by our Republican governor.

Party operatives don’t seem to trust their elected officials. Attempts have been made to reduce their influence and power within the party. Party insiders also seem to mistrust business leaders. And that has led to a funding crisis within the party.

By contrast, in 1986, the party was well-funded and elected officials were happy to raise money for the party. Today, the party is deeply in debt and I hear grumbling all the time from elected officials who greatly resent being strong-armed by the party to contribute to it.

Many Utahns won’t recognize some of the names of the party stalwarts of the mid-1980s. But here are some of the leaders listed in the 1986 newsletter in the good old days of the Republican Party:

Included on various party committees were people like James Jardine, James Moss, Judith Parker, Lyle Hillyard, Eric Jergensen, Gregg McDonough, David Porter, Lucille Stoddard, John Florez, Ellis Ivory, Allan Lipman, James Mayfield, Jon Memmott, Jack Roberts, Wilbern McDougal, Zenda Hull, Jerry Higginson, Adrien Taylor, Norm Bangerter, Val Oveson, David Wilkinson, Ed Alter, Tom Allen, Arnold Christensen, Robert Garff, Skip Glines, Howard Rigtrup, Bonnie Stephens, Ruby Price, Lynn Price, Steve Shallenberger, Robert Campbell, Chuck Akerlow, Doug Bishoff, Doug Foxley, Ralph Atkin, Raylene Ireland, Mike Leavitt, Paul Rogers, and Doris Wilson.

Today, many mainstream Republicans, including some on that list, are shunning the party and refusing to contribute to it.

In 1986, mainstream candidates had strong delegate support. Today, mainstream candidates have difficulty getting through the Republican Convention.

Of course, Utah is such a Republican state that even a party in disarray doesn’t hurt Republican chances of winning.