The party faithful: Tarrant GOP saves Shafi, itself

Shahid Shafi’s political foes were outnumbered, outclassed and way out of their depth when it comes to understanding America.

After a dramatic 139-49 vote Thursday night by Tarrant County Republican precinct leaders to retain him as a vice chairman — following a malignant effort to oust him simply for being Muslim — it was Shafi who delivered the evening’s civics lesson.

That it was so soaring, aspirational and patriotic an oration — in the immediate wake of hurtful, bigoted attacks on him and his family — speaks to the Southlake surgeon and city council member’s class and abiding love for this country.

“The beacon of liberty held by the Statue of Liberty is shining brighter,” he told the assembled media, beaming himself. “My faith in our party, and our country, has been reaffirmed. ...

“With today’s vote we have sent a clear message across the nation that we continue to believe that all men are created equal, with certain inalienable rights granted by a higher authority. ...

“Our Union is a little more perfect today.”

It remains to be seen if the Tarrant GOP will be able to say the same.

That the local party would even consider, over the course of months, tossing Shafi out of a leadership post for his faith remains a black eye, retention vote or not. Still, it seemed unfathomable it might actually remove him — so the true drama Thursday night was how close the vote would be.

The vote for Shafi was resounding but not quite overwhelming: It remains that nearly 50 people voted to oust him, almost 25 percent of votes cast — much more than the “few” and the “handful” we’d been told were behind the attempt.

The party’s decision to have the precinct leaders vote by name on paper ballot — but to withhold the identities of the 49 voting against Shafi — may have only encouraged some to join the horribly misguided fold.

Nonetheless, a huge cheer rose up in the closed-door meeting after the results were announced. Indeed, the vote total seemed secondary to victory for a much-relieved county chair Darl Easton, who’d appointed Shafi in the first place — and to Shafi himself, who proclaimed “no animosity toward my detractors. They have the freedom to express their opinions.”

“Every group that gets together will have certain differences of opinion,” Shafi said, graciously giving his adversaries far too much credit. “It’s time to put those differences aside. ... As a group, we stood up for what is right. As a group, we stood up and defended the founding principles of our country. This is a proud moment in the history of Tarrant County Republican Party.”

That, of course, depends on what happens from here — and if Shafi’s 49 opponents can be half as magnanimous as he is.

Far from exiling him, Tarrant Republicans would be wise to emulate him — particularly when he exhorts the group to grow the party. “We cannot grow by subtracting people,” he noted, calling on party faithful to overcome fear, grow in trust in each other and inspire others to join in the conservative cause, especially the young.

As evidenced by Shafi’s ascension, the face of the local Republican Party is becoming more diverse.

It’s vital that face doesn’t absorb any more blows like this one.