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Opening Arguments

Only the pure need apply

"The Reagan Resolution" authored by "James Bopp Jr., a conservative from Indiana" and up for a vote by the Republican National Committee, is a litmus test of 10 positions. If a candidate doesn't demonstrate agreeement with at least eight of them, that candidate will not get any financial support from the Republican Party. It's causing quite a stir as the committee gets ready for its winter meeting. GOP Chairman Michael Steele says it will undercut the party as it tries to win back control of Congress:

“Let me ask you: Would you join an organization that stood at the doorstep with a clipboard and checked off to make sure that you fit every criteria they had?” Steele said. “I am personally not in favor of litmus tests. It's not what brought me into the party.”

[. . .]

Bopp, in an interview, argued that the party was damaging itself by supporting Republicans who do not adhere to conservative positions, and said not adopting a resolution like his could encourage the emergence of a third-party conservative movement in 2012.

I suspect Bopp is right that the third party noises that seem to be emerging from the Tea Party movement might threaten Republican gains, but I'm not sure a purity test is the thing to do. Bopp's resolution was apparently a response to the race in upstate New York last year when the "too liberal" Republican candidate dropped out after a number of conservative Republicans such as Dick Armey endorsed the Conservative Party candidate. But the landscape has changed since then. Scott Brown has demonstrated that a Republican can win just by focusing on the worst of the Obama agenda.

I hunted around the Internet until I found a copy of the resolution (here -- it's a pdf file). It seems a pretty straightforward list of conservative principles that would be useful in a Primary election. If candidate A passed on 9 and candidate B passed on 6, then candidate A would be a good bet for conservative Republicans. But what do you do as a conservative in the general election if the Republican passes on, say, five on them, and the Democrat passes on 1 or 2 -- or, more likely, none? Are you really helping advance your cause to stay home and help the Democrat win? If I have a chance to vote for someone who supports "smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes" (Position No. 1), am I really going to vote against him because he doesn't support the Defense of Marriage Act (No. 8)?

The resolution also contains a bit of unintentional humor. It says the statement of conservative principles is beind dedicated to Reagan because he believed the GOP should support and espouse "conservative principles and public policies" but also "should welcome those with diverse views." Agreement on eight of 10 positions is diversity?

What do some of you liberals think? Do you want somebody who passes a litmus test on eight of 10 "liberal" positions, or is it enough to vote for the "least conservative" candidates?


Kevin Knuth
Thu, 01/28/2010 - 10:46am

There should be no litmus test- but I hope the GOP passes one!

While you mention Scott Brown winning, you fail to mention that he is pro-choice. Not sure how he rates on the other items on their list, but maybe he is in danger.

Keith Olbermann makes a case, though debatable, as to whether or not Reagan would have passed this test!

Fri, 01/29/2010 - 9:29pm

Kevin beat me to it. I certainly hope the Republicans institute a litmus test. The new senator from Massachusetts, for example, would fail it almost entirely. Go for it, GOP!

tim zank
Sat, 01/30/2010 - 10:47am

This "litmus" test won't become a reality. The trend for real conservatives has been to bypass the RNC and donate campaign funds directly to the conservative candidates anyway.