u·ni·ty: noun 1) oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement. 2) absence of diversity; unvaried or uniformed character
The last few weeks I took part in two conventions: the GOP state convention and most recently, the 3rd district special convention to choose a U.S. Congressional candidate since Rep. Tom Latham was retiring. Throughout the process, I kept hearing our political leaders preach “unity”; that we must come together as a party, cast aside our divisions, and focus on defeating our Democrat opponents in the fall. While the words are noble, unfortunately the actions I have seen our leadership take in the last few weeks makes me wonder if they are using the Democrat leadership definition of unity instead of what used to be the Republican one.
Each of the parties in question has their own unique view of diversity as well as unity. For the Democrats, while they claim to excel at welcoming the diversity of people, they are not so good at diversity of thought. I find that my more social conservative Democrat friends (yes they do exist) are not always welcome if they don’t tow the current liberal line. Republicans, on the other hand, used to focus not so much on the diversity of people, but welcomed the diversity of thought, seeing it as being in line with our Founder’s principles. Unity came by welcoming all viewpoints into the party, and freely coalescing around core principles. Unfortunately, for the last few decades, we have seen that start to change, as conservatives and libertarians in the GOP are marginalized in search of a more homogenized, a.k.a. “unified”, view.
Enter the Tea Party, which upended the whole carefully structured apple cart of the establishment leaders of both parties, and the Ron Paulites, who not only almost won a majority on the Iowa Republican State Central Committee, but took that liberty banner and ran with it all the way to Tampa. All of sudden, for the existing establishment, unity of party no longer seemed so appealing when the line of power started to point back to the people instead of the existing status quo. It was then these newbies quickly discovered that diversity of thought in the GOP party (& to be fair, in the Democrat party too) is only welcome when you don’t have the power to actually change anything.
The Republican establishment then sought to undo the “damage” these liberty “kids” did – or what they thought they did – to the party. Even though these new liberty folks did not even have a majority on the SCC, the establishment complained about every green mistake they did, instead of coming alongside them, helping them in expertise they lacked, and harnessing the new energy they brought to the party in order to make it better for everyone. Instead of seeing the future of our party in these new political recruits, they saw only a challenge to their hold on power. You see, these young upstarts dared to keep long established officials accountable, holding all of them (including the Governor) to the party platform, the party constitution, and the state and U.S. Constitution. Therefore I guess they had to be stopped… you know… in the name of party unity.
Last week I shared how our party gutted our platform. What I didn’t share was what I saw at convention this time: the gutting of our youth. I saw far more young people engaged in 2012, when I witnessed them breathe new life and a new vigor into our Grand Old Party. However, in 2014, there were far fewer of them and many more over the age of 50. Did the youth not show up this time, because our party does not have the same appeal it did when Ron Paul ran? Or were they just shut out of the delegate process because the results were pre-stacked with establishment candidates? In either case, we need to start asking ourselves how we plan on surviving as a party past this generation (mine) if we keep focusing more on those we see as threats to the party, instead of those who are threats to the country.
The young Republicans today are not the same as those of previous generations. They have access to instant, infinite information, can fact check the media, know our Founding documents, aren’t afraid to call out their leaders in public, and doing it all with some much needed wit. They not only don’t tow the stodgy old company line, but actually welcome debate. They also have little patience for hypocrisy, and will not remain loyal to a GOP who has a leadership which continues to define unity as an absence of diversity of thought, or which conveniently ignores the Constitution, or which continues to purge those who don’t bow to the status quo (like our current RPI chair who is now facing an ouster). For these young Republicans – and a lot of older Republicans like me for that matter – liberty is the great unifier, with our Constitution acting as the foundation. They will vote on their principles. So, isn’t it time to stop defining unity as a circular firing squad?
Unity. GOP party leaders, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.