The GOP gets testy

Stories in the Washington Times and New York Times describe the move by some members of the Republican National Committee to establish a litmus test for Republican candidates. However, it’s so phenomenally silly that it deserves mention for a couple of reasons:

  1. The party that champions shifting power to the state and local level would end up setting national party standards. Rather than allowing Republican primary voters to choose which brand of conservatism they favor, a few people on the Republican National Committee would decree conditions for national party support based from upon high. A major problem with this test will be: who will test the testers? Republican candidates are usually selected openly in primaries with broad participation of Republican voters. Members of the RNC are chosen through the state conventions in a process out of view of most party members and dominated by party elites.Party elites aren’t going to win a test of strength against primary voters and individual contributors, and political action committees. The RNC’s money is small compared to other sources of money and a litmus test will only expose the weakness of the RNC. So here’s a handy rule of thumb: Avoid setting up a test you are going to fail.
  2. Some are basing this on a misguided reading of Ronald Reagan’s suggestion was that his 80 percent friend was not his 20 percent enemy. Under this regime Republican candidates would have to support at least 80 percent of the party’s main tenets to be eligible for support from the party. Reagan believed in competition and would have worked to persuade someone who disagreed with him and would not have declared a fellow Republican an enemy. Reagan succeeded because he emphasized friends–not because he declared enemies. I’m constantly amazed the degree to which many Republicans try to create a cult of Reagan built upon principles and using methods that Reagan would reject.
The GOP's big tent problem

Is this any way to throw a party?

Ultimately, this purge will fail. If FDR’s attempt to purge his party failed, you can bet that this rag-tag band of ideologues will do no better.

This fits the eight-year cycle you often see in politics. For example, Democrats responded to their loss in 1968 by moving to the left and ultimately getting crushed in the 1972 election. Unless cooler heads prevail in the RNC, they will guide their party toward a 2012 loss on the scale of 1964, 1972, or 1984.

Republicans might want to check with those Texans who were thrown out of Democratic party caucuses (in some cases literally) in 1972 and never returned to the Democratic Party. They have a different perspective on the strident demands of party purists.

Update: The Dallas Morning News has reported that some local Republican organizations in some counties have begun asking candidates to answer 10 questions based on the state party platform. However, Texas Republicans are only using the purity test as an information source and not as litmus test for funding.


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