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Tuesday, November 24, 2009  

10 Question Purity Test

The Republican National Committee looks to be gearing up for the party's favorite pastime: kicking out heretics. The proposal under consideration would deny party funds or endorsements to anyone who disagrees with three or more of ten principles.

Now you might not think that two consecutive crushing defeats in national elections would lead a party of rational actors to shrink its tent yet further. But this idea is not as stupid as it looks. It's very likely that the GOP will pick up some seats in the House and Senate next year, and if they do it will be in part because of their remarkable unity in a stance of pure obstruction against a president who came into office with a strong tailwind. If they're going to win anyway, and if--as seems likely--they'll be clearing out some of our Blue Dog deadweight in moderate-to-conservative districts, they should go for as much uniformity as they can get from their candidates.

In the long term, however, this is a very dubious strategy. A hard-right party will have no future in the Northeast, Midwest, or West Coast, and that's rather a lot of the country to just write off. Having a large and sometimes fractious caucus has been key to Nancy Pelosi's legislative success; she can afford to release a whole lot of members on any given vote so that no one who feels exposed will have to take every risk. The big-tent strategy looks like a bust in the Senate, where a handful of conservative Democrats have pretty much ground the Obama agenda to a halt, but that's solely because of the filibuster--a procedural rule so bad that, to my knowledge, no other legislative body in the entire world has it. Absent the filibuster, the Senate would be running more like the House, with the strongest bill that get can 50 votes (plus Biden) always making it to the floor and with vulnerable Democrats taking turns on tough votes.

posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 9:19 AM
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