Friday, June 10, 2011

Republican Pledge Deconstructed

As a process for selecting nominees for local elected office, I find conventions to be the worst possible choice. The process is decidedly undemocratic, leads to the nomination of untested and polarizing candidates and generally just wastes my time. One thing in particular that I hate about conventions, and firehouse primaries for that matter, is this inane loyalty pledge. Obviously designed only to placate the paranoid, it’s not required under the RPV rules and it’s so routinely ignored that it serves no valid political purpose. The Loudoun County version of the pledge, moreover, is so poorly worded that, even if you did follow it to the letter, you could still vote for a non-Republican in the general election.

Let’s take a look at it phrase by phrase, and discuss what it means for you, the Loudoun County Republican:

“I hereby declare that I intend”

It’s an intention written in the present tense and before knowing the outcome of the convention.  Arguably, then, you’re not violating the oath if you intend to support the nominee at the time of signing, but then change your mind once you find who the actual nominee is.  You can drive a truck through an exception like that.

“to support”

Not to be too Clintonian about it, but just what does “support” mean?  While it would imply at least voting for the nominee, ironically, the pledge doesn’t actually commit you to vote for the Republican nominee. So what’s the point?

“all of the nominees of the Republican Party of Virginia for public office in the ensuing election.”

That means ALL RPV nominees, not just the ones in the races in which you cast a vote. In essence, then, you’d be committed to “support” Jeff Frederick, Eugene Delgaudio and every other Republican candidate in the state – even before you know who they are and even though they may live far outside your district.  I guess it’s fine for the mindless party line voter, but for independent thinkers (or at least those who like to think of themselves as independent), it’s a particularly tough one to swallow.

“I am in accord with the principles of the Republican Party of Virginia and have not participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party in the last five years”

This provision, like the entire pledge, is optional under the RPV Party Plan.  It’s probably not a bad idea, but keep in mind that it would prohibit Republicans who more than once have voted for the weaker candidate in a Dem primary from ever participating in any Republican nominating activity.  Note, too, that the Loudoun version does not reference this latter limitation.

“but if I have, I now renounce affiliation with any other political party”

This is what gets me the most about the Loudoun version.  On the one hand, the delegate must swear that he hasn’t participated in another party’s nominating process, but, if he’s lying about it, it’s permissible as long as he now renounces the party affiliation. Stafford County has a little better wording in its version that’s more along the lines of the RPV plan.  Why Loudoun didn’t do it this way is beyond me.

Aside from the challenges with the text in this year’s version, recall the debacles of 2000 and 2007 brought about by similar loyalty pledges.  I guess some politicos are just gluttons for punishment.

As for me, I haven’t decided yet whether to attend the convention.  If I do, I won’t feel particularly compelled to “vote” for a particular candidate in the general election, but, since I try to be a man of my word, rest assured that I will “support” them all in my own special way.

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