March 22, 2019, Palm Beach, Florida — We’re at President Trump’s Winter White House, the famous and fabulous Mar-a-Lago Club. There are seven hundred of us here tonight. That includes President and Mrs. Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Brian Mast, former Congressman Trey Gowdy, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, first family member Donald Trump, Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle.
It is the annual Lincoln Day Dinner of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, always a fabulous event. Ms. Bondi is the emcee and Senator Graham is the keynote speaker. But for me the night is extra special. I’m being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing twenty-four years of volunteer service to the county party, ten years as its Chairman.
People think that the only way to affect change is to get elected to public office. This Lifetime Achievement Award is the counter argument.
Join me as we look back at ways I’ve tried to make a difference: I sought out the Republican Party of Palm Beach County in March, 1995. I showed up with a check for $500, hoping that somebody would remember my name. Surprise. I was instantly one of their largest donors. Within a year I had organized our biggest GOTV (Get Out the Vote) campaign in our history. I had a few hundred thousand “palm cards” to distribute on Election Day 1996, the Bob Dole election. These palm cards were precinct specific and covered the whole ballot. No, we didn’t deliver Florida to Bob Dole. But Palm Beach County elected its last Republican Sheriff. I was organizing and learning at the same time.
By 2001 I was honored by our party with the Jean Pipes Award for grassroots organizing over many years. In late 2001 I ran unopposed for party Vice Chairman, filling an unexpired term. In December 2002 I took the plunge and ran for Chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, again unopposed. Ultimately, I served five two-year terms, four of which I ran for unopposed.
I was happy. I had access, influence, and media friends who let me fill their column inches or nightly news minutes. The highlights kept coming. November 2004 was the George W. Bush reelection victory party. Close to one thousand people showed up at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, cheering our heads off until we were booted out around midnight.
A few months later about fifteen of us were meeting with President Bush’s Chief-of-Staff, Ken Mehlman. We were Palm Beach County’s leading Jewish Republicans. Ken asked the magical question: “What can the President of the United States do for you?” We spoke as one: “Move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.” President Bush just couldn’t pull the trigger. Next comes the Vice-President Dick Cheney motorcade. How cool was that. We were like little kids, riding up Interstate 95 with just our SUV’s and the motorcycle officers protecting us. The poor motorists that somehow found their way on to the highway were immediately pulled over by those officers. They were kept on the shoulder of the road until we were safely well ahead. Then there was the time the White House called to invite me (and four others) to greet President Bush off Air Force One. What an honor. President Bush came down the steps and greeted each of us. I told him I was Chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. He said: “Then you have a hard job.” He knew. Large county. Heavily Democratic. Yes, a hard job.
I was a floor delegate at three Republican Conventions, 2004 (New York), 2008 (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and 2012 (Tampa). The New York convention was by far the best; nearby hotels, urban transportation, and Madison Square Garden.
My best convention nights were George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. I actually gave speeches on how delegates are chosen. Trust me, if you’re not a Chairman or State Committeeperson your chances are quite remote. Over the years I made two key decisions: I moved the annual Lincoln Day Dinner to Mar-a-Lago and converted those old “palm cards” to electronic precinct specific Word documents. We still call them “Sid*s Picks.”
The key question is: Was it worth it. Let me quote from my Mar-a-Lago acceptance speech: "I had dinner here at Mar-a-Lago on Election night, November 2016. By the time I left that night I knew that my twenty-four volunteer years; the calls, the emails, the meetings, the checks, the fundraising, the candidate recruitment was all worth it. Because Candidate, now President, Trump would indeed Make America Great Again."
Sid Dinerstein is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. He founded JBS Associates, a 600-person financial service company, and currently combines politics and business with Niger Innis in Inclusive Elections LLC, a firm that brings urban electorate voters to the GOP. He is the author of "Adults Only: For Those Who Love Their Country More Than Their Party." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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