Shaun Kenney’s brains and passion may be exactly what the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) needs right now, but after his first week as executive director it appears a shift toward the former ought to be among the next orders of business.
A check up from the beard up, so to speak.
A brilliant young man with a mien the size of Michoacan, Kenney nevertheless exhibits the cloistered mindset of a worldview fashioned within close circles and staid surroundings.
This came back to bite him in a big way throughout a tumultuous week in office that culminated this past Thursday with Kenney ducking an appearance on the Laura Ingraham radio show where he would have been asked to discuss some of his recent statements.
It all began with a puzzling email.
As one of his first official acts upon getting the job as RPV exec, Kenney sent out a slapdash but lively message the morning of Friday, April 4, acknowledging lamentable Republican performances in the commonwealth the past two years, and the positive attitude needed going forward:
Of course, you and I know the truth. All of this was preventable.
An old Republican once reminded a nation that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This same sage reminded us too that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.
One way of reading this is: We Republicans need to pull together, squelch our differences, and promote our shared principles regardless of how they rub our opponents. That’s how I first read it, and probably how Kenney meant it.
Another reading would be that Lincoln contradicted himself with these quotes … and that reading pretty well captures the enigma-wrapped-in-a-feud that has been one Shaun Kenney, circa 2014.
Because if you were looking for sources of internecine Republican squabbling, you would have to look no further than the blog Kenney shares with his business partner Brian Schoeneman and a few others.
It was only about 6 weeks prior to Kenney’s Lincolnesqe moment that Schoeneman issued a
breathtaking screed against Bob Marshall – who is certainly one of the most respected and liked public officials among a large segment of the Northern Virginia GOP community – with a torrent of accusations, including such gems as:
- Marshall’s “political career has been one long, self-aggrandizing ego trip”
- “his fundamental inability to raise money,”
- “95% of the time, he spends ginning up crazy nonsense in the House, saying ridiculous things to get himself in the paper, and to generally make a nuisance of himself and embarrass the Republican Party,” and
- “A Virginia embarrassment.”
This led to the St. Valentine’s Day Unpleasantness between the men of Bearing Drift and Greg Letiecq; and the animosity, I believe, continues to this day. Schoeneman may not have lit the initial match to that inferno, whenever in the past it happened to begin, but he piled on a heap of kindling at a critical moment.
Also in February, Kenney delivered one of the more incendiary anti-fellow-Republican blog posts to come from a Virginia Republican in recent years, painting with a broad black brush in what began as a statement about supposed pockets of bigotry within the party. Apparently caught up by his own rhetoric, he condemned as nativists everyone who disagreed with his preferred illegal immigration position:
You will hear a lot of talk in the coming months about immigration reform. In it will be included guest worker programs, documented worker status, real border enforcement that doesn’t require walls, and a sound program that takes an antiquated immigration system and brings it into the 21st century. That’s not amnesty, that’s reform.
Conservatives embrace the idea of more Americans coming into this country to work hard and prosper.
Nativists reject Pedro.
To which a solid half of Republicans reading it would have said “Blow it out your ear, Shaun.”
There are reasonable arguments for taking a hard line stand on illegal immigration whether the potential immigrant’s name is Pedro, Petra, Prateep or Bob.
As liberal blogger Mickey Kaus has argued, illegal immigration can drive down wages and reduce opportunities for poor Americans.
You don’t have to be a Republican to understand that illegal immigration creates an unfair competitive environment for small business owners who play by the rules. In construction, landscaping and other labor-intensive fields in some parts of the U.S. – Northern Virginia included – those using illegal laborers over the past 15 years have driven law-abiding companies out of business.
There is a segment of Americans who have zero direct knowledge of these problems, however, because of where they live and what they see. As Schoeneman wrote recently in a blog comment: “My friends are offering good jobs at livable wages and they still can’t find folks willing to do the work.”
Of course, Shaun Kenney and Brian Schoeneman are entitled to their own views on illegal immigration. They express them, I believe, without guile.
And when they decide to castigate other Republicans with whom they disagree – even using Democrat talking points such as citing the SPLC, hey, it’s a free country. Condemn away.
But when it comes to divisive factors within the Virginia Republican Party, in 2014 so far, there is no question that Exhibits A and B could be the guy in the beard and the tall guy in the suit. And that matters when Exhibit A is the RPV exec.
It matters very much when those hazy distant controversies of February get refreshed and reawakened by the RPV exec himself.