So, Paul Waldman over at Tapped informs me that the Virginia Republican Party will request a Party Loyalty Oath before allowing the rank and file to vote in the primary election. Pamela Stallsmith of the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes, in the article Voters in GOP primary to sign pledge of intent that ‛Those who wish to cast a ballot in the Republican presidential primary will have to sign a statement that says, "I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president."“
Now, if you’ve been with us long enough, Gentle Reader, you may recall that Your Humble Blogger is opposed to open primaries. I like to think that my Party is, largely, composed of people who want to be part of it, and that when we get together to decide our candidates, it’s our own affair. In other countries (at least two that I know of), the Parties have actual membership systems, where the Party, rather than the State, keeps track of whether you are a member. The Party membership votes on leadership matters and other issues in internal primary elections, run by the Party’s rules and paid for by the Party’s money. If you don’t join a Party, you don’t get to pick any Party’s representative, because that candidate represents the Party.
This is all assuming that political Parties are, for the most part, formed around some general ideas and principles, or mindsets, or at least some organizing force more than brand loyalty. I think that’s observably true. It isn’t necessarily true, or true in all cases, but it’s generally obviously true. (Digression: when you start worrying about definitions of terms, as I do, you very quickly run up against things like this, where there are obvious categories that are ill-defined, so that we can act as though the categories exist, and most things will be easy to claim a category for, even though a large majority of things would be difficult to actually prove belong in any category. This is worrisome and leads people (I would guess) to give up on trying to define their terms. I don’t think that’s the right response; the right response is to eat humility while working on tasks that are impossible and important. End Digression.) So, if the Republican Party is largely Conservative, and wants to represent a Conservative mindset, seeking the primary election votes of non-Conservatives doesn’t make sense to me. Furthermore, since what we want is to get like-minded people into the Party, it makes sense to hold out a voice in candidate selection to those people who are committed to the Party. Those people could then help us with other Party tasks (such as convincing people that our mindset is the correct one, along with get-out-the-vote, candidate selection for lower offices, choosing party leadership, formulating a platform, etc, etc). If we let them vote and walk away, we lose.
Now, the problem is that instead of each Party selecting its candidates through its own membership, we have a state-funded primary election system. That works to the Party’s benefit somewhat, as it’s (1) money! and (b) transparent and clean, at least as much so as the general election. It would be hard for a party to run an election with 50 million or 70 million or a hundred million members, with its own funds and resources, and have the result be trusted. Even at the state level, that’s millions of votes. It could happen. But I suspect that, like reality television, only the people who vote for the winner think it’s not rigged. If we’re going to make the State pay for it, and make the State vouch for its accuracy, then the State gets to throw its weight around, which means that people who don’t belong to a Party get to help make the rules. Ah, well. Nothing is perfect.
So, although I am in some sympathy with the Virginia Republican Party wanting to restrict primary voting to actual Republicans, I do not think that the Party Loyalty Oath is an appropriate way to do it. And, for that matter, I wouldn’t want my own Party, even if the State weren’t running the election, to ask for such an oath. I value the secret ballot. As much as I value my Party, and political Parties generally, it isn’t even close to the secret ballot for importance. And, of course, there’s this: Our Only President and his cabal of crooks and incompetents has betrayed the rank and file of the Republican Party. I think Republicans should acknowledge this, and part of that should be to say that they are not willing to accept the leadership of a man like that again. Of course, none of Our Only President’s cabal of crooks and incompetents is (at the moment) on the ballot, so perhaps that point is moot.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,