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On Litmus Tests – or – Only Nixon Could Go To China

The quadrennial season of madness is in full swing here in the United States, and it’s time to start picking out which monkey can fling the finest tasting shit.

Both major parties are serving up a dog’s breakfast of tired ideas, stuff they’ll never make work even if they can get it through the political process, and “Hey, look, somebody you don’t like!  Get ’em!”

I’m not even going to get into third-party choices, mainly because at this point, it’s not worth the calories.  Really, they all ought to just get together and rebrand as the “Protest Vote” party.

For me, since I’m an Independent in a closed-primary state, this is just something I watch from afar.  You know, like I would if a plane was crashing on the other side of the parking lot, or a herd of wildebeest were to just start making their way along I-65 one morning.  Can’t effect it, might as well just sit back and watch until it’s my problem next year.

But I do want to bring something up while you all spend millions of dollars separating the skilled liars from the amateur liars – political litmus tests.

I’m for them, and here’s why – There have to be core beliefs which you will not compromise.  There have to be clear, bright lines beyond which you will not negotiate.  This goes for those on both the right and the left, as well as the poor suffering bastards at the center.

We must be careful not to elect people who are willing to compromise on their constituencies’ base principles, or we risk being sold out when it becomes profitable.  And a president in power who compromises their principles can do a lot of damage, no matter which side of the political coin they come from.

Both conservatives and liberals have long lists of issues they want ‘fixed’ that don’t have a chance in hell if someone from their political stripe is the public face for it.  A Democrat calling for ending the War on Drugs will probably be branded a filthy hippie who just wants to get high, while a Republican trying to do the same thing would be called a statesman and friend to personal liberty.

I truly believe that only a Democrat could get meaningful welfare reform through Congress.   Conversely, only a Republican could get gun control enacted without being roasted on a spit.

A Republican who tried to do something like a drop in the corporate income tax rate would be excoriated as being a shill for big business, while a Democrat who does it would be a wise custodian of the nation’s finances who is trying to attract international business to the country.

In all these cases, their parties, and more importantly, their party’s caucus in Congress,  would probably refrain from fighting them, and the section of the media that would normally oppose such moves would also hold their tongues.  A politician who has the political cover of coming over to get something done that would be unexpected from his or her side of the aisle can accomplish a lot, good or bad.

If LBJ had been re-elected in 1968 and gone to China in 1972, he would have been raked over the coals.  His Great Society programs had already been attacked for being socialistic or even communist.  But Nixon, an old anti-communist hard-liner, was praised for reaching out to Red China.  For better or worse, it took someone who opposed communism to initiate normal relations with Communists.

That still holds true.  If you want something done that you know will be vociferously opposed if you do it, find someone nominally on the other side who can do it for you.  Conversely, if there’s something you want defended to the death, don’t elect people who might be willing to make a deal over it.

If someone is soft on an issue that is near and dear to you, don’t vote for them.  Better that we have gridlock than someone who’s willing to cross the aisle and compromise on base principles.

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