George Graham

Don’t Laugh at the Republicans. They Might be on to Something

tea partyFacing fierce pressure from conservatives, Republican Party leaders are trying to come up with a plan to ensure their candidates aren’t vulnerable to challenges from the right. This was apparently motivated by a recent special congressional election in upstate New York, in which the official Republican candidate was pushed out of the race by a “Tea Party” conservative.

In that election, the Republican leadership funded Dee Dee Scozzafava’s campaign, but party celebrities like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty backed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Mrs. Scozzafava in the end bowed out and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, who eventually won the race.

The Tea Party movement (photo at right), spearheaded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is mounting primary challenges to other Republican candidates whom they consider too “liberal.” And the Republican leadership is worried.

So worried that they’re proposing a “Reagan Litmus Test” for Republican candidates. The rule would require Republican candidates to share at least 80 percent of the party’s main tenets to be eligible for party funds. The idea is based on former President Ronald Reagan’s proposition that his 80 percent friend was not his 20 percent enemy.

Republican candidates would be required to support at least eight of the following objectives:

(1) Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes, opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;
(2) Market-based health care reform, opposing “Obama-style” government run healthcare;
(3) Market-based energy reforms, opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) Workers’ right to a secret ballot, opposing card check membership drives;
(5) Legal immigration and assimilation into American society, opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
(6) Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
(7) Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
(8) Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act (outlawing same-sex marriage);
(9) “Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons” by opposing “health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion”; and
(10) The right to keep and bear arms. opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

This proposal has evoked great merriment from “progressives” like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, who point out that Romald Reagan would have failed six of the 10 “litmus tests.”  Olbermann is greatly amused by the idea that the Republicans are trying to grow their party by purging members who do not share their ideology.

But I am on their side this time.

benIf the Democrats had made their candidates take a litmus test, they would not be in the mess they’re in now. Without such a test, the notion that the Democratic Party has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate has turned out to be nonsense.

Obviously, at least three Democratic senators – Ben Nelson (at right), Mary Landrieu (below, far left) and Blanche Lincoln (below, left) – do not share the party’s position on health care reform. And, former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who was allowed to caucus with the Democrats, and to chair a Senate committee, without a commitment to the party’s platform, has turned out to be in the pocket of the health care industry and on the side of the Republicans.

To me, it is patently obvious that Democratic candidates should support the Democratic Party platform.

maryblancheAnd I think it’s a great idea to have Republican candidates commit to supporting the “litmus test” positions. When voters see the letter R next to a candidate’s name, they would know what that candidate stands for. And I, for one, would cast my ballot for anyone opposing such a candidate.

My problem is that when I see the letter D next to a candidate’s name, I can’t be sure what I would be voting for. I would never in a million years have voted for anyone like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln, for example. And I applaud the progressives who are raising funds to oppose these health care reform saboteurs in the primaries.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for