There is always much discussion about what keeps the major political parties dominant in American politics, and what makes it nearly impossible for “independents” to get elected. Some say money, established donors. Certainly. Some say ingrained voter habits. Of course. But there is more to it. One of the great strengths of the parties is that they have a cadre of loyal paid and unpaid workers. Over the years, many of these people become the keepers of knowledge, or party myth, or both. They become stable pillars around which the party operates.
This week one such Republican, Ann Whitley, is retiring from the California Republican Party. I’m 44, and I don’t remember a CRP without Ann. I actually have no idea what her title is – maybe “One of Those People Who Have Watched Everything and Know Everyone and Can Give You the Kind of Advice Which Will Make You Look Smarter Than You Are.” More to the point, through good and bad decades Ann has been a stable face at the CRP, a person everyone knew was fair and decent.
Ann Whitley will probably rarely be quoted in the paper, or seen spouting off on the television news. You won’t look back and see her face on a wall in the Capitol, or her name on a bill. Hers was not a career of public glory of adoring crowds. But I’ll bet a dollar against a kneecapping that everyone whose business or lives revolve around Republican politics probably know who she is, and that most of us will miss her tremendously.
I had to leave Ann’s retirement party early Monday evening and wish I’d had the chance to put my two cents in. I’ll paraphrase Charles Murphy:
Ann Whitley is a straight organization person. She believes in party government; she does not indulge in cant and hypocrisy and she is never afraid to say exactly what she thinks. She is a believer in thorough political organization and all the year around work… Ann is one of the veteran leaders of the organization: she has always been faithful and reliable, and she has performed valuable services for the Republican Party.