Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Beehive McCarthyism

It was with incredulity that I wrote a story Tuesday morning about GOP Chairman James Evans’ new idea on how the Utah Republican Party can “vet” candidates who chose the petition gathering route to get on the GOP primary ballot.


We are now going to have some kind of committee interview petition-route candidates to make sure they are “real Republicans,” and adhere to the state platform and other long-held GOP principles.

Before SB54 – the compromise 2014 law with the Count My Vote petition advocates – such vetting, says Evans, was done by delegates to county and state GOP conventions where Republican candidates appeared.

If someone weren't a “real Republican” they could be voted down by the delegates, and one or two opponents sent on the general or primary ballots.

In theory, I can understand what Evans is trying to get at.

For some reason, however, Evans and perhaps some of his Central Committee members have this fixational worry that somehow, some way, not real Republicans will swarm into the Utah Republican Party, deceive and dupe stupid or inattentive GOP primary voters, win a nomination and office and lead to the ruination of all things Republican.

But after watching the paranoid actions of Evans and other state GOP leaders over SB54 for over 18 months, it seems their worries are unfounded.

They are at the very least premature.

Let’s have several election cycles under SB54 and see if RINOS are elected inside the Utah Republican Party.

But, of course, who will label some candidate, legislator or governor as a RINO? – Republican In Name Only.

Who will decide someone’s political purity?

It will be this new committee, apparently.

I give this following example as something that could happen:

During his time in office, former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was one of the most liked – opinion polls showed – governor in Utah history.

His own Republican Party members really liked him. Political independents and many Democrats liked him.

It has only been since that he, first, resigned his post to become ambassador to China in the much-hated President Barack Obama administration, and then, second, came out in favor of same-sex marriage.

And now some Utah Republicans repudiate Huntsman.

Is Huntsman now a RINO, and would this new GOP committee – should he run for a new office via the petition-gathering route — strip him of his party membership and refuse to let him run on the ballot as a Republican?

Evans says only if Huntsman refused to be interviewed by the committee could he lose party membership and be refused a GOP primary ballot slot.

But even if Huntsman did stand before the committee, what would happen if he said he was in favor of same-sex marriage in Utah?

Evans says Huntsman wouldn’t be stripped of his party membership for disagreeing with the party platform, but that the party – THE PARTY ITSELF – would spend money to inform primary GOP voters where Huntsman differed from the party platform and long-held principles.

So, you could very well have the situation where your own party was, in effect, campaigning against you.

(Evans would call it providing “information” to primary voters.)

“Information.” “Informing.”

You see where this could be headed:

“Mr. Huntsman, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

“No, sir.”

“Are you now or have you ever been a Democrat?”

“Uh, no, I don’t believe so.”

“Is it not true that you have had gay people in your house, at your very own dinner table and were not some of these gay people actually married?”

“Um, yes.”

“Are you not aware, sir, that the Utah Republican Party platform, and long-held principles, stand for traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and that gay marriage is an abomination in the eyes of God Almighty?”

“Well, I don’t know about God, but, yes, I know the party is against gay marriage.”

“Well, well, well. Madame Secretary, please note in the official big black book that Mr. Huntsman is in favor of same-sex marriage. Consorts, I say consorts, he does with gay people.”

Huntsman sits meekly under a direct, bright light as the Grand Inquisitor wipes sweat from his red, flushed face.

“In any case, Mr. Huntsman, you will have to pay the party $10,000 (we take cash, check or money order) as you are a petition-gathering candidate, and that $10,000 will be used to “inform” primary voters about your pro-gay marriage stands. Thank you sir, and may God have mercy on your soul – and don’t let the door hit you on your butt on the way out.”

With great power comes great arrogance – or at least the possibility of it.

A state Republican Party Truth Committee.

I can think of nothing more frightening, and at the same time, silly.

Stay tuned. This will be an interesting next several months in Utah state Republican Party politics.