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Political Litmus Test

Updated on January 15, 2012

Ah, the oft-maligned litmus test. How many presidents and presidential candidates are mocked for having a litmus test to determine whom they will appoint to various positions - usually to the Supreme Court?

Reminder - A litmus test, as it relates to politics, is "A test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision"

Maybe allowing one issue to hold sway over others isn't the best idea. It's the sum of a person that makes him or her qualified - or not. But, is it possible that a position held on one issue actually tells more about a person than the sum of all positions?

Swayed by a Single Opinion

When I listen to candidates speak, and when I see nominees for judicial seats, one specific question comes to my mind. It is the answer to that question which will determine my opinion of that candidate.

Face it, a candidate's position on abortion sways voters. It's a fact. Just as a candidate's position on same-sex marriage, immigration or taxes will add or detract from their electability, depending on your point of view.

In Whole or Part

We're supposed to look at the whole, but how many of us do?

Take the current presidential campaign. I crossed off one candidate after another once their 'choice' positions were clear. After that, nothing mattered to me. In my opinion, a person's opinion on abortion tells me more about that person - and how large that person truly feels the government should or shouldn't be - than the sum of all his or her other opinions. It tells me what type of judge they will appoint to the Supreme Court - which tells me how that court will rule in the coming decades. It gives me a clearer idea what their view will be on same-sex unions, on foreign policy. Truly. If a candidate's desire is to restrict a woman's access to personal and private health care, then his or her desire to restrict other rights - in the US and around the world - cannot be far behind.

Take George W. Bush's anti-choice stance vs. President Obama's pro-choice stance, for example. One upheld the global gag rule, which restricted birth control and abortion advice to women around the world. The other lifted the gag rule so women had full access to that information and care. One insisted on small government yet used government to invade women's bodies worldwide. The other believes government is for the people and the people should benefit, yet reigned in government's role in determining a woman's bodily functions.

I don't know about you, but only one of those positions is attractive to me.

Clearly, I'm pro-choice and so I would never vote for an anti-choice candidate. That is my litmus test. What about you? Do you look at the whole candidate or does one issue hold sway over all?

Polititcal Litmus Test?

Do you look at a candidate's position on all issues or does a position on one specific issue decide things for you?

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    • Lady Quill profile image

      Lady Quill 6 years ago

      Thank you, lovemychris! So very true about Obama lifting the ban on step cell research - though I was not surprised by it since I absolutely believe a person's position on certain issues tells nearly the whole story about who they are and what they stand for on other important issues. Of course, though we may 'know' a lot about a person from one response, we also know they don't operate in a bubble. Some of what they do isn't always according to our vision - or what we see as their vision. In a perfect world it would be. Until then, there's "compromise". lol

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 6 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      I'm with you Lady.

      And another good thing Obama did was lift the ban on stem cell research

      So many people will be helped by that!

      To me, abortion is the ultimate freedom issue.

      What is more personal than that??

      That is my litmus test as well....the starting point.

    • Lady Quill profile image

      Lady Quill 6 years ago

      Josak, thanks for the comment and the votes for up and interesting! Truly appreciated.

      Abortion is such a personal issue, so I more than understand your ambivalence about the subject. Though this post wasn't necessarily about abortion, it is my litmus test for candidates. I'm happy to know my reasons for that were clear from the example I presented. :-)

      Thanks again for commenting.

    • Josak profile image

      Josak 6 years ago from variable

      Voted up and interesting I am somewhat on the fence abut abortion issues but you demonstrated your point excellently with the example.