Editorial: Strict party platforms are harmful to political process, dialogue
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 22:08
A few weeks ago, an amendment was proposed to Alabama’s Republican Party bylaws that would prevent someone from continuing to serve on the steering committee if they publicly advocated a position contrary to the platform adopted at the Republican National Convention. The only way he or she would be able to continue serving would be to publicly rescind his or her comments.
The proposed amendment came in response to comments made by Alabama College Republicans chairwoman and University of Alabama student, Stephanie Petelos. She spoke out about her frustrations with the GOP and the difference of opinion many young conservatives have with certain leaders of the party in regards to gay marriage.
"I think a lot of people would be actively for it if they didn't live in fear of backlash from party leaders," Petelos said. "We don't want to go against the party, we love the party. We're just passionate about a whole list of other issues, that's why we're involved."
The amendment, sponsored by Don Wallace of Tuscaloosa and Bonnie Sachs of Double Springs, would have stripped Petelos of her position for her comments. The amendment has since been struck down by Alabama Republicans, allowing Petelos to keep her position and stifling efforts to oust her.
Even though she kept her position and Alabama Republicans rightfully shot down the amendment, it was still wrong of GOP leaders to try to silence her in the first place. Regardless of whether it is the Republican or Democratic Party, there needs to be an ability to have a discussion within a political party. To limit the leaders of a party from veering off a preset platform prevents a party from being able to evolve, and it alienates people who may not agree with everything on the platform, like the young conservatives who are going to be the future of the Republican Party.
Petelos was right in saying, "the harsh language used by our leaders will really continue pushing and turning people away from learning about our party." When you make a specific issue the centerfold of your party’s platform and continue putting an emphasis on religious rhetoric, you fail to expose people to other facets of the platform, which may be more accepted.
Both major parties have a wide variety of issues, from gay marriage and other social issues to economic and foreign policy. Political parties shouldn’t be based on a single issue, nor should they be so rigidly confined within a platform. To be so unwavering creates an ‘all or nothing’ attitude about the platform and eliminates the freedom of discussion that is necessary within any political party.