Tuesday, December 08, 2009

GOP Voter Litmus Test

Recently Mr. James Bopp, accomplished GOP ballot access attorney and Republican National Committeeman from Indiana, unveiled a litmus test for GOP candidates to be voted on by the full committee in January 2010. The litmus test stipulates that any GOP candidate seeking support and assistance from the RNC must meet seven of ten conditions. The conditions of the “Proposed RNC Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates (PRRUPSC):

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;

This is the RNC’s attempt to refashion a Contract with America (CwA) message for the 2010 elections. The difference is the PPRUPSC actively engages controversial issues where the CwA sought to avoid polarization by focusing on what can be termed as 60% issues; those issues with which 60% of American agree according to survey research. Mr. Bopp has led the GOP into deep and precarious waters by seeking to have the RNC codify what makes and does make a Republican on issues that aren’t salient to a majority of American voters.

The CwA was undeniably successful, helping to deliver a Republican majority to Congress in 1994 by positively and simply defining the GOP in a manner easily understood by the electorate. The PPRUPSC fails in this charge by presenting more as a litmus test than a set of principles due to the fact that the resolution ties support to a candidate's performance on these issues.

The larger problem for the RNC if it passes this resolution is it will be easily manipulated by Democratic candidates to define Republican candidates as intolerant and inflexible. The PPRUPSC directly confronts gay marriage, abortion and gun rights thus choosing to headline issues that are unlikely to be top of mind to the 2010 voter. A recent Gallup survey reported that only 12 percent of Americans think gun laws need to be less strict. Support for same-sex marriage is growing with as many as 42 percent of Americans in support according to CBS News earlier this year. Abortion speaks for itself as a polarizing issue best used in the mailbox and not at the general election ballot box.

With this resolution Mr. Bopp is seeking to fight some legislative battles that have already been determined. Cap and trade is a fact; healthcare reform is soon to be a fact; card check is not broadly a winning issue or relevant to 2010 and; President Obama has already committed more troops to Afghanistan.

The PPRUPSC is bad for the GOP is because it will be used by Democrats to polarize voters against Republican candidates. There is fertile ground on economic issues to give the GOP victories in 2010 and that is where the RNC should craft its resolutions, rather than playing in its preferred sandbox of abortion, guns and gay marriage.  A significant segment of the electorate will be easily persuaded that any litmus test that applies to candidates also applies to voters.

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