“lit-mus test”: A litmus test is a term from chemistry meaning a decisively indicative test.
Example: “opposition to the nomination became a litmus test for political support of candidates”
Over the last 20 years or so, we have observed the deep ideological divide that has evolved in our Country, driven partly by social media. Accusations of “fake news”, misogyny, racism, “science denial”, “deplorables”, “selfish bastards”, “libtards”, “baby killers” and other, similar invectives have become routine attacks by one tribe against another.
A secondary effect of this polarization, the ideological “litmus test” is now used to determine whether a person’s adherence to a particular political ideology is sufficiently “pure” to be accepted for tribe membership. Any wavering on the group’s “hot button” issues will result in rejection of candidates as undeserving of support.
But, is it helpful for us to go off into our separate echo chambers and reiterate how terrible the other side is?
Instead, I would argue that the real missing link in our country today is leadership.
Whether we argue about COVID-19, election integrity, whose lives matter the most, whether rioting and property destruction is acceptable, or whether a SCOTUS appointment should occur, it’s all based on our tribal litmus tests.
We are witnessing a societal breakdown as our cities burn because even the roles and responsibilities of citizens, their government and law enforcement have become blurred. Clearly, the US is not perfect, but simply trying to erase the history won’t make the memories go away.
To solve our problems, we will require true leadership, not just mandates from the President that we must all wear masks or sloganeering about America’s greatness. That’s just not good enough.
But, where will we find those leaders, whether at the local, state or national level?
To answer this question, we turn to one of America’s greatest leaders ever, President Dwight Eisenhower. Known for his leadership ability, not only as President, but also as the Allies Supreme Commander during World War II, “Ike” was able to accomplish more than most because he was able to collaborate with a broad spectrum of others to get things done.
As we study his life, we find Eisenhower also had a “litmus test” of sorts when it came to leadership. In his words:
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably INTEGRITY. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
What is integrity? It has many aspects, but, in our opinion, the most important is that one does the “right thing” even when no one is watching.
Why is integrity in a leader so critical? Simply put, it’s because without integrity of the leader, the entire organization will be suspect. Whether it’s the U.S. Congress or a cabinet department, whether it’s a governor or the mayor and council of a town or the Commissioner Board of a County, lack of integrity leads to flawed motivations and dishonesty. And, in order to accept that dishonesty, we must become polarized and hide behind our litmus tests to justify our enablement of our government.
But, is that really good enough? Isn’t it time to expect…no, DEMAND more of those we put into office?
For the upcoming November election, I challenge you to apply a NEW litmus test. Let’s evaluate those who seek to represent us by the Eisenhower test—INTEGRITY. Let’s pay less attention to which tribe the candidates are in, and more attention to whether they deserve to lead us, starting with their integrity: will they do the right thing even when we can’t watch?
Do they routinely lie about their opponents or their own accomplishments? Not good enough. Find someone else. Or, leave that box blank. Stop enabling them.
Do they not understand that ethics matter? Dump them like a hot potato. We deserve better.
Integrity matters on the local level too—a candidate who has avoided taxes, retaliated against opponents, collaborated with cronies, or, wasted taxpayer dollars on boondoggles doesn’t deserve your support. Dump them.
And, yes, especially at the local level, your tribe member doesn’t deserve your support if their decisions have been tainted by cronyism, or dishonesty. Even if they pass the “non-RINO” test, they must not succeed.
In this 2020 election, let’s use a new litmus test: INTEGRITY. The only one that matters.
Dave Kisker, President
People United for Responsible Government