(Opinion) Conservatives should always welcome former Democrats into the ranks of the Republican Party.
But note the phrase … into the ranks.
Leadership is a different matter.
Former Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright apparently joined the Republican Party just last week, and now he’s seeking the GOP nomination to represent Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District in Washington.
That’s like being dunked in the baptismal pool and then walking, still wet, to the pulpit and leading the congregation.
Welcome to the movement, Mr. Bright. But have a seat in the pews with the rest of us for a little while.
We argue with liberals for reason — to persuade them that our ideas are better.
And we organize into a political party for a purpose — to gain the power necessary to implement those ideas.
So our big tent has room for converts of all perspectives.
We need them, and we should take their conversion at face value. We must never have any sort of test.
We’ve welcomed many former Democrats into the party — lawmakers, too — and we hope to continue doing so.
But…before we can trust them with leadership positions, and the power that comes with such offices, they must first invest the time and effort to demonstrate they’ve made a true and lasting change.
In short, we need evidence.
And that’s something Bobby Bright is short on.
Here’s what we know:
— Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District includes most of the Montgomery metropolitan area and stretches into the state’s southeastern wiregrass region.
— In 2008, Bright defeated Republican nominee Jay Love, 50.23 percent to 49.61 percent, and became the first Democrat to represent the conservative district since the mid 1960s.
— He was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrat lawmakers who hold some conservative views.
— By one measurement, Bright voted with the Democrat leadership in Congress about 73 percent of the time.
— It wasn’t widely rumored that Bright might switch parties while in Congress, but he never did.
— Republican Martha Roby defeated him in the 2010 general election, 50.87 percent to 48.79 percent, and she has held the seat ever since.
But if Bright wants to be fast-tracked to a leadership position in our party, here’s what we need to know:
— What Republican candidates has Bright donated to, when, and for what amount?
— What conservative causes has he donated to, when, and for what amount?
— What Republican candidates has he publicly supported, and what conservative causes has he publicly advocated for?
— What Democrat candidates has he publicly spoken against, and what liberal causes has he publicly opposed?
— Who did he vote for in the 2008 presidential primary, the 2012 primary, and the 2016 primary, and in the general elections of those years?
— What issues, ideas, or individuals made him feel comfortable in the Democrat Party circa 2008-2010?
— And finally, what brought him to the Republican Party after so many years?
Rank and file members of our party and movement never have to answer such questions.
Leaders do, especially those who just walked into our camp after having been on the other side of the fight for so long.
Until Bright shows the conservative voters of Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District some concrete evidence, they should remain skeptical.
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