Activists of all stripes like to portray themselves as the the “core” of their party. The ones who are the “real members”. Anyone who disagrees with them on their issue, or strays from their particular notion of purity is labeled a (party name) “in name only.” The idea is to characterize the person as not a true member of their party. The desire is to paint things as black and white. Either you’re “with us” or “against us.” That there are shades of gray is not what these people want to hear.
Sometimes, they do have a point. There were Republicans – and are Democrats – whose voting records on a range of issues often looked more at home with the other party. I said were Republicans for a reason. The Conservative activists were quite successful in their efforts. So much so that the Republican Party went from being “center right” to “right” to “far right.” The only problem was that each shift cost them more seats. They got their wish – a far right party, with a virtual lock-step adherence to the “party line.” Impressive party discipline. They’re also a minority party, in almost every respect. The number of people who identify themselves as Republicans has dropped, with a corresponding increase in the number of Independents. Many of these people may agree with some of the stands, but the insistence on purity has driven them away.
This might be considered a good thing for Democrats, except that there’s a similar group. They’re ideologues who are trying to hijack the term progressive. They’re not. They’re the far left equivalent of the ultra-conservatives. They’re attempting to do to the Democratic Party just what the Conservatives did to the Republican Party. They’re loud, strident, and demanding of ideological “purity.” They attack anyone who disagrees with them on a particular issue, challenges their assertions, or does not wish to follow their tactics. They call they’re opponents “Democrat’s in name only,” an attempt to portray themselves as the “true” Democratic Party. If they succeed, they’ll turn the Democratic Party into the left-wing version of the Republican Party. A party which does not have as many registered voters, a minority.
The truth is that not everyone agrees on every issue. Some because of their religion or moral structure. Some because of the realities of where they live, and their economic circumstances. Some because they have compelling facts to rebut the belief. Some will not have the same priorities. That’s reality. Most people determine their political orientation on where the majority of their beliefs lie. They will choose a Party that has those – but if both parties do not meet their needs, they become “Independents.” Their sympathies may lie more towards the left or the right, but when ideologues succeed in turning the Parties into ” small tents”, they will not be a place people feel comfortable in.
Demanding purity is the path to minority status. A national party, if it expects to remain one, must accept that people have a wide range of concerns. The concerns I have, living in a rural area are not always shared by those who live in cities, and vice versa. My stands on any given issue is shaped by where I live, how it affects me, and my personal beliefs. I vote for the person who most closely represents those, and I expect them to represent those in office. I join the party that most closely represents my beliefs, and if one doesn’t I don’t belong to it. That, unfortunately, is not acceptable to those who wish to enforce purity.
That’s the problem the activists are creating. In their single-minded focus on “purity”, they are not thinking of the survival and growth of the Party. They’re not thinking of covering a nation. Their ideology is what’s important. They’re the ones who are “In Name Only.”