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The "Eleventh Commandment"
By David C. Wilcox
During Ronald Reagan's 1966 campaign for governor of California, Republicans established the so-called Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
It was proposed by State Republican Chairman Gaylord Parkinson to help prevent a repeat of the liberal Republican assault on Barry Goldwater that laid the foundation for Goldwater's trouncing in the 1964 presidential election. Just as Nelson Rockefeller and his East Coast cronies had branded Goldwater as an "extremist" who was unfit to hold office, so candidate George Christopher and California's liberal Republicans were leveling similar personal attacks on Reagan. Party liberals eventually followed Parkinson's advice, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to March 5, 2002.
While it wasn't the only factor, failure to observe the Eleventh Commandment undoubtedly played a role in the unprecedented implosion of Richard Riordan's gubernatorial campaign in California. It was déjà vu for Republican veterans when, for example, in the death throes of his failed campaign, Riordan invoked the ghosts of Rockefeller and Christopher by branding Bill Simon as an "extremist." Following suit, Gray Davis invoked the ghosts of Lyndon Johnson and Pat Brown by repeating Riordan's charge.
Although Sheriff Lee Baca (a registered Republican) won in a non-partisan election landslide, about a third of the Republican vote was against him -- a huge number of defections by anyone's standards. As with Riordan, his serial violations of the Eleventh Commandment played a role.
Too frequently for their fellow Republicans' tastes, both Riordan and Baca have endorsed, and (in Riordan's case) even financed, Democrats running against their Republican colleagues. What, after all, would constitute a greater violation of the Eleventh Commandment than endorsing a fellow Republican's opponent? How much more ill can one speak of a Republican than saying a Democrat is preferable?
Riordan's conservative "teammates" -- roughly two thirds of the Republicans who voted on March 5th -- answered these questions by sending him to the bench in the March Primary. If Baca ever chooses to run for a partisan office as a Republican, it's likely he'll take a seat next to the former Los Angeles mayor.
It's not that conservatives won't get behind a "moderate." On the contrary, many conservatives joined the Riordan bandwagon early on to maximize the chances of defeating Gray Davis. But, there was always an undercurrent warning that Riordan's endorsement and contribution record left his Republican credentials suspect. The same was true of Baca.
With the declining fortunes of the California Republican Party, like Riordan and Baca, many elected Republican officials have gone out of their way to curry favor of Democrats. Displaying no sense of Party loyalty, numerous Republican City Council members, for example, often contribute money and endorsements to help Democrats. The March 2002 Primary should serve as a wakeup call, strongly suggesting that they should give teamwork a chance rather than thinking only of themselves.
To defend themselves, such "Republicans" often attempt to turn the Eleventh Commandment on its ear. They charge any Republican who dares criticize them for supporting a Democrat with an Eleventh Commandment transgression.
Is this expected to pass as rational thought?
Sometimes they claim that they "vote for the person, not the party," or they are independent minded, or they are original thinkers. Horse feathers!
Politicians never register with a political party without calculating the value in doing so. The honest thing for an elected official who wants to pick and choose candidates from both Republican and Democrat slates would be to register with no party specified.
Many voters indeed find some of their ideas in both parties and, as a consequence, split their ballots between Democrats and Republicans. They do so in the privacy of the voting booth, and it's their right to do so. They're doing their civic duty to the best of their ability. But, they are not using the prestige of an elected office to influence large numbers of voters at the expense of their colleagues.
Most serious politicians realize that choosing no political party is a non-starter that would severely restrict their chances of being elected to higher office. Belonging to either of the major political parties is a huge advantage in seeking partisan office, because minor parties rarely elect major candidates.
Thus, Republican loyalists are justified in expecting elected officials either to support their Party's candidates or to simply remain silent. An elected Republican who repeatedly violates the Eleventh Commandment by publicly endorsing a Democrat over a fellow Party member is pursuing a self-destructive course. As the March 2002 Primary results show, Golden State Republican voters will eventually impose the Golden Rule.
David C. Wilcox is a Member-Elect of the 44th Assembly District Republican Central Committee who resides in La Cañada Flintridge. He is an aerospace research scientist and a freelance writer. He has written two political books entitled "Cliches of Liberalism" and ". . . And the Donkey They Rode in On," which are available from Amazon.com or from Dr. Wilcox's Internet site at http://www.dcwindustries.com/wilcox99.htm.
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