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  Comments (3) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
The Conservative Litmus Test
Montana Conservative Alliance
Roger Koopman, the former state representative from Bozeman, has returned this primary season with hopes of grooming Republicans in his image and fielding challengers to those who don’t make the conservative cut. He has sent out a questionnaire to GOP candidates under the banner of his newly formed group, Montana Conservative Alliance, so he can judge who is worthy of his support.

So here I sit at the Flathead Beacon newsroom in Kalispell with a copy of the GOP purity test on my desk. It has 38 questions and the directions say that I need to mark on a scale of 5 to 1 my level of agreement with a variety of “policy positions” and “belief statements.” I’m not quite sure what the latter means, but I’m eager to find out. A “5” means I strongly agree with a statement and a “1” means I strongly disagree, and so on.

The first policy position reads: “I believe that a balanced budget must be achieved through a reduction in government spending, and never through new or increased taxes.”

Of course I concur. That is, unless voters agree to raise taxes on themselves (say, with a school bond) to preserve services they deem essential. I mark down a “4,” or “moderately agree,” hoping that doesn’t make me a socialist.

Moving along, No. 8 says: “Parents are not always responsible, which is why some regulations of home schooling is necessary, and child health programs like CHIP [the Children Health Insurance Program] are a good idea.”

I will have to sharpen my pencil for this “belief statement” because I have no idea how homeschooling and CHIP are related under the umbrella of responsible parenting. Surely, a parent who opts for homeschooling still may need help if their child breaks a fibula. Luckily, I can mark down a 3, or “neutral/undecided,” and I do.

Let’s look at No. 12, which says: “Candidates for state Legislature should have their knowledge tested on the state and federal constitution.” This sounds good, in theory, and I have a feeling that the Montana Conservative Alliance would like me to mark a resounding “5” to earn its support. Let’s make lawmakers pass a test, or earn a certificate, by taking a constitutional test that would determine who is fit to serve. Sounds fair.

But wait a minute. Who would determine the questions and correct answers to this hypothetical test? Would it be Koopman, or another third party? The reason we have state and U.S. supreme courts is to interpret what is constitutional. Those interpretations often change and are, more importantly, often divisive. Thus, the recent 5-4 decision to overturn some limitations on campaign contributions. Another “3.”

No. 19: “Local schools should have ‘alternative certification’ authority to hire special people as teachers who may not meet state requirements.” Again, I’m assuming Koopman’s group really wants Republican candidates to strongly agree with this one, but how could they, in good conscience, without knowing how these “people” will be qualified as “special?” If I have this straight, the citizen Legislature should take a test to earn their credentials but those who administer calculus tests just need to be deemed special. Another “3.”

There are a few statements, like those on upholding the right to bear arms, and limiting state employees from lobbying, that are clearer and which I support. But the majority are blanket statements and beliefs that don’t take into account what our legislators (and critical thinkers for that matter) face when asked to take sides on very specific proposals. That’s what’s required of those charged with the messy business of actually governing. And that, in essence, is what’s wrong with the questionnaire and Koopman’s movement.

It’s not that he is recruiting conservatives; it’s that he wants them to see the world through the exact same lens he does, where everything is black and white. One Republican, Sen. Dave Lewis of Helena, is already on record saying that he read the questionnaire and quickly threw it away, and is now a potential target in the primaries. But even those who align squarely with Koopman’s policies should follow Lewis’ lead.
On 02-21-10, Vud commented....
Would suggest you do an I-net search for:                   ” Republican Litmus Test “ and see that this issue goes way beyond the scope of this one Republican.
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