Circling the Republican Wagons

If you look closely, I think you can just make out a Marshall supporter or two.
My first political convention in 2008

In 2014, the Republican Party will select their nominee for U.S. Senate as well as their leaders for congressional chairman at conventions.  Having served as a delegate to the 2008, 2009, and 2013 state conventions as well as the 2012 6th district convention, I’ve enjoyed voicing my opinion when it comes to selecting the most like-minded Republican candidates.  However, I regret to say that I cannot participate this year.

Based upon changes made in the Plan of the Republican Party of Virginia in 2013, the Harrisonburg Republican Party has adopted much stricter rules on who can represent the city at conventions.  They require all delegates to sign a pledge declaring that they have not participated in the nomination contest of another party for the last five years and that each delegate promises to support every Republican nominee.

For the record, the Harrisonburg call reads: “…a person otherwise qualified hereunder shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party in the last five years”.  The call ends with the participant signing a pledge declaring, “…I will support ALL the nominees of the Republican Party in the 2014 General Election.”

Unfortunately, I could not sign such a document for a multitude of reasons.

First, I voted in the 2013 Democratic primary for statewide office.  Previously, I voted in the 2009, 2006, and 2004 Democratic primaries.  The fact that I participated in these contests is not some great secret, I’m fairly certain the information is a matter of public record and I am not ashamed that I did so.  In addition, I also attended the 2012 and 2013 Libertarian Party  conventions although I did not cast a vote.  I will make no apologies for any of these political actions.  Although not a Democrat, I want the Democratic party to nominate the candidate most consistent with my values in much the same way that I want the Republicans and Libertarians to do likewise.  Given that the Democratic primaries are funded by Virginia tax dollars, requiring people to not participate in a political process that they helped fund is nothing short of ludicrous.

Second, I cannot in good faith pledge my loyalty to a candidate without knowing who he or she is or what he or she stands for.  Wasn’t America founded upon the principles of political free will?  And, if so, how could the Republican Party require its delegates to support its candidates blindly?  It is a move bereft of both political and logical sense.

Now, as you might imagine, this pledge is completely unenforceable.  The party cannot legally require a person to support anyone.  I must say that when I support a Republican candidate, it should be because she and I hold similar viewpoints, not simply due to a party label (which unfortunately these days can mean a whole multitude of things).  For example, I gladly supported Republican Senator Mark Obenshain in 2013 because he was my preferred candidate in much the same way that I supported Libertarian Robert Sarvis.  Even though the GOP cannot force anyone to abide by this pledge, I feel it is dishonorable for me to sign something I do not necessarily intend to uphold.  Then again, I believe it is wrong of them to make such a request in the first place.

Now, I should point out that not every local Republican Party has adopted such a binding restriction.  For example, the Waynesboro GOP simply states that “all Participants are required to be in accord with the principles of the Republican Party as expressed in the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia.”  This restriction makes sense and doesn’t deprive anyone of his or her political freedom or require a person to support candidates which he or she believes does not uphold his or her values.  A little over a week ago, I wrote to the Harrisonburg GOP stating that, “in order to participate this year, as far as I can tell, I am faced with three options.  Either I can lie to you and the Harrisonburg GOP, signing a pledge I cannot honorably uphold, I can abandon my principles in order to have a chance to voice my opinion, or I can ask the Harrisonburg GOP to change their requirements.”  I could not choose the first two options and it seems the GOP declined to exercise the third.

Although perhaps not widely known, since 2010 only one Republican candidate has won a contested election in the city of Harrisonburg when facing at least one Democratic opponent and no statewide office seeker has captured the majority of the city’s votes since 2009.  Even when Democratic candidates lose elsewhere, they still win Harrisonburg.

I find it incredibly sad that a party that I’ve devoted so much time to in the last nineteen years would surrender to tactics reminiscent of the Radical Republicans of the 1860s.  Rather than encouraging voters to take an active role in deciding who the Republican nominee will be, some cities and counties, like Harrisonburg, have decided to circle the wagons and deny participation to activists who cannot swear complete and utter political fealty to the GOP.  And what will the results of this restrictive action be?  Will they somehow have the effect of increasing Republican victories?  It seems doubtful.

4 Replies to “Circling the Republican Wagons”

  1. This is the unfortunate result of the refusal by left-leaning Republicans in the General Assembly to pass party registration in Virginia. A party absolutely DOES have the right to restrict membership in its ranks to folks NOT dedicated to destroying the party. That could be accomplished by registering voters by party and requiring them to pick one in which to participate in mass meetings/primaries, etc. Then you’d eliminate the need for the loyalty oath, while still allowing both parties to protect their constitutional free association rights – and the blood, sweat and tears of their volunteers – from intentional sabotage like what we saw with the crowds of Democrats who swarmed our Campbell County GOP mass meeting last night, scoffing at the loyalty oath by which they all made liars out of themselves.

    Pass party registration NOW!

    1. Hello Rick and thanks for your thoughts. It was terribly unfortunate to read about what happened in Campbell County, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. I’m not sure if I favor party registration though, as then a now independent like myself might be excluded entirely. It is a difficult balance to achieve.

  2. What if a candidate CURRENTLY RUNNING AGAINST THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE insists on participating in the selection of the Republican Party’s leaders and representatives??? This is not a hypothetical situation – IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, again in Campbell County. The requirement to sign a loyalty oath is in itself a sadly ineffective facade for preserving the integrity of any Republican Unit. Without even this, how could a Republican Unit even function, if faced with determined, dishonest opposition that openly seeks Democrat participation? I see your point, that it rankles to promise to support any and all Republicans, even ones with whom you disagree. But folks need to see where such logic can lead. If *no* oath of loyalty is required, you can be forced to allow people openly opposed to the Republican creed, who have repeatedly and publicly campaigned against Republicans, to join and participate in the governing body of the Republican Party. Such a situation is just not tenable.

  3. I understand why the Republican Party has a loyalty oath. I prefer conventions because I don’t want Democrats voting in our Republican primaries. I have never voted in a Democratic primary. Rick, I wish the Republicans would spend more time fighting the Democrats than fellow Republicans. I lived in Warren County. When Nathan Miler was nominated for Lieutenant Governor, I was slated out because I was for a more Conservative candidate. Joshua, I am sorry that you can’t come to the State Republican Convention this year as a Delegate. I really wish that more Libertarians would support our Conservative candidates. My friend, the late Joe Bishop, was a Libertarian Republican and always supported the nominee of the Republican Party. His last words to me were for me to support Emmett Hanger.

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