Pledges have become something of a fad in the Republican primary this year. Except for Jon Huntsman, the GOP hopefuls have all signed pledges to radical right-wing groups like the FAMiLY Leader promising to ban pornography and only appoint anti-abortion cabinet members and judges, among other things.
As the New York Times editorial board put it, “It used to be that a sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution was the only promise required to become president.” But today, “each pledge they sign undermines the basic principle of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation.”
Now the Virginia GOP is extending the trend to voters, requiring them to sign a loyalty oath to the party before they are allowed to participate in the primary:
The state Republican Party will require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 presidential primary.
Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. Anyone who refuses to sign will be barred from voting in the primary.
During a brief meeting Wednesday at the state Capitol, the State Board of Elections voted 3–0 to approve three forms developed by the election board’s staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.
Those who wish to vote in the primary must sign a form that says, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.” The pledge so impinges on citizens’ fundamental right to vote for whomever they want in the general election that even some Republican lawmakers in the state have come out against it.
This is not the first time Virginia Republicans have tried to implement a loyalty pledge. They backed off their attempts in 2000 and 2008 over concerns about alienating independent voters.
Of course, loyalty oaths have disturbing historical connotations in this country, harkening back to the McCarthy era where many organizations required employees or members to sign loyalty oaths or lose their jobs.