In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been treated to a series of Republican heavyweights bemoaning the fate of their party and its cringe-worthy presidential nominating contest. I hope GOPers in Congress and on the hustings are listening to the concerns and the counsel being offered. What’s happening is no way to run an enterprise as important as the United States.
The complaints come in two categories: governing and campaigning. Barbara Bush’s comments yesterday in Dallas dealt firmly with both. At a conference on first ladies at Southern Methodist University, the wife of President George H.W. Bush said, “I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life. I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word.” Amen.
Bush’s campaign criticism is a riff on what her son Jeb said in Dallas two weeks ago: “I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don't think I’ve changed,” the former Florida governor said during a question-and-answer session after a speech, “but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are.”
Jon Huntsman addressed the debates during an interview on “Morning Joe” last month. The former presidential candidate, who participated in more than a few of the debates, said, “I think because we’ve had so many of them, they’ve dumbed down the value of debates and people watch them for entertainment value.” And then he added this: “Gone are the days where the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold visionary stuff.”
With her surprise announcement that she was retiring, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is firmly in the governing-complaint camp. “You can never solve a problem without talking to people with whom you disagree,” she said on MSNBC last week. “The United States Senate is predicated and based on consensus-building. That was certainly the vision of the Founding Fathers. And if we abandon that approach, then we do it at the expense of the country and the issues that we need to address to put us back on track.”
Snowe explained further in an op-ed for The Post on Sunday.
The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support. In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future.
For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building — but also a political reward for following these tenets. That reward will be real only if the people demonstrate their desire for politicians to come together after the planks in their respective party platforms do not prevail.
It’s that last sentence that holds the most power. Snowe reminds us that politicians listen to their party base and their constituents. As long as they demand lockstep ideological purity and rigidity from their gerrymandered representatives — and punish those who defy them — the dysfunction and paralysis will continue. You want to change Washington? Let your government govern.