• Range Writing

Failing the GOP Purity Test

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

I have failed the Republican Party purity test. This gun-toting, freedom-loving redneck who has challenged the federal government in court three times, who has received awards for shining the light on the heavy hand of government and violations of Constitutional rights, who has championed the public’s right to know the workings of its government, and who exercises her First- and Second Amendment rights daily, is simply not pure enough to deserve the Republican label.

While serving as chair of the Sublette County Republican Party, I worked to reinvigorate the party under the big tent in which related but differing views were welcome, recruiting younger members to take on leadership roles, hosting booths at county events, getting statewide elected officials attending local events, and posting all the county party business on a free website. Satisfied that I had left a structurally sound organization in place for the next generation, I stepped away from that leadership role a decade ago.

Last summer I was elected county GOP precinct committeewoman for my rural neighborhood. I received a text last Thursday that a county GOP meeting would be held in four days, but no notice of the purpose of the meeting, and no agenda. I suspected the purpose was the attempted censure of Congresswoman Liz Cheney. It was. The mostly maskless gathering of self-called “Conservative Republicans” (aka “purists”) planned to adopt the same censure measure as the Carbon County GOP.

But in its current incompetency, the county GOP failed to comply with state law regarding actually notifying the public that a meeting was going to be held, and the chairman especially didn’t want media in attendance at the gathering that was held in a public building. The party also failed to hold its legally required organizational meeting after last year’s primary election.

Since Monday night’s gathering wasn’t a legal meeting, no official action could be taken. Determined to get around the legal requirement, instead the group performed a “straw poll” of those in support of the censure. Not surprisingly, the purist majority invited to the non-meeting supported the censure, lamenting that they couldn’t actually impeach or recall Cheney – as well as U.S. Senator John Barrasso and all the other Republican In Name Onlys (RINOs) in office. No matter than Cheney and Barrasso’s votes in Congress align with those of former President Donald J. Trump some 90% of the time.

This was a party event in which party leadership openly bashed various elected Republicans and referenced their own schemes to abandon the long-standing tradition of impartiality in the next Republican primary – only those who pass the purity test to be worthy of the Conservative Republican label (with a capital C) will be supported. Rather than focusing on strengthening the party that just lost control of both chambers of Congress and the Presidency, the GOP apparatus is focused on purging itself of those who are not ultra-conservative, based on its new purity test. While adopting former President Ronald Reagan’s 80% philosophy, the current GOP has cast aside Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Though shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

The Wyoming GOP enacted a program to require candidates to sign a pledge to support 80% of the party platform to receive party funding. The Sublette County GOP has adopted the same policy, but has taken it a step further to make allegiance to the purist dogma a purity test for the Republican label. At last night’s not-a-meeting, the County Chairman Jim Robinson imposed the same pledge requirement on all elected county precinct committee members, and those who refuse to sign the pledge will be publicly “outed.” Was that a threat? While threats and promises are two sides of the same coin, a promise is an award, such as naming those who sign the desired pledge. A threat is an intention to inflict harm, as in “outing” those who refuse to sign the desired pledge.

Freedom-loving conservatives like me don’t take kindly to authoritarian political dictates. Since there is no way in hell I would sign such a pledge, the purists will label me a RINO.

Why not sign the pledge? Again demonstrating its incompetence, the county GOP asked for pledge to the current platform, but provided copies of a two-year old platform. The new platform shows the egomaniacal superiority of the current GOP, as it amended the words to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to further its ultra right-wing philosophy. I never made it past the first 3 planks of the 20-plank platform.

I happily and wholeheartedly pledge allegiance to the United States, and its Constitution. I do not pledge allegiance to the bastardization that is the current GOP platform and its leadership, and its attempted systematic suppression of other conservatives by claiming we’re not “riding for the brand." I don’t ride for Cowboys For Trump, I don’t march with the Proud Boys, and I won’t sign allegiance to the current GOP platform.

This is the GOP brand I ride for:

While Monday’s not-a-meeting was full of complaints about out-of-control spending by elected Republicans in Sublette County, I looked around the room and saw the majority who are no-shows during the annual county budget process. I would know, since I have sat in on every county budget process in Sublette County for more than two decades.

While this conservative Republican spent decades serving on county, state and national boards to better my communities, I listened Monday night as some purists had the eureka that they should start trying to get on boards. While a late-coming revelation to these purists, it’s something those of us community minded conservatives have long practiced in our freedom-loving lives.

I sat at Monday’s meeting listening to parroting of Trump claims of election irregularities, concern about Dominion voting machines, rumors that out-of-staters were bussed into Wyoming for the election, and to other debunked conspiracy theories – including that the insurrection at our nation’s capitol was “instigated by Antifa and BLM radicals.”

The Sublette County GOP purist apparatus will now hurry to convene an official meeting so they can officially censure Representative Cheney. They have no criteria for when it may be appropriate for censure: Is it when an elected official casts one vote that displeases the purists? Or is it two votes? Is it when an elected official dares to express an independent thought? Is it when an elected GOP member writes an editorial critical of the purist apparatus?

Don’t like these questions or this editorial? Since I’m an elected GOP member, censure me.

The author, Cat Urbigkit, is a Republican from Sublette County, Wyoming.

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