The XX Factor

Why Are Republicans Signing a Purity Pledge?

Today, Republicans are deciding whether to water down the new proposed “purity resolution”-10 conservative principles future candidates have to agree to. I, for one, can’t get past the name. “Purity resolution” comes from the “True Love Waits” movement. It’s a pledge signed by teenagers-mostly girls-agreeing to stay virgins until married. In the context of sexuality, the word “purity” transmits a clear-and these days, transgressive-message. In the context of politics, “purity” seems squeamish and naive, with a touch of the Aryan.

Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America served the same purpose. It created a set of principles to unify Republicans. But with its emphasis on “fiscal responsibility” and “taking back our streets,” the contract had a certain kind of muscular practicality this one lacks. Gingrich took special care to avoid including abortion and other divisive social issues in his contract.

This time, the Republicans are taking the opposite approach. The name “purity resolution” was chosen by James Bopp, Jr., from Indiana, a member of the Republican National Committee who is associated with National Right to Life. The principles are a throwback to the pre-Gingrich culture war era: anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-union, anti-immigrant. Many conservatives have pointed out that even Ronald Reagan would not pass. Bopp’s answer to this charge displays a kind of subtlety and intelligence we would want in a man helping choose our future leaders: ” Ronald Reagan was the most conservative president in the last 100 years. Everyone knows this, and it is stupid to suggest otherwise.”