Ideological purity

Why do conservative Republican voters dominating some 50 congressional districts around the country seem bent on electing representatives to the U.S. House who are unwilling – or unable – to support measures that involve compromise even with members of their own party? Are those voters so wedded to right-wing ideology that they’re willing for their representatives to cast vote after vote against anything they don’t like, damn the consequences?

The Tea Party faction in the House has made a mockery of the legislative process, frequently withholding support for any proposal that does not give them exactly what they want. They ignore one reality: in a two-party system, some degree of compromise is necessary for effective governance no matter which party holds the majority at any given time. Saying “no” to proposal after proposal without bothering to offer an alternative is neither strategic nor tactical, as Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza pointed out in a recent column. Increasingly, even the more mainstream Republican members are being publicly critical of their ideology-driven brethren.

Two weeks ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner found himself nearly unable to deliver on his pledge to avoid another so-called “fiscal cliff” when Tea Party-aligned conservatives played a key role in blocking a Senate-approved measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security until the end of the fiscal year. In fact, they went a step further and refused even to support a three-week funding extension, all because the budgetary measure did not include an unrelated provision to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive order preventing the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Only a last-minute, one-week extension kept paychecks flowing to thousands of department employees.

A clean funding bill finally was passed last week, picking up some Republican votes after the GOP leadership in the House decided there really was no viable alternative, given the Senate’s refusal to attach the immigration provision to the bill. But the hard-line conservatives remained opposed.

Do conservatives across America truly want their representatives to oppose the President and Congressional Democrats solely on ideological grounds no matter how paralyzed the nation’s governing body becomes? We doubt it. The pressure is on Republican leadership in both the House and Senate to convince their most conservative members that “no” is a word most frequently tolerated only from children.


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