Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Only True Republicans Need Apply

(This is an article I wrote for The Bergen Leader, which was published yesterday, November 30, 2009. Since then, I have seen multiple articles regarding the same National Republican Committee resolution.)

As an African American Republican, one thing that makes me a little nervous is the “labeling” of anything or anybody. So when I hear statements such as, “So and so is not a true Republican”, I wonder what the heck does that really mean?

Well, it appears several Republican National Committee members are trying to answer that question. What I am referring to is a resolution before the Republican National Committee called the “RNC Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates”.

The resolution has about eight “Whereas” clauses talking about faithfulness to conservative republican principles and Ronald Reagan’s belief in the same. Then it gets to the meat of the matter.

The resolution identifies “ten key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support.” The kicker here is in the “Resolved” section of the resolution.

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.”

Make no mistake, I admire and respect the principles and ideals purported by Presidents Lincoln and Reagan. After all, Lincoln was the preferred party of African Americans during that turbulent time, and the support continued until the early 1960’s. The Republican Party was at the forefront of many of the legislative equal and civil rights issues of that early time period.

In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. was a republican, and the early state Republican Party in Texas was started by African Americans.

To me, this kind of resolution, while well intentioned in its desire to support candidates along very strict ideological lines, adds fuel to the fire in the current perception and criticism that the GOP is becoming a shrinking, small minded and intolerant club of folks who do not welcome those of differing viewpoints, but go to great lengths to become as closed a club as possible.

Is this the party of Lincoln and Reagan? Are we really trying to uphold the principles established by these giants of the party, or are we allowing a group of bitter, narrow-minded people the power to undermine the ability of the GOP to grow and diversify the party to meet the changing demographics of our political landscape.

I am a firm believer that the party’s survival is dependent on the sincerity of its outreach to folks of all cultures and ethnicities, as well as those whose basic identification generally supports the ideals of the Republican Party.

The party cannot impose the kinds of restrictions that inhibit its ability to attract progressive, forward thinking people into our ranks. I also believe that the party must provide a message to give people a reason to vote for us.

I think the Republican Party has a lot to offer. Many of the GOP success stories were accomplished with open-minded and inclusive leadership. Let’s start developing positive messages to attract, instead of negative messages to restrict.

We can still be a party with a "Big Tent".