KOKOMO – I’ve been a life-long Republican and I’ve been politically active for the majority of my life. My first overt Republican act was to send a fan letter to Presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater way back in 1964.  Funny, even Hillary Clinton was a Republican back then.

The first Republican State Convention I attended was in 1972. As an 18-year-old brash young teenager, I bucked the demands of my county chairman to vote for William Sharp for governor and instead I voted for Otis Bowen. This early experience in observing the impotence of a county chairman should have deterred me from ever being a county chairman, but one day I would eventually be dragged into the maelstrom.

Over my 58 years in Republican Party politics I have met and interacted with a wide variety of those who identify as Republicans. While the national media is quick to try and persuade you that all Republicans are Bible-toting, gun-slinging, fat-cat bigots, the truth is far different. I tend to break down the membership of the GOP in the following categories (please note that multiple group membership is a possibility for any Republican):

Economic Opportunity Republicans:  I count myself in this group. Raised on the lower end of the economic ladder, I found the Republican promise that if you work hard, get an education and keep out of trouble, then you can go as far as your talents will take you. We used to just call this the American Dream, but now it seems like only Republicans believe in this concept.

Chamber of Commerce Republicans: These folks are the captains and kings of industry and commerce. They have largely come to believe that the GOP offers their businesses the best hope of long term success.

I Hate Taxes Republicans: These are the types of people who dumped tea in Boston Harbor. There has never been a tax that they like, except for perhaps the Fair Tax. They are very touchy about any type of tax increase.

Libertarian Republicans:  Generally, these Republicans love their liberty and rebel at any attempt by government to control their lives. You can usually find a copy of the Bill of Rights in their back pockets.

Religious Republicans: These Republicans joined the party en mass after 1964’s disastrous presidential election. The GOP strategy of cobbling a new electoral majority together by carving out chunks of the Democrat vote by appealing to Southern Democrats and voters who were strongly pro-life was very successful and brought many large blocs of voters to their cause who traditionally voted Democratic. This was particularly true of Catholic voters. There is no coincidence that you see “I support life and I vote” and “Vote Republican” on bumper stickers on the same vehicle.  Many of these religious voters have added defense of marriage and a resistance to anything supportive of gay rights to their pro-life political stances.

Gun, Guts and Glory Republicans: They love America and all it stands for.  Love their versions of American history. Love the U.S. military and will go down in flames protecting their right to keep and bear arms.

Trumpicans: These relatively new Republicans are an amalgamation of the irritated and those fed up with governmental status quo. Many had never voted before 2016.  President Trump finally gave a voice and a candidate to those who felt unrepresented in Washington. They are the other side of the coin to the Bernie Sanders voters.

These are the main groups within the Republican Party. As I stated earlier, the media would have you think that we are a homogenous group, but the reality is that we are a diverse party with occasionally conflicting interests.

In 2008, popular Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made it known that he would like to see Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas succeed Stephen Carter as Indiana attorney general. The governor put together a who’s who group of people to rattle chains and deliver the desired results. However, somewhere along the line something went bump in the night and underdog Greg Zoeller won an overwhelming victory and went on to become an outstanding attorney general.
I point this out because we may soon get another abject lesson in the rebelliousness and fierce independence of the Republican voter. The opportunity this time will be the 2020 Indiana Republican Convention and the nomination of a candidate for attorney general. There are many forces at work in this contest and several of the aforementioned groups will play a major role in the nominating process.

There will be factions voting in the online convention that take a black-and-white view of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s conduct at the infamous Sine Die party and will vote accordingly. There are those who believe that Hill was persecuted and should be defended with their votes. There are those who bristle at anyone trying to tell them how to vote and they will vote the opposite direction.  

There are some Republicans who don’t like Gov. Holcomb for hiking the gas tax, demanding Hill’s resignation or for not being supportive of religious issues enough. They will survey the landscape and vote accordingly. There are some Libertarian types who don’t appreciate the job being done by Gov. Holcomb on battling the coronavirus pandemic and are looking for a way to stick their fingers into his eye.

On the flip side will be a sizable number of Republican delegates who will ask the question of, not only, who is the best person to be attorney general, but, also, who has the best chance of beating a well-funded Democrat candidate? They will make their minds up and many will defer to party leadership for the answer.

There will also be a group of Republicans who ask whether or not there is a compromise candidate who can represent their interests and still win the election in November. Although I am not a delegate, I would count myself in this group.

You might think that based on my analysis of the membership of the Republican Party that we are a disorganized and fractured organization. I’ve always likened the GOP to the Cartwright Family of the “Bonanza” television show.  Old Hoss, Adam and Little Joe could fight each other like cats and dogs until someone tried to mess with the family and then the brothers came together and gave the bad guys a whupping. That’s the way it will be in 2020. We will huff and puff, scream and holler, vote for the Republican nominee and then come together to defeat the Democratic candidate in November. It is the one thing that all Republicans agree on! 

Dunn is the former chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.