Purity, Republican style

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GOPtent.jpegThe NYT’s Adam Nagourney has been all over the story of a proposed list of 10 GOP commandments that if you only violate two of them, you’re still a Republican in good standing. The list, which will be presented to the RNC for its approval, is apparently the brainchild of James Bopp, Jr., an RNC member from Indiana who is prominent in the Federalist Society and is general counsel for National Right to Life and special counsel for Focus on the Family. He’s big in the defense of traditional marriage movement too.

Despite Bopp’s impeccable social conservative credentials, the list itself seems a little light on social conservatism: just opposition federal funding of abortion and support of the Defense of Marriage Act. Under the terms of proposal, you could be staunchly pro-choice and in favor of same-sex marriage and have your Party credentials in order. Similarly, there are only two limpish commandments that engage the foreign policy agenda of the party’s neocon wing: support for “containment” of Iran and North Korea and for troop surges in Iran (still?) and Afghanistan. So a pacifist Republican would not be an oxymoron. In fact, the purity test hearkens mostly to the conservative economic populism represented by the Club for Growth and the Tea Party crowd. That’s why the likes of Dick Army and Grover Norquist think it’s just dandy.

Yet, bottom line, this may not be all that it seems. Not only do most of the commandments permit a good deal of interpretive leeway, but the “eight out of ten” proposal permits dissent on what this year have been some very big party-line votes. (Under its terms, you could have voted for the stimulus package and health care reform and not be read out of the Party.) True, as Nagourney points out, exclusionary arguments are possible. But rather than Ivory Soap this is Powdermilk Biscuits–not 99 and 44/100 pure but “pure…mostly.” Not a big tent but not a pup tent either.