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GOP candidates and California's political maps: Two sides of the same coin?

June 14, 2011 |  1:42 pm

Debaters If you're a teacher or a politician, you have at least a common affliction: too many standardized tests.

Educators often complain about the need to "teach to the test." But what about the need to "campaign to the test"?

One stifles students' educations; the other is threatening to stifle our political discourse.

For politicians, there are numerous such tests, especially for Republicans today.  For example, Times columnist Tim Rutten wrote Saturday about the religion test.

Pointing to numerous possible GOP presidential hopefuls who have made faith a central part of campaign oratory, Rutten recalls the warning issued by John F. Kennedy in his 1960 speech on religion and politics:

"This year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed; in other years it has been — and may someday be again — a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you, until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril."

Then there's the conservative purity test.

For presumed GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, it's about healthcare.  As rival Tim Pawlenty said in a Times story Sunday:

"President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare," Pawlenty told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "And so, we now have the same features -- essentially the same features. The president's own words is that he patterned in large measure Obamacare after what happened in Massachusetts. And what I don't understand is they both continue to defend it."

Later in the story, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took his own swings at Romney, and at former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman:

"I think they have held positions in the past that have not been conservative," he told David Gregory on NBC’s "Meet the Press." "And I think they have to account for those."

Huntsman served as Obama's ambassador to China.  His reward from fellow Republicans for serving his country at the president's request?  As a Times story Monday said:

Huntsman's two years of service to Obama may be a disqualifier in a party that seems in no mood to compromise, as former Gov. John Sununu of New Hampshire indicated the other day when asked whether he might endorse Huntsman.

"I only support Republicans," Sununu said.

But it's not just Republicans who face tests.  As the same story pointed out:

President Obama, aggressively gearing up for reelection, has compiled his own record of policy reversals. PolitiFact.com, which tracks what it calls "full flops" by prominent political figures, catalogs nine instances in which Obama made 180-degree flip.

Want more?  Here's another doozy from the Democrats. Last week, Californians got their first looks at proposed redistricting. The idea is to bring more moderate candidates into play, both Democrats and Republicans.

The Times on Saturday wrote about Congressional District 26, which is represented by Republican Rep. David Dreier but which, under the new plan, may become more heavily Democratic and Latino.

The story quotes Marlen Garcia, a Democrat and mayor pro tem of Baldwin Park, which is in the proposed new district. Garcia "said her community had been anxiously awaiting the proposed district maps in hopes that they might bring better representation for low-income Latinos. She said she hoped a new representative would be a Democrat and Latino."

Since she cast her first vote as a teenager growing up in Boyle Heights, Garcia said, "I knew I needed someone in office who was my color skin, spoke my language and understood my living conditions and culture. It had a huge impact."

Is this truly where America is headed?  Is it going to be that only a Latino representative can represent Latinos, with presumably the same applying for blacks, Asians, whites, gays, straights. Where does that process end? 

And for Republicans, will it really be that only the purest of religious and hard-right conservatives need apply? A moderate Republican like Huntsman, appointed in a display of bipartisanship by a Democratic president, is branded a traitor for it by his own party?

This is the wrong road for America, both for Republicans and Democrats. Religion is a personal matter, not a political one. Race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are not the key qualifications for office. Bipartisanship is not retreat. Compromise is not defeat. 

As the ancient Greek poet Hesiod advised: "Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things."

--Paul Whitefield 

GOP presidential candidates greet the crowd at a New Hampshire hockey arena prior to Monday's debate. From left, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain. Credit: Jim Cole / Associated Press

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