The Stupid Party Strikes Again: The GOP and the VA primary’s “loyalty oath”
The Republican Party doesn’t need its opponents to call it stupid. They call themselves that—there’s no point in denying an open secret.
It was proper and legal to invoke Virginia’s already-existing election code and ask for a good-faith “loyalty oath” before you participate in the upcoming primary, that you intend to vote GOP in the fall regardless.
But if there’s anything more risible these days than a partisan loyalty oath, it’s the idea of “good faith” or an honor system when it comes to politics. Fair enough. These are our times, dog eat cat.
Me, I like political parties, their purpose and therefore their existence. If you don’t like my party, go find another one, or go start one.
The state has a compelling interest in the parties holding fair elections, to keep the intraparty chicanery to a minimum, therefore the taxpayers finance the holding of primary elections—for all parties, not just the two major ones.
Our republic is built upon achieving consensus: the Madisonian construction of the legislature, with the House responsive to popular sentiment as measured by biannual elections, and its six-year terms in the Senate designed to cool down popular sentiment from hasty and capricious action. Top it off with the presidential veto power and a Supreme Court empowered to adjudge the compatibility of legislation with the constitution, and voilà!, you have a system constructed around the primary legitimacy of government, “consent of the governed.”
America never agrees on everything; hell, 60% on anything is a strong consensus. And the two-thirds of Congress it takes to override a presidential veto or the three-fourths of the states it takes to amend the Constitution itself prudently require overwhelming consensus.
As for the parties, they too embody the principle of consensus and the virtue of prudence. It’s far more common to fault not the extremism of either party, but their “mushy middleness.”
So if the Tea Party or #Occupy become internal forces for a bit or radicalization, a bit of anti-mugwumperry, that’s a good thing. If they win, they have a mandate for progress. If the party goes too far in accommodating such change, the electorate at large gives them a bath, like the Goldwater meltdown of 1964 or the McGovern swamping in 1972, and it’s back to the center for the next election.
If a party can’t come to consensus about its own center, how can it offer itself as the center of the nation at large? The general election is about claiming the American center; in fact, winning elections is about defining it.
And in the longer term, the nominating process tests the boundaries and the viability of the political vision that leads away from that mushy center: the irony is that the Goldwater wing eventually captured the Republican party, via Reagan. And the McGovern wing is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It takes awhile for these things to settle in, to become the consensus.
This isn’t to say the Goldwater of 1964 or the McGovern of 1972 exactly represent the center of the parties today, and they certainly don’t represent the American consensus. The GOP may be content to chip away at the Great Society, but it’s suicide to try to undo the New Deal as Goldwater wanted.
So too, more than half of Senate Democrats voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, and for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, neither one the apple of a true McGovernite’s eye.
Goldwater ’64 would still get trampled just the same by Obama ’12, as would McGovern ’72, by Romney. Wipeout.
Each party finds its own center, then takes it out on the campaign road in the general election. In the presidential primaries, each candidate offers himself to his party as its center, and more often than not, the wheels fall off. The first concern of the parties is to keep out of the ditch, the first concern of the electorate is to keep our country out of the ditch.
We find our consensus somehow, and the parties are the place to start. I thought John Edwards, with his easy manner and pretty looks, would one day be our president. But it was his own Democratic Party that sussed him out, and rejected him. [Twice. Well done, Dems.]
And if you actually capture the center of the entire nation, as FDR and Ronald Reagan did, you have a mandate for change, a consensus and consent of the governed to give your ideas a try.
Well, from most of us in the electorate. The rest of us say screw it, it’s all a joke anyway, or I have a point to make, so might as well die on the hillock of principle than in the gutter of partisanship.
Or is it of mugwumpery? Funny thing is, my younger self voted for John B. Anderson in 1980: Jimmy Carter was clearly an ineffective president, but I was scared off by Reagan and what they told me about him.
John Anderson was a nobody, really: true, a 10-term congressman, but not really a player or a leader, just sort of there. My courageous and nonconformist and anti-partisan vote for him wasn’t really a vote atall as it turns out: it was an abstention.
Voting “present” sometimes makes a statement, but as a matter of course, it’s just nobody voting for nobody.
I like political parties, did I mention that? Even the Stupid Party. The other one, not as much. Your mileage may vary, and it probably does by the looks of things around here. I’m good with that too.