Tim Mak January 31st, 2010 at 11:52 pm 10 Comments
Click here for all of Tim Mak’s reports from the RNC Summit in Hawaii.
Over the course of the RNC’s winter meeting this past week, FrumForum asked members whether they thought the committee was becoming more ‘purist’. Many RNC members, moderates and conservatives alike, agreed that the committee had become more open to a ‘small-tent philosophy’ over the last few years.
Jim Bopp, a National Committeeman from Indiana and the chief sponsor of the purity test resolution, said that the committee was becoming more ‘conservative’:
In 2008, there were 39 new members [elected]… By my reckoning, every single one of them was more conservative or dramatically more conservative than whom they replaced. As a result, [conservatives] have a clear majority of members of the RNC.
Of course, being ‘conservative’ means many things to many people. FrumForum tried to clarify by asking people whether they thought a ‘purity mentality’ or a small-tent philosophy was becoming more pervasive.
Outgoing Florida Chair Jim Greer, a moderate and a strong supporter of Florida Governor Charlie Crist, said that he was seeing more and more members who were focused on the idea of ideological purity:
“Not all of them, but there are more members of the committee that believe a smaller tent and a purer tent is the path to victory… I disagree with this. If we try to be a pure party, there will be very few people left, and no members of the Republican party in office,” said Greer.
The move towards ideological purity may be in response to the energy and anger of the Tea Party movement. Typically, the RNC establishment has been more moderate and less rigidly ideological than the grassroots, said one Republican strategist who preferred to remain anonymous.
Massachusetts National Committeeman Ron Kaufman suggested that a change in direction might have resulted from the influx of tea partiers and Ron Paul after the last RNC elections:
In ’08, you had some new people. I would say they’re more conservative, quite frankly… A lot of them came from the libertarian movement, a lot of people came from Ron Paul, a lot were the beginning of the tea [party] movement. Well, they might not just be more conservative, but also more activist.
However, not every member of the committee agreed with the contention that the RNC was becoming more ‘purity-minded’. Even if the RNC has become more open to a ‘purity mentality’ over the last year, says Paul Senft, the National Committeeman from Florida, the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts has shown the errors of this philosophy:
The Brown election has caused a lot of euphoria… a lot of litmus test conservatives are elated and see the benefits of having the 41st vote, even if they don’t agree with everything that Brown believes in.
The purity test resolution may have failed at the RNC winter meeting, but Chairman Michael Steele and all those who value inclusivity in the GOP should pay heed to a deeper and more dangerous trend – the possibility of a ‘purity mentality’ pervading the membership of the Republican National Committee.