Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander struck the latest blow in the ongoing Republican intraparty squabble between ideologues and pragmatists -- or, in Chris Christie-speak, "winners" and "college professors" -- in an op-ed published in the Tennessean newspaper Tuesday.
The entire piece, which was written in response to calls from tea party groups for Alexander to step aside due to his willingness to work across the aisle, is worth reading but one paragraph stood out to us. Here it is:
"I learned to count in Maryville City Schools. So I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech."
That's as good an explanation of the philosophy that animates the pragmatist wing of the Republican party as we have read. It's based on a belief that prizes the accomplishment even if that accomplishment is short of your preferred goal. It's based on the belief that the goal of governing is to address -- via legislation -- the problems facing the country.
For the ideological wing of the Republican party, participating in the act of governing can be a sign of insufficient adherence to principle. Accepting that you will inevitably come up short of your goal in order to get something done is a sign of throwing in the towel before the game is really even underway. It's not compromise, it's concession.
It's a divide that won't be bridged until, at least, the 2016 Republican presidential primary fight. Until then, expect more where this came from.