© Josh Sager – October 2014
A litmus test is a simple question that presents a binary choice in a voter’s mind—if the candidate supports something that violates the litmus test, they are disqualified in the eyes of the voter, regardless of their other positions.
For decades, the right wing in the United States has utilized litmus tests to reduce the acceptable scope of beliefs for their candidates on certain issues; conversely, the left has opted to foster a much broader scope of opinion (ex. “blue dog democrats”) thus has chosen not to implement such concrete tests. Of the right wing litmus tests, the most persistent over the past few decades have been focused on reducing abortion rights, decreasing gun controls and rejecting tax increases. The consequences of these litmus tests have been stark, and the current right wing is essentially devoid of politicians who will sign on to support either tax increases or the protection of abortion rights.
While the right wing litmus tests have been destructive—leading to the widespread attack of reproductive freedom and erosion of the tax base—that doesn’t mean that the tactic isn’t entirely valid. After all, we currently all have unconscious litmus tests that limit who we vote for (ex. most people won’t vote for an overt racist). The damage stemming from the right wing litmus tests is caused by the fact that their litmus tests are in favor of the wrong policies, not the simple fact that they are black and white judgments.
Put simply, the American political discourse has traveled into very dangerous waters, with corruption running rampant and serious problems going unaddressed. The severity of these issues has created the necessity for the left wing to band together and present a unified front against the right wing pull in these dangerous directions. Dissent on certain issues cannot be tolerated and any Democrat to cross the following lines must be immediately and harshly consequence by voters and party leadership.
Democrats shouldn’t be allowed any latitude in …
- Reducing campaign finance regulations to make it even easier for big-money to infiltrate the American political system.
- Supporting the fusion of religion and state so that certain religions (ex. Evangelical Christianity) would gain the ability to legislate their faith’s dogma.
- Eliminating net neutrality by allowing service providers to censor content (except in issues of illegal activity) or create “fast” and “slow” lanes based upon how much the content producer pays.
- Reducing voting rights in a way that is intended to produce a partisan result—this includes voter ID laws, the elimination of early voting, and the reallocation of voting machines to create long lines in certain areas.
- Rejecting climate science in a way that precludes addressing the dangers of climate change—this includes rejection of the scientific consensus that climate change is anthropogenic.
- Looting entitlements (Social Security and Medicare) by cutting benefits, reducing the cost of living increase rate, or voucherizing/privatizing the programs.
- Attacking the rights of every woman to control her own body, have access to birth control/safe abortion services, and receive equal pay for equal work.
If any democrat crosses any of these lines, they must face a primary challenge at their next election and be deprived of any leadership positions while in office.
While debate and compromise are all very important to the democratic process, there are some issues where there can be no latitude—one answer is simply correct (ex. not disenfranchising voters) while the other is too damaging to our country of democracy to tolerate. In my opinion, this creates a dire need for a series of litmus tests based around these criteria.