Republicans considering ideological purity test for candidates

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - 8:33pm

WASHINGTON - Ten members of the Republican National Committee are proposing a resolution demanding candidates embrace at least eight of 10 conservative principles if they hope to receive financial support and an official endorsement from the RNC. The "Proposed RNC Resolution on Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates," is designed to force candidates to prove that they support "conservative principles" while opposing "Obama's socialist agenda," according to The New York Times' Caucus blog. The proposal highlights the ongoing tug-of-war for the ideological soul of the Republican party, and has been met with skepticism both inside and outside of the party.

Some are speculating that the move was inspired by the GOP’s recent loss in New York's 23rd House race, a seat the party had held since the 1800s. That contest saw Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican endorsed by the RNC, driven out of the race in favor of Doug Hoffman, a more conservative candidate backed by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. After Scozzafava dropped out of the race, the RNC endorsed Hoffman, who went on to lose to the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.

James Bopp Jr., an Indiana attorney, initiated the resolution, saying that "conservatives have lost trust in the Republican party." Bopp Jr., who floated a failed proposal earlier this year demanding that Democrats rename their party the "Democrat Socialist Party," was joined by 10 RNC co-sponsors. The group says they cited Ronald Reagan in naming the resolution because the former president said that "someone who agreed with him 8 out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent." The ten guidelines, distributed to RNC members in recent weeks, are as follows:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;

Predictably, the proposed resolution has elicited derision from all corners of the political spectrum, including the right wing. In criticizing the proposal, conservative blogger Erick Erickson says that Republicans "risk giving liberal candidates easy opportunities to get conservative endorsements simply by checking the box without ever meaning it," adding that the measure is essentially hollow because the "GOP cannot live up to its own platform adopted at a national convention, it sure as heck won’t live up to any pledge put forward by a group of RNC committeemen."

Meanwhile, liberal blogger Steve Benen wonders if Reagan himself would even pass the 80% threshold mandated by the resolution bearing his name, noting that Reagan "voted for several tax increases, began the modern era of massive federal debt, ran huge deficits, and approved an immigration measure the far-right still resents."

However, not everyone finds fault with it. A Republican strategist and former Bush White House official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Yahoo! News that the resolution "bodes well" because "Republicans are continuing to discuss policy positions and principles," adding "this should not be treated as a purge document - as the media is portraying it - but more of a document for discussion as Republicans attempt to rebuild the party in 2010."

Despite the debate that it’s already inspired, whether or not the resolution even gets voted on by the RNC's membership remains up in the air. A spokeswoman for RNC Chairman Michael Steele told The Wall Street Journal that until the deadline for submitting resolutions for the party's winter meeting is reached, "we do not know what resolutions will be submitted, nor what the final language of any resolution ultimately submitted may be."