In our present political climate, it’s not surprising that many Americans are expressing a desire for greater bipartisanship on the part of their elected officials. To many of us, the tone of the political discourse appears to have grown rather too coarse in recent weeks.
This divisive discourse was on display last week when the spokesman for the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, delivered a remarkably rancor-filled diatribe blaming almost everyone but the NRA-financed gun lobby for the dreadful massacre a week earlier in Newtown, Conn.
Deservedly, LaPierre has taken a great deal of criticism for his rant although it’s conceivable it may actually unite many Americans in a necessary national conversation on how to finally come to terms with the inescapable fact that our country has a huge problem that can’t be solved by the NRA’s institutional intransigence on the topic of gun control.
In the meantime, the issue of bipartisanship continues to draw attention, but the American people understand that partisan politics are not intrinsically bad. In a representative democracy such as ours, we are best served when there are at least two major political parties that, quite naturally, express often sharply differing values and are prepared to campaign vigorously on behalf of these values.
Yet, there are times when partisanship should be put aside. The saying is that partisanship ends at the water’s edge, as when the United States needs to confront a common (foreign) enemy. That belief has been put to more than one severe test, but it remains the ideal and ought not be forgotten.
Right now, however, the fierce partisanship in Washington appears to be earning one party a black eye with the American people. A CNN poll taken last week found that 53 percent of those surveyed, including 22 percent of Republicans, said the party’s politics have pushed it beyond the mainstream. That is up dramatically from just two years ago when fewer than 40 percent thought the GOP was too extreme. The poll found that Democrats were considered to be a “generally mainstream” party by 57 percent of the respondents.
And those figures explain why President Obama won last month. But too many Republicans seem unable to grasp that basic truth.
Immediately after the November election, former GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich said “the president won an extraordinary victory. And the fact is we owe him the respect of trying to understand what they did and how they did it … but if you had said to me three weeks ago, Mitt Romney would get fewer votes than John McCain and it looks like he’ll be two million fewer, I would have been dumbfounded.”
Now Gingrich says Romney was a bad candidate. Last week, he blamed his party for fostering “a corrosive culture” that made Romney its candidate and argued that Republicans have grown “stale and introverted, putting themselves on the wrong side of history on issues like immigration and painting itself into a corner on others, like gay marriage.”
Right now the Republicans may be in dire straits, but they’ll serve themselves — and their country — well if they recognize their need to alter course and stop blaming others for their self-inflicted woes.
Republicans have every right to oppose legislation advancing a political agenda they dislike. But there’s a growing sense now that too many of them are putting their party ahead of their country, that it’s more important to impede the president than to help find solutions to shared problems. That’s not good for them, or for us.MORE IN Editorials
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