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Responsibly Republican?

April 17, 2010

Featured Article

Responsible Republicans! Come back to us! We need you now more than ever. From Jacob Weisberg’s Slate article, “Who Killed the Responsible Republican? Bill Kristol”:

If Responsible Republicans are in fact nearing extinction, I think we can identify the crucial event that signaled their demise. It was a December 1993 memo by conservative strategist and commentator William Kristol. Kristol’s advice about how Republicans should respond to Bill Clinton’s 1993 health care effort—and a series of follow-up memos he wrote in 1994—pushed the GOP away from cooperation with Democrats on any social and economic legislation. His message marks the pivotal moment when Republicans shifted from fundamentally responsible partners in governing the country to uncompromising, hyperpartisan antagonists on all issues …

Read the whole thing because it gets at some important observations about why this approach is ultimately self-defeating and paralyzing. Fundamental issues like financial reform get no traction with the current crop of irreponsible Republicans. And the whole country loses out:

Under Obama, the Republican Party has simply tried to replay its script from the Clinton years, opposing everything the president proposes, looking for heretics to burn, and calling the other side extreme—though this time without blocking the president’s major initiative. They’ve been at it again this week, claiming, absurdly, that financial regulations supported by Democrats would amount to a perpetual bank bailout.

The politics of Republican implacability are based on what might seem an obvious insight that competition is a zero-sum game. If Democrats pass their plans, they succeed politically and Republicans lose. But while elections are zero-sum, politics as a whole is not. Without some level of bipartisan cooperation, voters become increasingly cynical, the system becomes too paralyzed to address the major issues, and the whole country suffers in consequence. Longer term, it is hard to see the politics of “no” as a winning Republican strategy ….

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