Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
Some comments in the ongoing debate regarding the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren got me to thinking about our political system and people’s reactions to it. Warren is criticized by the Right for obvious reasons, given her strong stances on managing the economy and controlling the excesses of the Corporate Culture. In a sense she offends their sense of political purity, but then that is but a given because she is a Democrat. We have seen though on the Right that such conservative stalwarts as Richard Lugar have gone down to primary defeat because he failed the Tea Parties test of what a “true” conservative should be. Richard Lugar failed the “purity” test even though his conservative history is impeccable. In my conception political purity conforms to “party line” thinking, punishing those that fail to adhere in all respects to the standards of a given faction’s concept of standards their candidates must adhere to in order to retain enthusiastic support. I use “faction”, rather than “party”, because our two party political system actually represents an amalgam of various factions imperfectly coalescing under the rubric of a “Political Party”.
From a Left, or even Centrist perspective, there has been both amusement and trepidation about how the “Tea Party” faction has exerted control over the Republican Party. Then too, there is the same reaction to the power exerted by Fundamentalist Christians, a group that at some points overlaps with the “Tea Party”. A human trait is to see the foibles of groups we define as “other”, while being oblivious to the idiosyncrasies of the groups we are aligned with. Liberals, Progressives, Radicals and even Leftist Centrists like to believe that they are immune from the turmoil that they see in their Right Wing opposites, yet the “Left” and even the “Center” also routinely define people in terms of litmus tests of political purity. This was highlighted by certain comments on the Warren thread where people who were seemingly in tune with her domestic policy views, disliked her positions on the Middle East and appeared to hold them against her. This has definitely been true with many progressives and/or civil libertarians in viewing this current Administration. My purpose here is not one of castigation for anyone’s perspective; rather I’m interested in exploring the phenomenon of the belief that political figures need to meet all of our expectations in their positions, or be unworthy of our support. My own perspective is that tests of political purity are self defeating because it is impossible for any particular political figure to be in perfect agreement with all that any of us individually believe and politics becomes oppression without the ability to negotiate. The process of real negotiation requires compromise. What follows is why I believe that is true. Continue reading “The Pursuit of Political Purity”