I absolutely agree with Bwana:
If the GOP wants party registration, introduce the legislation. If not, chuck the whole oath concept. Besides, loyalty oaths carry the faint echo of McCarthyism. Such oaths have been tried before by both parties, and never successfully. Gosh, if you have to do it, use a different term, like “Participation Pledge”.
Oh, and remember those folks who are put off by the loyalty oath? That is where it gets ridiculous. These voters, likely independents, are folks you want to attract. These are voters would be showing an inclination toward the GOP that might blossom into more consistent voting with the GOP…except they are being cut off from participation.
To build on Bwana’s point here, let’s take a look at what the outcome of this idea wold likely be.
This whole exercise is designed to prevent people who are not Republicans from participating in the primary election used to select a Republican nominee. At a philosophical level, the intent here is understandable. Republicans should be the ones who select Republican nominees, not a random gaggle of folks who may or may not have any interest in seeing those nominees actually elected. Republican Conventions have a mechanism to exclude persons who regularly participate in Democrat’s nominating contests, and it’s not entirely unreasonable to want to apply the same standard, to the extent it’s practical, to other means of selecting nominees.
This gets more complicated when you consider that incumbents who have been previously selected by a primary have the right to dictate to the party the method of nomination to be used in a subsequent nomination contest. It’s sort of an incumbent protection scheme where officeholders can fend off a challenge from a candidate who is more ideologically in-tune with the party and would be a formidable convention opponent. By allowing the incumbent to dictate a primary, and then drive more voters to the polls who wouldn’t normally participate in a convention, incumbents out-of-step with the ideological bent of a party unit to politically survive outside of the support of the party unit.
And that drives party unit leaders absolutely nuts. They’re supposed to be the big dogs who can quietly call the shots on who gets to run with the republican nomination, and who gets support from the local unit’s volunteers. When an incumbent who they don’t like rams a primary, instead of a convention down their throat, that incumbent is pretty much thumbing his nose at the local party unit leader. For all the supposed political power the unit leader thinks he has, if an incumbent wants to run his campaign entirely outside of the local party unit’s apparatus, not only can he do so but he’ll likely be successful at it.
If independents and potential ticket-splitters can be successfully kept away from the primary polls, this ability for incumbents to disregard the wishes of a local party unit suffers terribly. Party leaders would consolidate their control over which nominees are selected, and it becomes much more difficult for incumbents to disagree with local party leadership. No wonder the only people defending this plan to have primary voters sign a statement are all persons within the leadership of the RPV or a local party unit. This is a power play, as just about every decision in local politics becomes.
There’s an obvious alternative here, and one that local party leaders aren’t talking much about since it doesn’t give them any additional influence in the process. If you want to remove an incumbent in a primary, instead of trying to ensure you have the ability to rig the process somewhat, you can just build local party activists into strong potential candidates who will win in a primary, regardless of who shows up to vote. Yes, incumbents do have an advantage, but if they’ve managed to enrage the activists within the local party unit to such a degree that they’d be happy to pack a convention, it’s not unreasonable to think that the reasons for this outrage would play well in a primary. It takes is a solid candidate, a good campaign, and some strong issues to unseat an incumbent, and in this scenario many of the issues are already there.
The late Harry Parrish gives us an example of this. In 2005, after Parrish had gotten suckered into supporting Mark Warner’s tax increase, cast some votes which disturbed Second Amendment supporters, and generally wandered back and forth across the line that might define the Republican reservation, Harry got a challenger. Had a convention been the method of nomination, it’s not unlikely at all that Harry would have lost that convention. In the primary that was actually held, Harry’s opponent actually carried Prince William County and racked up a pretty impressive vote total despite being a twenty-something single, inexperienced, unqualified conservative placeholder under indictment for voter fraud. Harry Parrish had a heck of a fight in a primary, and I imagine that fight could have gotten a lot tougher in a convention, if the local party unit leader wanted Parrish gone and was willing to nudge the outcome a bit, if necessary. Harry Parrish won not because he was a particularly strong candidate at that particular time, but because his opponent was hopelessly flawed. Primary voters, who aren’t likely to be as ideologically subservient as convention delegates, clearly saw this.
So if any of you out there think that a “loyalty oath” which would help to restrict turnout in a primary to the hard-core party faithful is a good idea, understand who you would get with that: Delegate Steven Chapman.
I thought not.
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