Eliminate the impure
Any deviation from the "party line" means instant withdrawal of support. We'd be better off with the opposite party in that office, or so the argument goes -- at least we'd know what we're getting with them, instead of wondering how "our guy" is going to vote.
Thus, people like Gordon Smith are raked over the coals when they vote for the "wrong" kind of immigration reform, even though a recent Rasmussen poll showed Oregonians are evenly split on which party they trust on the issue. People like Ted Kulongoski are raked over the coals (read the comments on this post) for showing even a smidge of support for the state's soldiers, despite polls showing support for the troops regardless of our feelings about Iraq.
And most recently, someone like Ron Saxton (who won the Republican nomination) is being rejected as worthy of a vote for governor because his positions are too milquetoast for the state's conservatives.
In the latter example, that rejection has led to this morning's announcement at Northwest Republican that the state's Constitution Party (CP) will nominate Mary Starrett for Oregon's governor. Why? Because Saxton is not pro-life. And Starrett -- former Portland TV personality and former Oregon Right to Life education foundation board member -- is passionate enough about the cause to form her own advocacy group, Oregonians for Life.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not thrilled with Ron Saxton's commitment to life issues either. He may have promised to sign pro-life legislation regarding parental notification, partial-birth abortion, and informed consent, but he is still pro-choice. One of the reasons Oregon Right to Life endorsed Kevin Mannix was because they believed (correctly in my view) that a Gov. Mannix would fight for such legislation, not just consider it once it reached his desk; I think it's safe to say they won't get such dedication from Saxton.
But what, exactly, do the CP and Ms. Starrett hope to accomplish with this nomination? Do they expect to win? I can't imagine they could hold such lofty expectations. After all, as of April 2006, less than 3,000 Oregonians were registered to vote under the CP, which is less than two-tenths of one percent of all voter registrations. (By contrast, the Pacific Green party -- which nominated Joe Keating for governor, to the consternation of Kulongoski's supporters -- had more than 12,000 registrations.)
Just to provide more perspective, the CP nomination convention will be held this weekend at the Lake Oswego Stanford's Restaurant, which has no private meeting rooms (I checked), so they're going to put a few tables together and talk politics over the Dungeness crab cakes. At least the Greens met in a 200-person hall in North Portland.
Because of Starrett's television history, she has more name familiarity; she is also, I'm told, a genuinely nice person. But she paints herself at the edge of the political spectrum for a few reasons: 1) The co-founder of Oregonians for Life is Amy Rabon, a veteran of Operation Rescue, which advocates non-violent lawbreaking (or, as the OR website says, "activities on the cutting edge of the abortion issue"; 2) Starrett has accused ORTL of lying about the pro-life records of the candidates it supports, as well as not fighting harder against state funding of abortions and allowing an abortion exemption in a Laci Peterson-style law. As ORTL is already considered fairly right-wing by a good chunk of Oregon voters, this puts Starrett in the fringes; 3) The OFL website has one link to another pro-life organization, and it is Life Support Oregon, founded by Lon Mabon. Remember him? Not exactly mainstream.
(Note: the information on Rabon came from the OFL website when it was founded a year ago. The website has since been redesigned, the result being that Rabon is not mentioned. You can find other information about her by Googling her name.)
Starrett will not win, but by challenging Saxton from the extreme right, she will largely negate the advantage that Republicans held with the presence of the Green Party's Keating to Kulongoski's left. Starrett might pull a few thousand votes from Saxton in what promises to be a close battle among Saxton, Kulongoski and (assuming he reaches the ballot) Ben Westlund. And those few thousand votes -- even though some of them will come from people who wouldn't have voted for Saxton under any circumstances -- might be the difference between a moderate conservative and a much-farther-left liberal.
Frankly, there are plenty of reasons not to be excited about a Saxton candidacy from a conservative Republican perspective. But any conservative considering a vote for Westlund or Starrett (or considering skipping the election) needs to look seriously at those alternatives. Do you really believe the state will be better off with one of those alternatives at the helm?
Don't fool yourself -- you might be voting your conscience, but the result will be the opposite of your desires. It's like those who voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, or who voted for the Libertarian Party candidate in the 2002 Oregon governor's race. In the former event, Nader probably picked up enough votes from Al Gore to help George W. Bush; in the latter, Kulongoski won the contest by 36,000 votes, but Libertarian Tom Cox finished with 57,000 votes; had Cox not been in the race, many people think most of those votes (and the governorship) would have gone to Mannix.
Did the Naderites receive any concessions from Gore in the hopes that they would switch? No. They pulled votes from the only left-wing candidate who could win, and the result was Bush. Twice.
Did Oregon's small government Libertarians get any concessions from Mannix in the hopes they would switch? No. They pulled votes from the only right-wing candidate who could win, and the result was big-government Kulongoski.
Will abortion opponents get any concessions from Saxton in the hopes that they will switch? Not a chance. They'll pull votes from the most conservative candidate available, and the result will be a pro-choice governor, either Kulongoski or Westlund.
That's like getting dumped by the pretty girl at the dance, and then having the football star kick you in the teeth as you leave. You can't tell enough lies to convince me that's a good tradeoff.
UPDATE: I realized after the fact that I plagiarized this post from Daniel, so my apologies to him.