Commentary: Could any candidate live up to this GOP purity pledge?

The Rock Hill HeraldMarch 23, 2012 

Laurens County Republicans want only pure, unadulterated candidates. Sinners need not register to run.

That was the goal of a pledge concocted by the Laurens County Republican Party. The plan was to require anyone who wanted to run for office with the party’s blessing to sign the pledge and be approved by a panel of county GOP leaders.

The 28-point pledge contained the traditional party taboos that candidates must never, ever support, such as higher taxes, gun control laws and abortion. The list also included the obvious list of things GOP candidates must always support, such as tax cuts, school choice, balanced budgets and traditional marriage, which is “fundamental to the stability, betterment and perpetuation of our society.”

But the pledge went beyond the usual boilerplate issues to address some other important cultural issues. For example, prospective candidates must not watch porn, must be faithful to their spouses and not have sex outside of marriage.

While those who wrote the pledge didn’t explicitly say so, most observers assumed that this part of the purity pledge was aimed at Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain, who admitted to having a two-and-a-half year affair with a subordinate at the sheriff’s office. To make matters worse, the woman sued him for sexual harassment and accused the sheriff of driving her to get an abortion in a county-owned car. That lawsuit is still pending.

But the campaign to ensure that county Republican candidates are pure as the driven snow apparently was for naught. State party officials informed the county that the pledge is illegal.

You can’t tell people they are not allowed to run for office just because local party leaders don’t approve of their lifestyles. It’s too bad Laurens County Republicans didn’t get a chance to test the pledge. The spectacle of Republican elders, possibly dressed as Puritans, passing judgment on quivering candidates would have been fun to watch.

Plus, as time went on, party officials might have found other useful requirements to add to the purity pledge. Here are a few possibilities:

– No more pickups. Riding around in a pickup is OK for candidates at the local level, especially if that’s their primary mode of transportation. But anyone running for Congress or president should be barred from trying to convince people they are just plain folks by driving a pickup.

What exactly would a presidential candidate be hauling in a pickup? A teleprompter? Campaign brochures? Manure? No, that’s in the stump speech.

These candidates should be honest enough to ride in limousines with someone else driving and not try to pretend they don’t enjoy it.

– Leave the kids at home. Well, at least most of the time. Candidates have to trot the family out every now and then, especially the adoring wife, who, of course, is fundamental to the stability, betterment and perpetuation of our society.

But presidential candidate Rick Santorum likes to bring not just his wife with also all or most of his seven children up to the podium with him almost every time he makes a speech. During a recent long-winded oration, one of his four sons kept nodding off, and, because he was standing up, he was at risk of toppling off the stage.

That’s no way to treat your children!

– No more blue jeans unless you are a farmer or rancher, in which case you also should be wearing boots. A grey suit and a conservative tie used to be the uniform for politicians, even if they were touring a pig farm. If they wanted to get more casual, they might take off their suit coats and roll up the sleeves of their crisp white shirts.

Nowadays, they’re showing up everywhere in blue jeans – nothing radical, just the standard “daddy jeans,” along with a nicely starched shirt, dress shoes and maybe a sport coat (but no tie).

Who are they trying to kid? It’s as phony as driving a pickup. These guys aren’t comfortable unless they’re in pleated flannel slacks.

– When campaigning in the South, don’t try to become a Southerner overnight. Newt Gingrich, who has lived below the Mason-Dixon Line for years, undoubtedly knows his way around a serving of grits. Poor Mitt Romney clearly doesn’t.

“I started the day with a biscuit and some cheesy grits,” he declared during a recent swing through Alabama. Cheese gritsare fine but rare in most diners. Most settle for a little butter and some salt and pepper.

Candidates would be better off just not mentioning grits at all – like most Southern candidates, who take grits for granted. After all, nobody really loves grits; they’re on the plate to sop up runny eggs. Saying you love grits is like saying, “Lordy, I sure do love toast!”

There no doubt are more purity rules that could help ensure a good, clean slate of candidates. Unless, of course, the candidates decided to lie.

No lying? That would be one pledge any candidate might find hard to keep.

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