Political purity tests bad for the country


Not much these days makes me bristle like the term “political purity.”

Want to know why so much has gone wrong in our government? Look no further than political purity and the purity tests being used by both parties. They are pushing division in Washington to the breaking point, and we as citizens are caught in the middle. Well, at least most of us are. Some are pushing the political purity line.

What is political purity? Therein lies the problem. It all depends on who you are talking to. You are not “conservative enough” or “liberal enough” if you veer far from the talking points of each party. For Democrats, some are seen as too centrist and not liberal enough. For conservatives, you either love former President Trump or you will be ostracized.

It is a sad and dangerous time in our country.

Look at our Congressman, Adam Kinzinger. He is a very conservative member of Congress and has the voting record to prove it. He has questioned the former president pushing a demonstrably false narrative of the last election, which he lost, and also has spoken out against the Jan. 6 insurrection. That has led many to denounce him for abandoning the party. As I have written in this space before, he has made a strong stance for Democracy and the Constitution, and that is much more important than any party.

The Democrats are no better. Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have not gone along with some progressive legislation, and that has angered many of their colleagues on that side of the aisle. Democrats are trying to use a – you guessed it – purity test to hold their feet to the fire. But like it or not, they are standing their ground.

I, personally, like to see any lawmaker sticking to what they believe is right. Yes, even if I disagree with that stance.

The voters in their states and districts will ultimately decide if they are making the right moves or not. But parties that strip committee appointments from elected officials – hello, Liz Cheney – are directly telling you that having an independent thought is bad. Go along and keep your mouth shut or else.

Sounds pretty anti-democracy to me.

There have been many, many elected officials in Washington who have bucked their party over the years to do what they thought was right. The party might not have liked it, but independence and a strong will have usually been celebrated by this country.

Honestly, there is no way former Arizona Sen. John McCain could survive in Washington these days, even though he served until his death not that many years ago. He was a strong, principled conservative. But he was also his own man. That would never stand in today’s Washington, where name calling, finger pointing and never showing a hint of independent thought are the order of the day.

I am frankly embarrassed by it. Worse, I fear for our future. This cannot stand in a democracy. We must have open discussion. We must have dissenters. We must have compromise. These things are vital to our way of life.

When I was a younger man, I used to think that when I got older, I would love to run for office to serve my community, or city or even state.  Now? I would never consider it.

And I am not alone. Who in their right mind would want to put themselves in for the constant negativity and attacks? People are now openly threatening politicians – even other politicians. Poverty, racism, discrimination – those are our enemies, not the people we disagree with politically.

Can we focus on climate change, which is already starting to devastate parts of this country and world? Can we focus on clean energy? An infrastructure plan? A living wage for people? Attacking the national debt? Those things actually matter.

Instead, the yelling and blame shifting continue unabated. We are watching the country come apart at the seams, and we are doing nothing about it.