When a political party gets shellacked the way Virginia's Republican ticket was last month, you expect some intramural feuding. But over the weekend, the state GOP met in Staunton for what was cutely billed as an "advance" -- to avoid negative connotations of a "retreat" -- and it turned into a formal "stand-pat" that infuriated almost everyone present.
There were impassioned calls by participants from every winglet of the party for changes to "reach out" to minorities, women, labor and anybody else in between -- all of which apparently fell on deaf organizational ears. You know things have been rough when an exasperated county chairman ends up turning to the diverse likes of Stan Parris and J. Marshall Coleman with a plea to "help us pick up the pieces."
Rep. Parris, hardly a party revolutionary, came away charging that state party chairman Donald W. Huffman "eloquently called for the party to reach out" at the open sessions covered by the news media while at closed sessions "the petty politics that caused our worst defeat in 20 years resumed." Mr. Parris said Mr. Huffman and supporters used parliamentary procedures to thwart efforts to open the party -- proposals such as changing the nominating process from a series of mass meetings around the state to a primary. Another participant, state central committee member Susie Mote of Winchester, said she had hoped to offer a resolution calling for a "return to the grass roots," but couldn't get the floor. Still others blamed the party's defeat on poor organization and infighting.
But Chairman Huffman cited a more obvious factor without interpreting it: he pointed to the popularity of outgoing Gov. Charles S. Robb as the main reason for the Democratic sweep, which included election of a black and a woman to statewide office for the first time. Is it any wonder that Gov.-elect Gerald L. Baliles picked up on Gov. Robb's successes in broadening the participation of minorities in the party and in the state government? Should it really surprise anyone that among the first nominees for positions in the Baliles cabinet are people with proven records from the Robb administration, including women and blacks?
At least some Republicans are asking whether it isn't "time for a change." The second question is when their party organization will recognize that it may well be.