Who is Reince Priebus?

No, seriously: Who the hell is Reince Priebus? Aside from someone with a really cool name, Reince Priebus is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. If that’s news to you, don’t feel too upset: the man practically popped up out of nowhere. Well, Wisconsin isn’t exactly nowhere, but it comes pretty close.

Let’s get the slander out of the way: Reince (rhymes with pints) is a cut-and-dry, right-wing Conservative who sincerely supports your cut-and-dry right-wing movements: an avid pro-lifer, a sincere anti-gay marriage activist and, of course, a gun owner — five guns, to be precise.  And the sneaky little politico got to his current position by betraying the previous chairman, Michael Steele, the very man who helped Priebus to obtain his current political status. All in all, the whole circumstance is pretty Shakespearean, including an intricate plot to turn Steele’s own aides and cronies against him. Et tu, Reince?

But hold on, let’s not get out our torches and pitchforks, yet, folks; the new RNC chairman has a few qualities that stand out in stark contrast to your standard GOP Darth Vader types. First of all, there is his age — Priebus is only 38, the youngest man in history to hold the position. And he looks it, too, a great new face for the Republican Party. Young, confident, but not overbearing —  very Kennedy. The funny thing about it is, as much as the GOP loves its grassroots base and emphasis on experience, Priebus has only run in one official election (for the Wisconsin Senate in 2000, and he lost). True, he was elected chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party in 2007, but that was mostly thanks to his law connections, not to mention strings pulled by his former mentor, Michael Steele. And we saw how that worked out for Michael.

Aside from being the epitome of defying the Republican stereotype, this Priebus guy might actually be smart. It’s the last thing I expected from the Republican Party at this point, especially after the Sarah Palin debacle, but his promises don’t seem too hollow. Reince Priebus comes off as an intelligent guy. I know what you’re thinking, “He hates the atheists, the liberals and the gays.” That may all be true, but the new chairman has one charming quirk that makes him different from every Republican politician to date: He doesn’t want to talk about those things. In fact, he doesn’t even want to place those things on the GOP’s agenda.

Although Priebus’ resume is about as short as my mother’s, it’s filled with practical positions that point toward a man who knows about money, something the RNC needs desperately.

If you, like me, stopped paying attention to the Republicans when they lost the 2008 election, you might not be aware just how broke they are. The party itself is over $21 million in debt, and those numbers are rising quickly. Not to mention the projected needs of $400 million for the upcoming 2012 elections. That amount of cash doesn’t just show up over night, and it takes more than mysterious donors to wrangle it up. It takes planning, responsibility and strong ethics. You know, all of those things that politicians are known for.

Luckily for the GOP, Priebus has more than just pipe dreams in that direction. The lawyer was with the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm in 2009, working with their “Stimulus Legislation Team” to appropriate federal funds. As insidious as that name sounds, the team’s job was to decide whether campaign donations were blood money or clean money. Priebus knows how to get his hands on it. Not to mention his tenure as general counsel under Steele, where the majority of his focus was aimed at making, saving or responsibly spending money. The new chairman has stated that he plans on spending 70 percent of his time working on the Republican Party’s fiscal issues. I’m not certain what the exact math was on that, but factoring in church, raising two kids, and battling for fetus rights, it really doesn’t give Reince too much time for sleep.

So whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, something else or you just don’t care, you have to give Reince Priebus some props. It’s unclear just how far the man will go, but the new chairman seems to have his head screwed on straight. He might be one to help the decaying Republicans pull a Lazarus and take back the political stage.

Ryan Cady is a first-year undeclared major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.