The Republican Party of Virginia will rescind the loyalty oath requirement, Shaun Kenney writes on the RPV blog.
It was just a few days ago that the SBE approved the RPV’s request that Republican primary voters be required to sign a loyalty oath. If it seems to me like it’s been longer than that, I can only imagine how the folks at the RPV feel. Criticism was swift, and came from all directions.
In parts of the state, much of the Republican grassroots consist of xenophobic jingoists who are furious that elected Republicans aren’t farther to the right. They subject their candidates to purity tests, attempting (and failing) to toss out those who don’t make the cut. Even they thought this was a bad idea. Rank and file Republicans (read as: reasonable people) thought this was a bad idea. Which means, naturally, the RPV thought it was a swell idea, defending it just two days ago and framing its opponents in rather unkind terms.
Admittedly, the RPV had a good point, the pledge really wasn’t as draconian as it sounds. It would have read:
I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President.
It’s not a requirement. There’s nothing binding about it. It’s just an affirmation of how one feels at that moment.
But as one commenter pointed out on the RPV’s site, “if it’s no big deal, then GET RID OF IT!”
It’s this instinct to exclude that says so much about the state of the Republican Party in Virginia. Their support is withering each year, with more and more Jim Webb types leaving for the Democratic Party with each passing election cycle. The party keeps moving farther to the right, losing more people with each slip to the side, and yet many of their more vocal members insist that they have to carry on and exclude still more people if they want to find their way out of the wilderness. Their goal is to create the tiniest tent possible, just big enough for the ever-narrower definition of what constitutes a true believer. With that as the prevailing logic, the notion of closing down the primary — creating a significant conceptual barrier to participation in what should be the most accessible method of involvement in the party — well, it must have seemed downright logical.
Honestly, I’m surprised and a little impressed to see the RPV state central committee backing down on this. Unwillingness to admit mistake is the fundamental trait that’s sinking the Republican Party in Virginia; or, more important, an inability to reverse this trend of exclusion.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses: it looks to me like the mistake is perceived as public humiliation, rather than the closing down of the primary. The purpose of closing the primaries was to prevent pesky Democrats from voting for more liberal candidates. Opening up the primaries again isn’t a concession that Jim Gilmore is so conservative and unpopular that he’s utterly unelectable. It’s just a way to reduce criticism.