The Arizona Republican Party held a meeting in Tempe this weekend and gave the world a wonderful example of what’s wrong with the Republican Party.
The 1,600 members voted to censure Senator John McCain for “a long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats.” The party could have decided to simply ignore McCain, or to pass a resolution against the issues. But instead, they censured McCain, the firmest rebuke they have in their arsensal.
While just a resolution, meaning simply a loud, non-binding opinion, it shows the length some Republicans want to go to show other Republicans that compromise and working across the aisle should be verboten.
John McCain will likely brush this censure off and ignore the gesture altogether. It shouldn’t affect his re-election campaign because as a sitting U.S. senator for the last 28 years, he should have the built-in support to thwart the opinion of 1,600 Republicans.
However, what this censure will likely affect are other Arizona Republicans hoping to eventually make a name for themselves. This tells them directly that today’s Arizona Republican Party sees no value in working with Democrats on any issue.
Republicans in any state have the right to demand conservative purity and that GOP elected leaders should not work with any Democrats. However, in return for that demand they must also accept that they will lose more and more general elections and hold less and less power.
Another group that holds very close to its party’s mantra and philosophy, demanding nothing less than 100% loyalty, is the Libertarian Party. As a party, they get very high marks for integrity and currently hold no Congressional seats.
Republicans may detest every idea that comes from the Democratic Party. The GOP may believe that embracing any of the concepts arriving from Democrats will only lead to socialism and disaster in America.
But if the GOP demands purity from its candidates, they hand over nearly every independent voter to the Democrats. So that demand will only lead to more and more successful proposals from Democrats.
On the surface, this may seem, and may very well be, simply a small group of Arizona Republicans who are getting its fifteen minutes of fame with this resolution and do not truly represent the GOP in Arizona or anywhere else for that matter.
But if that is not the case, if this is something that other state Republican Party groups move to emulate, it may help keep the GOP in the wilderness for much longer than it ever expected.
What Democrats have figured out, and the GOP has yet to, is that platform purity looks great on paper, but it doesn’t win elections. Democrats have figured out how to attain power. Republicans look like they know what they want to do when they get power, but have no idea how to attain the necessary elected positions to do so.
It will be interesting to see how other states react to this resolution. Will they embrace it as a good idea and give other moderate Republicans the same treatment or will they ignore the bait to swing further right?
The fate of the 2014 election may rest on the answer.