Sometimes it’s hard to decide what’s most unappealing about party politics in this country these days.

There are the dumb conventions where everyone loses their mind about some hack who’s suddenly presidential material because he looked good in his suit and put 10 words together on stage.

Conventions are about as unappealing as Golden Coral’s latest offering of Cheetos sprinkled on top of mac-n-cheese. (Who am I kidding? That doesn’t sound bad at all, especially at 2 a.m.)

Still, conventions do have the positive characteristic of being awash in booze, so it’s hard to completely dismiss their charms.

Easily the biggest wart on the face of partisan politics in the 2000-teens – or whatever you call this decade – is the cliquishness and protection of “their” people at all costs. When I worked in D.C. on Capitol Hill nearly 20 years ago it seemed like Democrats dressed and acted like Democrats and had sloppy Democrat haircuts, while Republicans did the same with more churchy-looking haircuts. In the end there really wasn’t much difference. They both were really far more interested in winning than actually standing for something.

That has bled into what we have today.

That cliquish attitude from the Alabama Republican Party is rearing its head as this year’s elections loom. In a party that now dominates the state, it seems adherence to the “party line” is more important than ever. What they’ve done locally to try to keep attorney Ginger Poynter from challenging sitting Baldwin County District Court Judge Michelle Thomason is a fine example of what makes many of us want to reach for the barf bag when it comes to party politics.

Many of you may remember Poynter was attempting to challenge Thomason in the Republican primaries earlier this year, but was booted by the party because they snooped around Facebook and discovered she didn’t support Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore in his last run. Oh my!

Poynter, a member of the Federalist Society, says she’s voted her whole life with the party of Lincoln and has registered Republican in every state she’s lived that required party registration. So she was disappointed to be booted from the Republican primary because of a couple of Facebook posts.

But despite the banishment, Poynter must be making some noise in Baldwin running as an independent candidate because on Monday of this week the state’s top Republican, party chairman Bill Armistead, fired off a press release blasting Poynter for attempting to “fool” voters into thinking she enjoyed a small amount of support from the state’s GOP because she had attended a candidates’ forum earlier this year.

The issue came up after Poynter mentioned in our last cover story running the upcoming races that she had indeed gotten some small amount of support from Republicans after the party invited her to attend a candidates’ forum. You might think this rather innocuous statement would go unchallenged, but it apparently got Armistead’s pink panties in a wad. (I’m guessing on color here.)

Armistead cranked out a press release this week mentioning our story and claiming Poynter had attended the forum before her treasonous Facebook statements were discovered and she was banished. Reading his release you might think Poynter has a goldfish named Barack at home and a picture of Che Guevara tattooed on her arm.

“Our Candidate Committee disqualified Poynter because her beliefs and ideals did not represent core Republican principles. Poynter is attempting to fool voters into thinking she is the preferred Republican candidate for Baldwin County District Court. Nothing could be further from the truth. Poynter does not meet the criteria for support by the Alabama Republican Party, but Judge Michelle Thomason does,” Armistead stated in the release.

Unfortunately the press release was wrong. Poynter was able to provide emails showing she had indeed been invited to attend a forum in July, months after she was removed from the ballot. So it did seem like state Republicans were trying to cozy up to Ginger after booting her, just not for this particular race. Maybe she wasn’t such a RINO after all.

Since the release was wrong and tacitly suggested our story had been part of an attempt to fool voters, I wrote to the party and asked them to correct it, which they did without modifying Armistead’s comments about Poynter’s intentions. However, given the nature of the initial release it seems to me if anyone was trying to fool voters it was the state’s GOP by denying that they’d invited her to their forum after removing her from the ballot.

So what’s my beef with all of this – it’s just politics as usual, right? I suppose so, but it really shows just how concerned political party leaders are about protecting anyone from their clan. I don’t know much about Judge Thomason, but just because she’s a Republican doesn’t mean she should be indemnified from facing opposition in her own party primary.

Booting Poynter after she’d already qualified and plunked down her $2,400 – money she says has never been refunded – because someone was snooping through Facebook looking for reasons to disqualify her sounds like the kind of thing that would have been a major exercise in the Soviet Politburo.

Why Poynter may not have supported Roy Moore, that probably wins her as many votes as it loses. That Armistead and the GOP have created a litmus test for “real” Republicans that protects incumbents just assures the party will eventually be filled with like-minded drones too dumb or too scared to think for themselves.

While Armistead’s crew was busy looking for dirt they failed to notice some things they should want in a candidate. If you’ll remember Poynter was the attorney who represented Lagniappe in our lawsuit against the city of Mobile last year to obtain records concerning the Mobile Police Explorer trips. What most people don’t know is she contacted me to offer her services pro bono to help us get the records because she felt open records laws should be obeyed. I guess she thought government following the law is important. Crazy liberal!

And after she was successful we offered her some free advertising in thanks. She donated it to Greg Vaughn, a conservative candidate running for City Council. Sounds like something Hillary would do.

Meanwhile, as House Speaker Mike Hubbard was indicted Monday, Armistead issued a release supporting him and alluding to a political witch-hunt aimed at hurting Republicans.

Lagniappe doesn’t endorse candidates because we don’t feel it’s a newspaper’s place, so don’t read this as an endorsement of Poynter over Thomason. Rather it is an endorsement of what should be – a system in which the voters aren’t blocked out of choices because of political gamesmanship.

I’m not really sure what it says about the ultimate goals of Alabama’s Republican Party when someone like Ginger Poynter isn’t welcome but Mike Hubbard is embraced.


THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN

Former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine finally gets the “fair” treatment he sought all along.

Cartoon/Laura Rasmussen

Former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine finally gets the “fair” treatment he sought all along.