Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saving The President

By Don Shelton

As we have been anticipating for long time (see last issue), the hysteria of political correctness finally prevailed upon a state legislator to propose removing the Jefferson Davis statue from the capitol rotunda in Frankfort. Rep. Paul Bather (D-Louisville) introduced HJR119 on February 4th. The Kentucky Division, SCV was in action within hours, working with contacts in Frankfort and implementing a 3-pronged plan of attack. The first phase was a basic call for our members and friends in other organizations like the OCR, UDC and reenacting units to contact their legislators. This was a large mobilization involving internet and phone contact “trees”, getting hundreds of people involved within a few days. The next phase was to concentrate on members —especially the leadership— of the State Government committee where the resolution was sent, with “personal contacts”. By this we meant getting people these key legislators knew personally to contact them. This can be much more effective than e-mails from constituents they don’t know personally— we were after their barber, their brother-in-law, etc. This type of networking can require a lot of legwork, but in the end, through a series of these personal contacts, we were able to get friends and spouses of key committee members to lobby for President Davis. It doesn’t get any more personal than that. Due to the makeup of the committee, much of this special effort fell upon the Western Brigade, and Cmdr. Fred Wilhite had the troops looking hard for those important connections. The final step was a direct meeting with the committee members. A six-man task force met in Frankfort the next week for the committee meeting. Donning “Save President Davis” buttons, there we were able to gain personal assurances from many committee members, especially the chairman Charles Geveden, that they would stop the resolution. The power to prevent HJR119 from even being considered by the committee resided with Chairman Geveden. With his assurance that he would use that power to bottle the resolution up (and a majority of the committee saying they would vote against it even if it were to be considered) we only had to watch and make sure these legislators were good to their word. And they were.

When the dust settled, the SCV had mobilized hundreds of people within a few days in a coordinated plan that had a real effect. When our task force met with the committee the legislators were obviously impressed. They were very curious as to who had put together so many e-mails, phone calls, and personal contacts on a bill so recently introduced that most legislators weren’t even aware of it yet. It is good for them to know we are watching. Our people were able to do all this without getting the media into an uproar. The legislators felt like there was a furor, but since the media didn’t know, they weren’t able to get a feeding frenzy of Davis-bashing started like they did last year during the primary elections.

A few weeks later the sponsor, Paul Bather, realized that his resolution wasn’t going anywhere and tried to get the media going by putting out a press release and hijacking a Black History month event to turn it into a press conference on the Davis statue. A contact in Frankfort tipped us off about the “press conference” and warned that the media present had taken Bather’s bait. Thanks to this we were able to put an already prepared statement from our division in the hands of the press before the stories hit. In this statement we pointed out that Bather’s main objection in the resolution was Davis’ support of secession. So then we hit Bather with his own hypocrisy reminding the press that he was a leader in the recent movement for secession of sections of Louisville. Perhaps partly because we were prepared to fire back, but certainly because Bather had waited too late in the session (the budget debate was consuming most of the attention already), media coverage was minimal—despite the story being placed on the AP wire. The media frenzy that “Issues for Us” had been able to manufacture before wasn’t going materialize to help them this time.

In the end HJR119 died as an orphan. It didn’t have a single co-sponsor, and in the dozens of legislators we polled none save Bather supported it. Bather is not seeking re-election, so it can be hoped that the voters in his district will send someone to Frankfort who will work on real issues.

Now the issue of protection for the Davis statue moves back to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission (KMHC), where the application for protection has languished for many months. There the wheels of bureaucracy have moved slowly, with the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) using its powers to take away the ability of the KMHC to enact protection for a very long time. The problems with the LRC appear to have been cleared up, and we will be lobbying to the KMHC to do its job as soon as possible.

Originally Published in the Summer, 2004 The Lost Cause

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