A fringe group of the Republican party has decided that group-think and loyalty to the tribe is the highest priority. Four Republican legislative candidates in Campbell County have signed a 10-point “contract” and are now urging Wyoming lawmakers to sign the contract, pledging their support for no new taxes, a Baby Born Alive bill and repealing mandatory immunizations. The contract also calls for balancing the state’s budget without dipping into the rainy day fund and advancing a bill to allow for the recall of all elected officials in the state.
Even if you agree with all 10 tenets of the contract, it’s worrying that people seeking public office would believe the job entails simple “yes” or “no” responses or that governing is as basic as “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” During this truly unprecedented time, when so much in our state is in flux, the leaders we need are deep thinkers. We need problem solvers and they should be looking for ideas and solutions everywhere. Purity pledges hamstring lawmakers and tie them to the same old dogma.
This is the stuff of loyal-to-the-core NFL football fans, not duly elected lawmakers.
This kind of group-think is antithetical to the virtues our Founding Fathers believed were essential to maintaining self-government. Notably, that civil discourse — the ability to engage in reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals — is the primary way people influence change in society/ government. In fact, President George Washington was so opposed to any sort of partisan loyalty, that in appointing his first cabinet, he applied no political litmus test and was guided entirely by the candidates’ merits.
These contracts, or purity tests, are exactly why nothing gets done in our nation’s capital. Good ideas are cast aside because, well, who wants to be bipartisan? Both parties spew dogma and cannot allow the other party to get a “win,” even if it is good for Americans. We’ve become a nation of tribes that only fights for what is best for the tribe to remain in power. Do we really want this for our Wyoming Legislature too?
When Wyomingites elect someone to public office, do we send them to Cheyenne to use their best judgment in making decisions about the public interest? Or do we expect them to adhere to the dictates of groups that always take the most simplistic and extreme stance on their particular issue, regardless of the context? And when politicians sign these pledges, should that give the pledge veto power over the legislators’ personal judgment?
Most people would say we elect officials to make reasoned decisions on our behalf. Otherwise, what’s the point of electing folks? We can just have one person make all the decisions. We don’t need thoughtful consideration of the issues facing the state. Just adhere to the pledge. Right?
We expect lawmakers to listen carefully and ask questions to learn, to deliberate, to consider the circumstances and weigh the relative good and bad and then vote accordingly.