It's easy to forget, but loyalty oaths were not uncommon in Republican circles during the Bush/Cheney era.
In August 2004, however, then-Vice President Cheney spoke at an event in Albuquerque, but locals were only allowed to get a ticket to attend if they first signed a loyalty oath swearing they "endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States [sic]."
A couple of months later, at a Bush event in Florida, a Republican asked those in attendance to stand, raise their right hands, and recite a Pledge of Allegiance ... to George W. Bush. As part of the oath, attendees were told to say: "Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
I'm trying to imagine what Republicans would say in 2012 if Democrats pushed voters to stand, raise their right hands, and pledge their allegiance to President Obama.
In any case, Bush and Cheney are no longer in office, but Republicans' affinity for loyalty oaths hasn't gone away. In recent months, we've seen GOP loyalty oaths pop up in Virginia and Kansas, for example, and in April, members of the Republican National Committee were invited to a private meeting with Mitt Romney -- before he'd secured the nomination -- but in order to attend, they had to, you guessed it, pledge their loyalty to Romney in writing.
But perhaps the most striking example came over the weekend in Massachusetts, where the state Republican Party didn't know what to do with all the Ron Paul acolytes who had taken over the state's delegation to the national convention. Party leaders quickly discovered the value of loyalty oaths.
Evan Kenney had just turned 18 and registered to vote for the first time when he campaigned to be an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Lauding Ronald Reagan's principles and blasting Keynesian economics at the Lynnfield caucus in April, the Wakefield High School senior beat out several well-known Massachusetts Republicans, including the party's most recent nominee for governor, Charles D. Baker Jr.
But earlier this month, Kenney was one of 17 delegates and alternates disqualified by a Republican committee deciding who gets to represent Massachusetts Republicans at the national convention in Tampa. Kenney and others had failed to deliver in time an affidavit swearing, under the penalty of perjury, that they would support Mitt Romney's nomination for president.
And wouldn't you know it, some were uncomfortable with this.
Keep in mind, as the Boston Globe noted, these affidavits are "never mentioned in the Republican Party's rules for selecting delegates and has never been required of delegates in the past." But the state party had a problem this year with these Paulites, so they figured demanding written loyalty oaths would disqualify some of the undesirable delegates.
They were right to assume this -- several delegates balked, and Paul's backers were soon winnowed from the Massachusetts delegation.
I suppose reasonable people can disagree about the philosophy of loyalty oaths, but count me among those who find all of this rather creepy -- not just among Massachusetts Republicans, but in general.
Whether intended this way or not, the practice reeks of McCarthyism, and seems intended to create mindless loyalists who accept commands, rather than thoughtful voters engaged in a healthy democracy.