Political purity tests are for losers

Political purity tests are for losers
© Getty Images

“I would usually vote Republican, but I like (John Bel) Edwards. He’s not like the nuts the Democrats have now.”

That’s what J. Miles Coleman, an associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, says his grandmother told him in October when she voted in the Louisiana governor’s race. Grandma Coleman stuck with Gov. Edwards in Saturday’s runoff election

So did hundreds of thousands of suburbanites who continue to flee the regressive policies of Republicans and President Trump, who campaigned in Louisiana three times for Edwards’s challenger, businessman Eddie Rispone. Record-breaking numbers of black voters also delivered a win for Edwards across the state — and in New Orleans parish by over 90 percent.  


Anyone who doubts what’s going on in the suburbs need look no further than Edwards carrying a suburban New Orleans seat where Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Never underestimate Joe Biden Afghanistan withdrawal: Trump fumbles, Biden scores MORE got 26 percent of the vote in 2008. In St Tammany Parish, Mary Landrieu got 28.2 percent of the vote in 2014 and Edwards cleared 40 percent.

Congratulations are in order to those who worked their hearts out for Edwards. There were thousands of supporters who canvassed, campaigned and called to re-elect a Democratic red-state governor who expanded Medicaid for nearly a half-million people, cut the number of low-income adults who were unable to see a doctor by 4.2 percent and the number of people who weren’t taking a prescribed medication by nearly 7 percent. Obama was one of those volunteers, too. He recorded a robocall to give Edwards a boost.

Getting anyone elected takes a village, but this is especially true for Democrats in ruby red states such as Louisiana. Beyond the work, it takes an important shift in Democratic politics. 

Purity tests have got to go. 

John Bel Edwards isn’t your average Democrat. No one would expect a Louisiana statewide official to be. Although his pro-life stance was well known, Edwards signed an extremely regressive anti-abortion bill in 2018 that would outlaw abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, with no exceptions for rape of the mother or incest. 


The bill would go into effect only if a similar Mississippi measure survived a court challenge — which it did not — but this move was enough to upset key Edwards’s supporters, most notably women. One Democratic supporter posted on Facebook: “I am grateful he expanded Medicaid. But I shall no longer vote for him. For anything. At some point in time, one has to stand firmly for women (sic) rights.”

I can’t be sure whether this woman ended up voting for Edwards, but my guess is that she did — just like so many others who had railed against him. I find his stance on abortion as appalling as the next liberal Democrat, but whatever Edwards was doing worked in October and again on Saturday. 

Anyone who is good enough for Barack Obama to back is good enough for me.

Democrats must be more mindful of the alternative, because in conservative districts the difference between full-throttled support for the Democrat and tepid support can mean a GOP victory. As Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman said, there can be no litmus tests for Democrats. “ As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America,” he said. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBusiness groups target moderate Democrats on Biden tax plans Democrats fret over Biden spending Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands MORE (D-W.Va.) is another example of the perils of purity tests. The famously conservative senator consistently has come under liberal fire for his pro-gun stance and, most recently, for voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

After his vote, liberal protestors in Washington screamed “Shame!” at Manchin. But at home in coal country, there were no such shouts to be heard — only praise. Kevin Dalton, an emergency dispatcher from Madison, W.Va., told the New York Times: “Joe Manchin knows that the people of this state, we are God-fearing, pro-gun, pro-life. His constituents out here told him, basically, ‘You vote this guy in, or we’re going to vote you out.’ He figured he better stay in with his people.”

If you haven’t watched the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House,” take the time to do it and pay particular attention to how Manchin’s progressive challenger, Paula Jean Swearengin, fared in 2018. The Green New Deal and single-payer health care have no place in West Virginia politics and that isn’t going to change.

There are so many other examples of liberal Democrats lashing out at conservative or moderate Democrats for their positions — notably, the Justice Democrats’ challenge to Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports MORE (D-Calif.), one of the great heroes of the party, for not being liberal enough on issues such as climate change. 

With obviously absurd accusations, leftist activists have become emboldened to take their agenda to places it doesn’t belong. The reality is that the Democratic Party is still the party of John F. Kennedy in many parts of the country. And that’s just fine. 

Democrats either want the seats or they don’t. We can’t make Edwards or Manchin more liberal. They represent constituencies that are more like Coleman’s grandmother and less like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPBS White House reporter Yamiche Alcindor to moderate 'Washington Week' Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms MORE’s (I-Vt.) base. Pushing policies that don’t reflect our big tent will only mean our tent gets smaller. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.