GOP Purity Test Would Have Banished Bush And Reagan

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • David Edwards and John Byrne

The latest trend in the Republican Party is an effort to weed out moderates -- witness New York Republicans' successful effort to oust their own candidate in an upstate House race, in preference for an independent conservative.

But a new GOP "purity test" named for Ronald Reagan moves the line even farther to the right, and a liberal website has found that the test -- if used in the past -- would have screened out President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush as viable conservatives.

The test was conceived by conservative attorney Jim Bopp, Jr., who recently pushed a resolution to the Republican National Committee which proposed referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Socialist Party." (The proposal was rejected.)

Bopp's litmus test, titled the "Resolution on Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates," includes the following guidelines:

(1) Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill

(2) Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) Market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) Workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check

(5) Legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat

(8) Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) The right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership

Trouble is, the measure would likely have screened out President Ronald Reagan, under whose watch the US deficit ballooned. The federal deficit mushroomed from 2.7 percent of gross domestic product in 1980, to 6 percent in 1983.

Reagan also agreed to a $165 billion bailout of Social Security, in contradiction of conservative orthodoxy (though he did drastically reduce the top income tax brackets for Americans).

The Gipper also raised the gasoline tax in 1983.

Bush, too, dramatically increased the size of the federal deficit, which was turning surpluses under his predecessor, President Bill Clinton. He also broke with conservatives on the issue of opposing blanket amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

Who else would fail the test?

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Republicans' 2008 presidential nominee, who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in the Senate, which would have enshrined in federal law a prohibition against same sex marriage benefits. McCain, however, hasn't been in far-right conservatives' good graces for some time.

Watch video from MSNBC's Countdown on Nov. 23, 2009, HERE.

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