The Washington Post

Richard Mourdock and the GOP's idea of bipartisanship

Richard Mourdock, fresh off of defeating Dick Lugar in the Indiana Senate primary, hit the ground running with a quote everyone is talking about this morning:

MOURDOCK: I certainly think bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view. … If we [win the House, Senate, and White House], bipartisanship means they have to come our way, and if we’re successful in getting the numbers, we’ll work towards that.

That’s the Republican nominee on MSNBC.

What I think is interesting about this is that, by most accounts, Mourdock isn’t really part of the crazy faction of Republican politics. A recent New York Times profile compares him more to Utah Senator Mike Lee than to flaky and failed 2010 nominees Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell. That is, Mourdock is part of the new normal in Republican politics, and that’s a “normal” that utterly rejects the notion that any cooperation between the parties is possible — that is, without the other party’s abject capitulation.

As I’ve argued, the problem with the Republican Party — the problem that Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein write about in their new diagnosis of dysfunction, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks — isn’t that many of today’s Republicans are extraordinarily conservative. It’s that they reject the kinds of co-operation and compromise with their opponents that a Madisonian system depends upon.

What’s depressing about Mourdock’s quote is that it’s not about conservative policy positions or philosophy. It’s all about partisan polarization almost as a primary goal in and of itself — a goal that is now commonly aspired to even by mainstream Republicans. If their most important project during the Obama era has been to make the political system more dysfunctional than ever, that project took another step forward yesterday.


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