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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/18/19

In Defense of Purity Tests

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Supporters of center-right Democrats like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have a response to left progressives who criticize their candidates for cozying up to Wall Street banks and trying to execute innocent men: stop with the purity tests!

The term is everywhere these days. "In the political world," Alan MacLeod writes for FAIR, "the term 'purity test' has a very specific meaning, largely used by elites to chastise and attack the left, or to gaslight them into supporting more centrist or right-wing policies."

Progressives should not fall for the purity-test smear. Voters have every right to demand certain standards of behavior and policy positions in exchange for their support. And so far, lefties have not asked for much: $15-an-hour minimum wage, Medicare For All, free college tuition, eschew donations by corporations. Yet even these modest attempts to nudge the needle to the left go too far for the Third Way/Democratic Leadership Council/moderates clinging to control over the Democratic Party.

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Barack Obama is leading the charge. The former president and self-described "moderate Republican" recently argued that Democrats "sometimes creat[e] what's called a 'circular firing squad' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues." The word "allies" is interesting. Is someone who disagrees with you on important issues really an ally?

Here's a typical use of the term from the June 6th edition of that most elitist of establishmentarian power-sucking publications, the New York Times: "In a contest where purity tests on the left have already propelled leading campaigns to disavow super PACs and reject money from federal lobbyists, is [accepting] tech money still politically acceptable?" The corrupting influence of super PACs is well-documented, yet the Times wants us to think a politician can take their cash without being bought.

Framing is everything in politics and the "purity test" trope is one of the cleverest reframes in recent history. Describing the world as complicated -- well, duh -- the purity test narrative portrays politicians who fall short of the progressive Puritans' impossibly high standards as victims of a shrieking mob. Virtuous attackers become fanatic Javerts, persecutors of minutiae. Corrupt, bloodthirsty scoundrels deserve our sympathy -- and our votes.

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Screw that.

Everyone -- left, right, center -- assesses candidates based on their personal metrics. Some are demographic: Is Mayor Pete too young? Is Bernie too old? Some are relatively arbitrary: Is Amy Klobuchar too mean of a boss? Is Beto too spazzy?

What right-wing Democrats call "purity tests" are what used to be called "standards." They're about ideology. And they're valid.

Eighteen years into the losing war against Afghanistan, left-leaning Americans have good cause to question militarism and its enablers. Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War. He's never even apologized. Bernie Sanders voted no when it was unpopular to oppose Bush. Why shouldn't progressives conclude that Sanders is closer to them -- not to mention smarter? Biden voted to kill more than a million Iraqis for no reason whatsoever; being held accountable for contributing to one of the biggest mass murders in history no more constitutes a purity test than voting against Charles Manson for mayor.

The Democratic tent has long included officials who oppose abortion. Now that states are passing bans against abortion that don't even include exceptions for incest and danger to the life of the mother, however, Democratic presidential candidates like Harris and Julian Castro say that all Democrats should be pro-choice. Given how strident the pro-life movement has become and the fact that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned, it's hard to dismiss this as an inane "purity test."

Don't be fooled, progressives. You have the right to vote for, or against, any candidate you want, for any reason you want. Personally, I can't support anyone who doesn't oppose drones, Gitmo, torture, militarism, wars of choice and doesn't support huge cuts in defense spending. I can't support someone who doesn't think saving the planet from ecocide is our top priority. I can't support a person who doesn't want to tax the hell out of the rich and eradicate poverty.

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Center-rightists tell me that my standards are too high, that none of the current field of 24 presidential candidates can pass my test. They're probably right. But it's not my problem. It's theirs.

 

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Ted Rall, a political cartoonist, is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963, raised in Kettering, Ohio and graduated from Fairmont West High School in 1981. His first cartoons were published (more...)
 

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4 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments


Gregory Kozloff

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Calling these "purity" democrats "center right", including Obama is a total misnomer, they are out and out fascist scumbags. Selling any one of them as reasonable on our political spectrum is beyond sickening propaganda. The democratic party has lost all credibility as anything remotely resembling Progressive or even sane. Biden, Bernie et.al. (except maybe Tulsi Gabbard)have sold us all out by being Imperialist war-mongers and total money-grubbers. (say hello to four more terrifying years of tRump)That the so-called Democrats cannot even hold a debate on the state of our ecological crisis tells how out of touch they are. That USA-ans buy into any of this crap also shows how far gone this country really is. I cannot afford to move but cannot be more ashamed of what this country is and horrifyingly has always been despite the cradle to grave propaganda fed to us since kindergarten (or 1776).

Submitted on Wednesday, Jun 19, 2019 at 2:20:27 AM

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John Rachel

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Here's the purity test for everyone running for federal office in November 2020. There's a version for House, Senate, White House. Let's stop screwing around and elect a "people's government".


(Image by John Rachel, no-contract-no-vote.us) Details DMCA

NO CONTRACT NO VOTE

The CFAR takes the guesswork out of voting. All twelve initiatives are supported by 60-87% of the U.S. public. Is this so difficult?

Submitted on Thursday, Jun 20, 2019 at 10:57:54 PM

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I'll make more copies of the CFAR again and get them to the candidates again!!

Submitted on Friday, Jun 21, 2019 at 1:04:51 AM

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John Rachel

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Thank you so much for your help Leslie. By the way, we have twelve CFAR candidates already.


Submitted on Friday, Jun 21, 2019 at 7:50:19 AM

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Candidates can download the CFAR2020 ...

House

Senate

President

They can directly notify us HERE.

Pretty easy, I'd say.

Submitted on Friday, Jun 21, 2019 at 9:49:50 PM

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molly cruz

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All the Candidates should pool their resources and run as a team, picking Cabinet positions that best serve their individual talents. There's a voice for each one of them in the choir.

That said, the well masked assumption that socialism breeds lazy incompetent sponges is not well founded; as I observed my naturally industrious children grow up, and my own determination to work like a horse for over twenty years creating a school I could only hope would survive, just for the bounce it gave my step, because it certainly wasn't lucrative. As with bigotry, you have to be taught to hate work.

I do find it counter intuitive that the inherited wealthy of the Right seem to advocate Social Darwinism, despite their pious pose of Creationism, while the tawdry, self-made Democrats want a 'level playing field' along with the suffocating reality of a world without challenge, and my own subjective notion that Peace is for p*ssy cats, and anathema to progress.

I suspect that, by the time we figure this world out, it will present a whole new face in the mirror, and remain eternally paradoxical.

Submitted on Friday, Jun 21, 2019 at 4:18:11 PM

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