The party of inclusion, the party of acceptance and tolerance, the party of hope and change is reaching back in the political playbook for a tool of suppression, intolerance and coercion – the loyalty oath.

State Senator Spencer Coggs is suggesting there should be a loyalty oath for Democrat candidates.

You may have missed this on Monday night’s newscast, but State Senator Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) feels anyone who hangs the shingle of “Democrat” after their name in a political race should be made to declare their loyalty to the party and adhere to party principles.

He said the idea was in response to the “false candidates” who ran as Democrats during last summer’s Republican State Senate recall primaries. At the time, a number of candidates who either had no political experience or previous Republican connections ran against long-time, established Democrats to slow down the process and give Republican incumbents time to ramp up campaigns.

In the Milwaukee area, that included Gladys Huber, a known Republican party member running against Democrat State Rep. Sandy Pasch in the primary to face State Sen. Alberta Darling. The move gave Darling an extra four weeks to campaign in defense of her seat.

Coggs said Huber’s actions are an example of dirty play and drove up the cost of the recall process by requiring a primary.

I say Huber’s actions are what democracy looks like.

I hate it when elections go unchallenged. When incumbents roll unopposed to another term year after year, or when a career politician decides it’s time to move up in the world by sliding into a vacant seat without a fight. Democracy demands primaries and challenges.

Democracy is an exchange of ideas and Coggs idea that candidates must be certified by the party, they must pledge allegiance to the party belittles the intelligence of the voters.

In the case of Pasch’s primary, voters knew she was the candidate who aligned herself with the WisDems principles of answering to the public unions, allowing more money to be spent on failing programs and sitting in judgement over which type of jobs are suitable for our state. Those who didn’t grasp that information were not paying attention to Pasch’s actions in the statehouse or didn’t care.

Loyalty oaths are an intrusion to individual conscience and decision-making, fascist in nature and deny the right of free association. I’m sure Coggs would be the first person to object to the McCarthy and Truman oaths of national loyalty in the late 1940s and early 1950s against communism.

What I would like to know is how far is Coggs willing to go with this. Is signing a piece of paper that says I’m with the Democrat party enough to get on the ballot with a D behind my name? Will I have to agree to unlimited access to abortion, universal health care and class warfare to make the cut?  Will a personal interview with party chairman Mike Tate and a gauntlet of paddles from the Wisconsin Assembly minority leadership be enough to do the trick?

What about Democrats who believe in social welfare programs but are pro-life, will they pass the test? Would Chris Abele pass the test – he’s a self-proclaimed Democrat who has been governing more like Scott Walker than Peter Barca.

I acknowledge that Grover Norquist has his own oath of fiscal conservatism that he encourages Republican candidates to adhere to stay in his good graces. There was another oath required by the RNC to attend certain party events in 2004. However, neither were required to place an R behind a name on the ballot.

Coggs needs to rethink this idea. This is Wisconsin, where I don’t have to declare a party to vote and can split my vote between the best candidates, whether they have a D or R behind their name. This is just a bad idea.

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