Virginia politicos are all a twitter over Donald Trump calling out the Republican Party of Virginia over a rule requiring primary voters to sign a Statement of Affiliation. This Statement of Affiliation carries with it no legal obligations, no means of enforcement, and has, truly, no actual consequence whatever for the person being asked to sign.
Many have come to the defense of the RPV, arguing that the Republican Party of Virginia is an organization and that it has a right to choose who selects its candidates and delegates, and that this Statement of Affiliation doesn’t go far enough – they argue we should end open and free primaries and institute party registration.
Donald Trump appeals to many disaffected Democrats and Independents (something many in the GOP Establishment have been dying to find in a GOP candidate, but despise in the case of Trump) and is therefore furious that the RPV could be taking steps that might dissuade Trump voters on March 1st. That a piece of paper potentially holds the power to discourage a person from exercising their constitutional right to vote troubles me on a great many levels. Alas, pieces of paper seem to possess powers surpassing understanding.
Personally, I don’t care about this Statement of Affiliation. A piece of paper won’t stop me from voting. Also, I am a Republican. However, I would like to strongly caution the Republican Party against closing off their primaries and forcing people to register as Republicans. I was a Libertarian for most of my life. Open primaries and hotly contested campaigns in Virginia got me involved in Virginia politics and they got me invested. I’m now committed to the Republican Party and am no longer searching for third party candidates to make me feel better about the record of the Republican Party. If I don’t like what the Republican Party has done, then I’m going to get involved and pressure it to change. I’m in. 100%.
Like it or not, a great many Americans are unhappy with the national Republican Party and most of those people can’t tell the difference between the National Republican Party, Congressional Republican Leadership, and the Republican Party of Virginia. They don’t understand that the RPV grits its’ teeth every time the Congressional Republican Leadership does something stupid, like writing a $1.1 Trillion Omnibus Bill that gave the store away to Democrats. Closing off the primaries, like conventions, will dissuade countless potential Republican Voters from getting involved with the process and supporting Republican candidates. I am an example of what happens when you let outsiders in. We get involved.
There are far too few Scott Ryan Presler’s and Andrew T. Hull’s in the Republican Party, drawing newcomers into the party with their enthusiasm, dedication, and understanding of the issues. Others, like myself, who are trying to change minds at the local level, have enough problems convincing independents and democrats to support the Republican Party without shutting them out of the primary process, holding mysterious conventions, or forcing them to sign statements.
Every new rule, every new step in the process of being involved is another road block the grassroots has to overcome. Even activists, unhappy with the Republican Party, are still trying to bring new Republicans into the fold, usually because we’re revealing to democrats and independents that not all Republicans look and act and think like Paul Ryan and John McCain. They might have lots of power now, but the future of the Republican Party is always up for grabs.
Still, we’re all Republicans.
The RPV needs to make it as easy as possible to bring new citizens into the GOP fold. I’ve never seen Democrats successfully throw an election and anyone that says otherwise better have some actual data to back up their claims.
That said, the Republican Party can do whatever it pleases, but the rest of us, those who don’t work for the Republican Party, but who vote Republican, ought to consider the potential consequences of only letting registered Republicans vote. If you’ve been happy with the leadership you’ve had from the Republican Party and if you want to help protect that leadership from future challenges, then by all means, encourage the legislature to institute party registration. If, however, you want to see the Republican Party change and grow for the better, if you want to see fresh blood and new ideas, then the open process is the easiest process.
If the Republican Party does close off the primaries and if they do continue to discourage new members, then that only means we have to work harder. I am not advocating that people yell and scream and shake their fists at the RPV. In the end, it’s their choice and it’s their right to decide how they want to run their party. It’s our job to decide if it’s a party we want to be a part of. I just hope that they do not change the process and that those of us who reach out to folks who don’t consider themselves life long Republicans will continue bringing in new blood to the party.