No Freedom to Dissent

Photo from Noah Berger of the AP
Photo from Noah Berger of the AP

Last year, the Republican Party of Virginia modified their party plan to restrict who may participate in Republican Party nominations.  Specifically, part 2 of section A reads that “a voter who, subsequent to making a statement of intent, publicly supports a candidate in opposition to a Republican nominee shall not be qualified for participation in party actions as defined in Article I for a period of four (4) years.” and part 4 adds “in addition to the foregoing, to be in accord with the principles of the Republican Party, unless otherwise stipulated by the appropriate Official Committee, a person otherwise qualified hereunder shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party within the last five years.”

So, if you believe the GOP nominates a poor candidate you have no choice but to support him or her.  And although your tax dollars funds both Democratic and Republican primaries, if you decide to exercise your political free will to vote in another party’s contest, you are booted from the GOP.  So much for the freedom to think for yourself and be able to support whichever candidate most closely aligns with your views in both the primary and the general election.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Well, now it may get even worse.  According to Race to Richmond, the party is considering yet another restriction on participation adding, “any individual who within the last eight (8) years was a candidate for public office as the nominee of a political party or as an independent in an election for public office where there was also a Republican candidate for said office, shall be disqualified from participating as a candidate, delegate or otherwise in a convention, mass meeting or party canvass of the Republican Party at any level.”

So maybe you run as a Democrat, Libertarian, or independent and later decide that the GOP is the party for you.  Assuming this restriction is passed, you wouldn’t be allowed to join the Republican Party of Virginia or participate in any contests for eight years, even if the only choices available to you in an election were Republicans!

Karen Kwiatkowski, the leader of the Shenandoah County Republican Women and 2012 Republican challenger to Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) was quick to offer her thoughts on Facebook saying, “The GOP is trying to fix a problem that originates in the Party’s noticeable lack of adherence to principle, and its frequent inability or refusal to run solid conservatives under the GOP mantle. This will drive not only those who ‘bolted’ away forever, who will take with them their supporters.  A better approach is to follow Rand Paul’s style of bridge-building, and treat disloyalty to a GOP candidate as a sign of the party itself doing the wrong thing.

So, I have to ask, what comes after this rule?  Expelling a person for ten years for criticizing an elected Republican legislator?  Or how about forcing Virginia citizens to register by party?  Oh…wait…there are two bills coming before the General Assembly that will do just that!

With the exception of the 2009 sweep, no Republican candidate has won statewide in Virginia in a decade.  Rather than running better campaigns, recruiting more principled candidates, or insisting upon adherence to the values found in the RPV Creed, the RPV is instead circling the wagons and heavily restricting who can call themselves Republican.  As Kwiatkowski says, it is an exceedingly poor decision and will only result in further GOP losses and greater exodus from the party.  Shouldn’t you support Republican candidates because they are the best choices and not simply due to the fear that you’ll be kicked out of the party if you do not?

Like the man in the above picture, do you call yourself a Republican and are ashamed of these ideas?  Should the RPV reverse course and allow its members the God-given freedom to say no when it or its candidates stand in opposition to our values without fear of multi-year retribution?  And, if they continue along this path, would liberty be best served if the RPV were allowed to die of this self-inflicted wound in the hopes that a political party bound by principle instead of unquestioned party loyalty could take its place?

After reading this proposed addition to the Republican Party Plan, I was reminded of a verse from the Bible.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.  But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24 (NLT)