Wednesday, 06 February 2019 18:12

COLUMN: Yearbooks and purity tests

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When I was kid, National Lampoon released its parody of high school yearbooks. It was a send-up that was irreverent, bawdy, and hilarious. I was 10 years old when it came out and, along with Mad Magazine, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Saturday Night Live" skits, it shaped my sense of humor. It could never be published today.

Now, though, yearbooks will not be the target of parody but of opposition researchers. In the wake of Ralph Northam and Brett Kavanaugh, I assure you, op researchers across the country and political spectrum are scouring the yearbooks of politicians they want to damage. What better source material could they have than that time in life when young people in the their teens and early 20s say stupid things in print and pictures?

Now, we’ve decided that whoever you were when you were 17 or 25 is who you are today, regardless of how your experiences and the struggles of career, family and civic life may have shaped you. Expect to see a lot more yearbook related accusations in the coming months and years. All of you high school students, beware. What you’re doing today might prevent you from serving in elected office 30 years from now. 

While the urge to destroy political opponents infects both parties, the left seems more hellbent on purity tests that span lifetimes and ignore due process. There’s a disturbing undercurrent that reminds me of "Animal Farm," not "Animal House." Like the pigs in Orwell’s novella, there’s a movement on the left that wants to purge the party of people who lack ideological pedigrees.

When inappropriate behavior or views are exposed in people’s distant past, we should certainly question them. However, we should also be welcoming to people who’ve seen the light, especially on matters of race and sexuality. And if we’re not, where is the line? Do we apply the same standards to the discrimination that faced the LGBT community? Is someone who belonged to a church in 1985 that opposed marrying gay people ineligible as a candidate? 

If I were in elected office right now, I’d be scouring my yearbook. What seemed irreverent and harmless, or maybe even a little shocking, in high school, might be a career killer 30 years later.  


Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished with permission from