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May 24, 2012 8:19 am

The Amend Corner: Purging the heretics

Written by Don Amend

One summer afternoon in 1952, I watched my mother go a bit wacko.

Mom was ironing, but she was a rather distracted by a guy on the radio who was calling off the names of the states. There was a lot of cheering after he called each name, and eventually, there was huge cheer that dissolved Mom’s anxiety into pure joy and sent her bouncing around the room in elation.

The Republican Party had just nominated Dwight Eisenhower for president.

I was only 8 years old at the time, and my political instincts hadn’t awakened yet, but I knew Eisenhower was a good guy, and I knew he was a Republican, so, from an early age, I was a Republican, too.

Over the years, I have changed and so has the Republican Party. As a result, I no longer am a Republican. Suppose, though, I had continued to register as a Republican. I would then be a Republican in name only, a RINO.

Recently a group that claims RINOs are ruining the Republican Party has organized to kick all RINOs out of the party. They call themselves Conservative Republicans of Wyoming (CROW) and have appointed themselves as the arbiters of just what a conservative is. They have developed 12 principles that must be totally accepted by anyone who dares to call himself a Republican and are planning a witch hunt to purge the party of anyone who doesn’t toe the right line (pun intended).

Now, despite my membership in the minority party, I actually agree with many of the CROW principles — fiscal responsibility, federalism, checks and balances, limited government, stuff like that. But the CROWs insist on a fundamentalist view of the Constitution and an ethnocentric and chauvinistic view of Christianity that I find un-Christian, and the CROWs allow for no difference of opinion about either the Constitution or religion. Anyone with impure beliefs will be proclaimed a non-Republican.

The conservative view of the Constitution is based on the arrogant notion that the CROWs know exactly what the writers of the Constitution intended. This opinion is untenable, when you consider they themselves argued over their intent during George Washington’s first term. Alexander Hamilton proposed the creation of a national bank, which James Madison argued was unconstitutional because no such power was listed in the Constitution. Hamilton argued that it was one of the implied powers of Congress and prevailed with the support of Washington. Washington’s agreeing to a more liberal interpretation of the Constitution would, I assume, mean the Father of our Country couldn’t win the endorsement of the CROWs.

In the religious realm, the CROWs require not only that a person believe in God, but believe that God is an American. It adheres to the arrogant assumption that God favors Western culture over all others, and that America has a corner on virtue and morality. Well, I learned in Sunday School that all people are equal in God’s eyes, no matter their race and nationality. I learned from observation and study that, while America has done some great things, we haven’t always acted honorably toward other nations, and our actions have been motivated by self-interest, not God’s will.

Moreover, this requirement is a recipe for bad government, since being Christian doesn’t guarantee competence in a person elected to public office. A candidate who meets all the CROW principles is highly qualified to hold an office, but calls himself an agnostic, would be rejected in favor of a regular churchgoer who is much less qualified. George Washington himself indicated he’d rather have a competent Muslim in office than an incompetent Christian.

In addition, this principle philosophically violates the CROWs’ own principle regarding the original intent of the writers of the Constitution, who clearly stated that there should be no religious test for holding office.

Well, it will be interesting to watch the CROWs as they attempt to carry out their Stalinist purge of the Republican Party, and one wonders how many well-qualified Republican candidates will lose out in the process, which, as I noted earlier, might have included George Washington.

Another loser would be the man my mother was so excited about back in 1952. Consider his actions in 1954, when the country was threatened with recession. Ike proposed a stimulus project, the interstate highway system, and a 4 cent per gallon tax on gasoline to pay for it. Conservative fundamentalists — some of whom even today argue that building highways is a state function, not a federal function — were opposed, but Ike was successful in getting his plan through.

Eisenhower rejected conservative calls for the U.S. to help France, a representative of Western culture, regain control of an Eastern culture in Vietnam, and he proposed the first federal aid to education, the National Defense Education Act. And he was famously bi-partisan.

Which is why I think the CROW efforts will ultimately fail. The world is always changing, and the complexity of events and attitudes always force those in government to adapt to those changes, regardless of what iron-clad principles they hold.

I don’t think the CROWs can change that reality.

(Read about the CROW organization on their website www.crowyoming.org)

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