Reconsidering the GOP's 'Purity Test'

If Scott Brown wouldn't pass the test, maybe it's not worth having

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After spending the holiday season in hibernation, the GOP "purity test" is back on the table for RNC officials gathering in Hawaii this week. The so-called “Reagan test” would require Republican candidates to agree on at least eight listed conservative positions, ranging from the legality of abortion to gun-control laws, or face an exclusion from Republican financial and political resources. The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney reports that one question is "already percolating" among Republicans: "Would Scott Brown – the Republican from Massachusetts who just captured the Senate seat of Edward M. Kennedy, and someone who is a hero these days in the party – have passed the test?" 

Some moderate Republicans say no, arguing that Brown's record—from his career of votes and quotes—doesn't pass muster. But given how much enthusiasm Brown's election generated for a Republican resurgence, does the test even matter?
  • Not Pragmatic writes The Washington Monthly’s liberal Steve Benen: "I still have a hard time believing the RNC will actually accept this – it would likely block party backing for too many candidates Republicans need to win this year – but the party has certainly done incomprehensible things before.”
  • Makes the Republicans Look Obstructionist The Guardian’s Michael Tomasky points to pledge point two, which states “we support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare,” as a source of potential issues: “It will be an official point of GOP policy that candidates have to oppose Obama's healthcare bill. This is the party Obama is not doing enough to work with?! Of course, some will argue, well, they must support only eight of 10, not all 10, so some candidates can support Obamacare and still get party funding. Yeah, right.”
  • Fodder for the Media Pilgrim at The Minority Report thinks the test is mistake, whether Brown qualifies or not, since the mainstream media “try to trap a GOP candidate or GOP officeholder” into breaking from party lines of flip-flopping during debate.
  • Risks Outweigh Benefits writes Martin Knight at Red State. While Knight appreciates the purpose of the purity test as an reaffirmation of Reagan’s belief that “where people are bound together by a shared philosophy,” he remains skeptical of its practical benefits:
"Not only does it give the media a handy propaganda tool supporting their favored narrative of the GOP being a narrow lock-step marching cult catering to the 'Far Right'…it would be all too easy for the GOP establishment’s preferred content-free, spineless, unprincipled, go-along-to-get-along, Republicans-of-convenience to shortcircuit the vetting process by signing off on positions they have no intention of advancing or defending once in office, especially if it would get them disinvited from swanky DC cocktails."
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