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January 26, 2010

GOP “Purity Test”

We talked about this statement of principles idea when it was introduced back in November. At the time, I expressed general support for the idea while others were opposed to the idea in total and others because it didn’t go far enough.

Well, it’s apparently coming up for a vote next week. Today the WSJ comes out against it and says we might not have Scott Brown in the Senate if this resolution had been in place as the GOP would have been prevented from supporting him.

Supporters call this "Reagan's Unity Principle," but that's unfair to the Gipper. If the elections in Massachusetts and 2006 and 2008 showed anything, it's that Republicans can't win with their base alone. They need independent voters. Those independents don't want to be told that every GOP candidate must first bow to big-shot party vetters.

President Obama's agenda has alienated enough independents that Republicans have the opportunity to compete again in New England, the Upper Midwest and even parts of the Pacific Coast. The National Republican Congressional Committee is vowing to field a candidate in all 435 House districts. Yet the party will be wasting money and credibility if it intends to make candidates in Illinois or Oregon meet a test crafted by Republicans who can win in South Carolina.

The better route is the pragmatism the GOP showed in uniting behind Mr. Brown. The Massachusetts Republican is a fiscal conservative, but his more moderate cultural views made it difficult for Democrats to define him as out of step with most Bay State voters. Mr. Brown's promise to be an independent voice for his state was crucial to giving Republicans their 41st Senate vote.

...The litmus list includes: support for smaller government and lower taxes, troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense of Marriage Act, containing Iran and North Korea, and gun rights; as well as opposition to ObamaCare, cap-and-trade legislation, "amnesty" for immigrants, union card check and government-funded abortion.

We're not sure Mr. Brown would have made this cut.

A couple of things…

First, a candidate has to be able to support 8 of the 10 points. That’s not a litmus or purity test. Those things require 100% allegiance, you are either in or out. This list allows for some diversity of opinions.

Second, we can over read the Brown victory. The idea that the GOP is going to consistently win in Massachusetts or similarly liberal states is insane. You can’t set your policies based on such rare events. The Democrats don’t set their policies based on the idea they are going to win in Idaho, I don’t see why Republicans should pander with the idea they will win in Massachusetts on a regular basis.

Third, nobody is saying these points have to be the principle issues a candidate runs on or emphasizes. It's just that if they want party support they need to show they share some basic positions with the people they are asking for money from.

Fourth, Brown likely could pass the ‘test’ as its constituted.

Let's look at Brown’s campaign issues page and see….


1-Smaller government and lower taxes? Check

2-Troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not sure but based on his other comments, I’m guessing he’s in for winning in Afghanistan.

3-Defense of Marriage Act? A bit complex. He’s opposed to same sex marriage but opposes a federal amendment to the constitution (but so do a lot of SSM opponents).

4-Containing Iran and North Korea? Check on Iran, North Korea isn’t mentioned but it seems unlikely he’s down for appeasing them.

5-Gun rights? Check

6-Opposition to Obama-care? CHECK

7-Oppose Cap and Trade? Check

8-Oppose amnesty? Check (Though in fairness, so does McCain in theory. A lot of people oppose ‘amnesty’ by playing word games. In Brown’s defense he opposes in state tuition for illegals and other items on the anti-illegal side support)

9-Card check? Not sure

10- Oppose government funded abortion? Not sure. He’s pro-choice but it doesn’t follow that he’d oppose the Hyde Amendment and we know where he comes down on Obama-care in general.

It seems Brown can do pretty damn well on this list. As I said back in November, there's going to be some fudging on what constitutes passing. I'd also make it 7 out of 10, not 8 the passing grade.

Winning the Brown race was the result of a very specific environment. I'm not sure how much it demonstrates about the basic nature of the Republican party or the conservative movement. We can read too much into it (from the left and right).

Bottom line, if the Republican winner of a Senate seat in Massachusetts can run and win without violating these principles, where exactly won’t they play?

Yes, in a regular year these positions would sink a Republican in that state but in a regular year every Republican is sunk in Massachusetts.

So why not have some basic statement of principles? Where won’t these play well where a Republican has a legitimate shot at winning?

Thanks to Gabe for the heads up.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:02 PM

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