Purity Politics

Way back in 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt arranged for primary challengers to fellow Democratic incumbents who refused to support his New Deal agenda. The verb, Primarying, goes back to at least 2004, but gained popularity in 2008 as the Tea Party began challenging moderate Republicans. That same year the labor-sponsored, Working For Us PAC was formed to, “encourage Democrats to act like Democrats – and if they don’t – they better get out of the way of Democrats who will.” Working for Us helped elect Donna Edwards, and still exists, but is a minor factor in congressional elections.

Newer progressive groups, such as Justice Democrats working with Brand New Congress, plan to push the Democratic Party to the left by primarying corporate candidates in the next round of elections. Establishment Democrats have responded by accusing said progressives of conducting purity tests.

In response, Caitlin Firestone wrote, Call Me A ‘Purist’ Again:

There’s a new obnoxious buzzword in the corporate Democratic lexicon, and it’s being employed with increasing regularity by rank-and-file Democratic party loyalists. More and more I run up against vagina hat-wearing keyboard warriors of the McResistance dismissing progressive rebels as “purists,” “purity ponies” and “purity progressives,” the idea being that if you don’t want to vote for Democrats who actively facilitate corporatism, warmongering and ecocide, you are somehow being unrealistic and unreasonable.

A few days ago, TYT Politics Reporter Jordan Chariton and producer Emma Vigeland stood outside the TYT office and debated (on youtube) whether there should be a “purity test” for Democratic Party candidates.

In between denying that they were a couple, Jordan claimed the establishment’s accusations were code for, “just look the other way … let us be corrupt,” while Emma thought it was good strategy for a progressive to trade political capital for incremental legislative gains.

The anti-corporate Purity Test is of course, a Slippery Slope Argument, and thus a fallacy. Few progressives will end up supporting only candidates who eschew any contact with the business community (such as the Green Party). Most are simply looking for candidates that respond to their constituents rather than just their donors.

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