Last month when Young Republican chairman Rick Rout was asked by his fellow members of the Shelby County Republican steering committee to am-scray, by a vote of 18-8, Rout’s answer was (literally) “Thanks, but no thanks.” On Thursday night, a month later, the committee voted in Rout’s absence to begin his removal by impeachment.

That vote was even more decisive, at 26-7, but, as committee parliamentarian Jerry Cobb pointed out, Article C of the state Republican by-laws mandates that a majority of the 43-member committee -- or 29 members -- must vote in favor of such a removal, and therefore the whole process would have to be repeated next month.

Cobb would say later on he had no intention of party-pooping, stressing that his motive in raising the quibble was merely to make sure that any impeachment process, once completed, could not be reversed on a technicality.

In the meantime committee members had wrangled amongst themselves over the nature of the process, the order in which steps had to be taken, and whether -- as member Scott McCormick and others suggested -- the local committee’s bylaws, which explicitly suspend Article C’s constraints in case of “open and notorious” support of Democrats, permit a simple majority of the quorum present to do the deed.

But, unlike the case a month ago, there was no serious argument or discussion about whether Rout merited the rebuke. It seemed to be taken as a given, even by his nominal supporters.

As Bob Pittman, not a supporter and one of several members who, like the dogged Rout himself, aspire to the local party’s chairmanship, put it, “We’ve got the rule [prohbiting such “open and notorious” apostasies], and we either ought to amend it or enforce it.”

What Rout did, of course, was send out indiscreet emails during the late county election period advertising his discontent with the Republican mayoral nominee, George Flinn. When his emails surfaced in public, Rout, son of then Mayor Jim Rout (who was also unenthusiastic about Flinn but more cautious in expressing it), made half-hearted and somewhat disingenuous claims that he’d only been joking.

The committee votes against him have followed, initiated by a motion last month from John Willingham (who, as the two tallies have indicated, was clearly no Lone Ranger in the matter).

Stay tuned; this one may require as many installments as the lingering death of Francisco Franco did in Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update segments of the 1975-6 season. Ultimately -- maybe in February or March, the GOP executive committee would have to conduct a trial.

Rout retains his membership -- and his seriously compromised chairmanship candidacy -- in the meantime, but the temper of the times in GOP-land would seem to offer something less than a vote of confidence to either Rick Rout or any other member of the erstwhile Republican first family.

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