There are less than 75 days until Republicans go to the polls to choose their nominees for this fall’s general elections. Scores of Republican candidates are traveling the countryside meeting with voters in hopes of convincing them that he or she is the candidate who will best represent the Republican Party and win in November.
While our Republican candidates are making their case to voters about the need to repeal Obamacare and get the country’s fiscal house in order, A.J. Spiker, the outgoing and controversial chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, penned an op-ed for the Des Moines Register about the need to legalize medical marijuana.
Spiker’s op-ed not only elevates the issue of legalizing marijuana, but it also injects a controversial issue into primary and general election campaigns. So, instead of our Republican candidates focusing on the important issues like the economy, the nation’s debt and deficits, and the boondoggle that is Obamacare (not to mention defending life and marriage), our candidates are now going be forced to talk about legalizing drugs.
The one thing every party chairman needs to avoid is being a distraction and doing things that get Republican candidates off message. Spiker has routinely proven his ability to do both.
Spiker’s op-ed, like his entire chairmanship of the Republican Party of Iowa, is nothing more than a distraction. Spiker’s pro-marijuana op-ed also undermines what he told the Des Moines Register just a week ago, when he said, “I think the best way to unify the party is really not to try to unite the party around an individual, but it’s really the ideas of what the Republican Party stands for, and that’s something I’ve tried to do, and really stand up and speak on platform issues that represent the broad Republican Party.”
Even though legalizing marijuana has gained support in recent years in Iowa, it is not an issue that has the support of a majority of Republicans. According to a recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, 59 percent of all Iowans surveyed supported medical marijuana, but the poll also showed that a majority of Republicans oppose legalizing the drug for medical purposes.
Public polls have also shown support for amnesty for people who are in the country illegally and gay marriage rights. Should the Republican Party of Iowa stand on long-established principles, or should it stick its finger up in the air and see which way the wind is blowing on a particular issue?
During his stint as Chairman, Spiker has been a strong proponent of traditional marriage, but the same poll that he cites to show the growing support for medical marijuana also shows that Iowans are not bothered that gay marriages are allowed in the state. Spiker has advocated against gay marriage and publically supported the effort to oust a Supreme Court Justice because of the court’s ruling on the legality of gay marriage, but he has always justified his actions by saying his vocal support of traditional marriage is because of the what they party platform says on the issue. The Republican Party of Iowa’s platform is silent on medical marijuana, and attempts to support adding support for it have been thwarted.
Spiker’s op-ed also comes at the time when Republicans are in the midst of the caucus-to-convention process. A main part of that project involves the drafting of the county, district, and state platforms. It is the party activists who participate in this process that get to decide what the party platform says, not the chairman of the party. Spiker’s decision to openly advocate for drug legalization at the very time Republicans are drafting the platform shows that the Chairman has little respect for the convention process and thinks that his opinion trumps that of the Republicans he is elected and paid to represent all across Iowa.
The main complaint about Spiker’s time as Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa is that he has focused on advancing his own political agenda and ideology instead of promoting a general Republican message. Spiker has even argued that the role of Republican Party of Iowa is not to win elections, but to promote Republican principles and policies, not win elections. Yet, now as Spiker prepares to vacate the chairman’s office, he’s not even doing that.
A number of State Central Committee members are rightfully upset that Spiker chose to advocate for a specific policy without first conferring with the board that governs the Iowa GOP. The fact that he is advocating for a somewhat controversial issue only makes it even more problematic.
Spiker’s tenure as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa has been a disaster in large part because he has failed to put the best interests of the party and its candidates above his own personal interests. His latest, and hopefully last, public disgrace as Chairman is yet again a classic example of how Spiker has never been able to separate his personal beliefs and preferences from what is in the best interests of the party at-large.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
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