Political Purity Tests

There is much talk circulating about purity tests, and whether progressives should apply purity tests to the Democratic Party’s candidates. Of late, we see tweets such as the following from Politico:

And the following from CNN:

What are these purity tests? What do these statements mean?

As a person on the left, I view statements such as this notion that Democrats should not be subjected to “purity tests” as neoliberal propaganda. I also think that Democratic leaders should worry that the so-called Sanders wing will apply ideological purity tests to candidates, and I hope they are feeling the pressure.

Asking voters to accept candidates who do not pass muster is equivalent to asking them to abandon their principles. It is the same tired line that positions the Democrats as the lesser of two evils, and asks voters to accept that, again and again. Asking voters to abandon “purity tests” is equivalent to asking them not to hold their candidates accountable, to look the other way with regard to corruption, and accept that there will always be just two choices, and that one choice will always be a lesser evil, and that’s just the way it is.

My counter to this is simple. Instead of asking voters to abandon their principles and vote for people who stand for nothing, why not ask your fellow politicians to be principled and stand for something? Why not demand that Democratic politicians be worth voting for, instead of relying on GOP politicians to be worth voting against? If the DNC can serve up worthy candidates, they will get votes. I’m not sure why this is so hard to understand.

Just to make this clear to all the Democratic Party insiders and all potential candidates they run, let me state plainly that I will never vote for any neoliberal candidate. I will not vote for anyone who takes corporate money. I will never vote for an unprincipled candidate. I will not vote for a liar. I don’t believe I am alone. The question is, do you think you can get elected without my vote or the votes of people like me? I think the devastating results of the 2016 election from top to bottom should answer that question.

I agree that voters should not have to apply a purity test, but, unfortunately, they do, because of what a catastrophic failure the DNC has become in the neoliberal era. Quit trying to tell the voters how to vote; compel them to vote for you by being better than you are now. Quit trying to browbeat me into voting for garbage piles; it’s not going to work.

This piece was originally published on Medium.

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