Friday, June 14, 2024

OPINION: Republican brand

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| November 17, 2023 1:00 AM

If you want the truth about what’s happening in the Republican Party you won’t get it from the Democrats or their allies in the media. They want you to believe a myth that the party is trying to disenfranchise voters and prevent candidates from running for office. Of course this is exactly what you would expect to hear from the opposition and those that have lost power due to a surge in grassroots engagement. 

In an age where anyone can claim to identify as whatever they decide to be, regular people crave normalcy and look for consistency. Voters who thought they voted for a “Republican” only to find they govern like a big government liberal are upset with the party and call for truth in advertising. 

Republican is a brand and it is the responsibility of party officials to protect that brand. When a citizen votes for a Republican they should get a Republican who mostly embraces the positions and policies articulated in the Republican Party Platform. 

Imagine you walk into your local grocery store and among other things you purchase a 10 pound bag of potatoes. When you get home you open the bag to discover there aren’t any potatoes inside but instead potato-shaped rocks. Understandably upset you go back to the store and confront the manager with the bag of ersatz potatoes, look him in the eye and sternly say “The label says potatoes but inside are rocks!” The manager gives you a condescending smirk and replies, “There is nothing I can do. It’s not my fault. You should have checked before you bought them.”

Would you ever shop at that store again? Probably not. But this is exactly what has been happening when voters went to the polls and voted for a “Republican,” trusting that they are voting for an actual Republican and not a Democrat in a red jacket with an “R” next to their name. This used to happen a lot because anyone who met the legal requirements could run for office claiming to be a Republican, and the party would support them. “Don’t blame us,” said party officials. “It’s up to the voter to decide who is or isn’t a Republican.”

Twelve years ago the most liberal, big government, tax and spend elected representative in the Idaho legislature was a Republican from Sandpoint. Back home she told her constituents she was a conservative but down in Boise she was more liberal than all the Democrats.  

Even today, a recent study by the Center for Legislative Accountability found “Democrats were more likely to stick together on issues important to the party’s base, while Republicans broke apart.” Even though Idaho has a Republican majority we rank 40th for how conservative the Republicans are in the statehouse with only 68% of “Republicans” consistently voting for Republican policies and principles.

The Republican Party has a serious quality control problem and this problem was ignored because the leadership in the legislature is determined by the number of Republicans, not the quality of those Republicans. 

The Republican affiliated voters have a different priority. When they vote for a Republican they expect to get a Republican, and when they don’t, they are understandably upset. This led to voter malaise and low turnout at the polls which only exacerbated the problem.

The turning point was February 2009 when the Tea Party movement exploded on the political landscape. It was the great conservative awakening and after the signs and rallies died down there remained a persistent effort to assert the majority conservative views in local and state politics. 

Since then the Idaho Republican Party has been making steady progress towards ensuring that candidates who run as Republicans are actual Republicans who generally embrace the positions and policies articulated in the Republican Party Platform. This seems so basic but it is not uncommon for devout Democrats to run as Republicans to gain power.

There are considerable advantages to candidates who bear the Republican brand. Statewide there are 975 precincts, most with a Precinct Committeeman (PC) volunteer who will work diligently for the Republican nominee. Those PCs form the foundation of our party and it is their responsibility to ensure the quality of the Republican brand. 

The Republican Party has taken steps to ensure the quality of Republican candidates. One step is only allowing Republican affiliated voters to vote in the Republican primary. Before that, Democrats were voting for who would be the Republican nominee in the general election. Crazy.

Another quality step was passing rules to establish due process for holding elected Republicans accountable if they consistently work against Republican positions and policies. If an elected official wants to carry the Republican brand they need to be Republicans. That is not too much to ask. 

The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee implemented a Vetting and Rating program so that voters could be better informed about where candidates were on the political spectrum. This program has been very successful and is being adopted by central committees across the state. 

If you are unaffiliated with a party and want to vote in the upcoming Republican Primary you must affiliate Republican by Dec. 30 of this year. Newly qualified electors (those that turn 18 years of age) can affiliate at any time. There is a 12-month waiting period if you are currently affiliated with another party.  

While those that want the advantages of being a Republican without the responsibilities object to these measures, the response among the voters has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the last decade the number of affiliated Republicans has risen over 12% from 52% to 64% in Kootenai County. Voters want the Republican candidates they vote for to be actual Republicans.

The Republican Party is open to anyone who wishes to affiliate with us. There is no litmus or purity test. You just need to check a box. Candidates who wish to run for office can run for office. Nothing is stopping them. But if they want to run as a Republican they need to be an actual Republican who believes in the policies and principles enumerated in the Republican Party Platform. The quality of the Republican brand is important to voters.

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.