Two years ago, my friends and I had the opportunity to meet thenWashington State congressional representative Jeff Gombosky(D-Wash.). He mentioned to us at that time that the “GingrichRevolution” taking over the Republican Party troubled himgreatly. He felt that these Gingrich Republicans were unwilling tocompromise, and openly displayed an unprecedented level ofhostility and mean-spiritedness towards Democrats.
Last quarter, I worked as part of the Legislative Internship inOlympia, where I saw firsthand the importance of compromise and thenecessity of a cooperative temperament amongst the leaders of bothparties.
This showed me that ideological extremism is directly counter tothe very nature of negotiation. During this time I began tounderstand why Gombosky was so concerned. Without compromise,without a willingness to negotiate, nothing gets done.
The “Gingrich Revolution” has become a cancerousgrowth in the American body politic, festering within theRepublican Party, and its effects are becoming clear. Consider thewords of the freshman Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.): “IfGeorge Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins theelection.” Education Secretary Rod Paige called the NationalEducation Association a “terrorist organization.”Bush’s officials in the White House excused Paige’sremarks by saying that he was “clearly joking.”
Associating political candidates or a teacher’s union withterrorists is something that one would expect from thelunatic-style rants of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh orMichael Savage, not from elected officials.
While my concerns about the extremism of some of the current”Gingrich Republicans” are great, I am more concernedabout an incoming generation of Republican leaders, members of mygeneration.
I am disturbed with what I had encountered from my fellow EWUstudents in Olympia. During the internship, we met every week for aclass. The book we were reading discussed how members of theminority party in various state senates dealt with their status bycreating compromises to get some of their agenda through.Eventually, some members of the minority party got tired of beingthe “little guy.” To gain notice and popularity theRepublicans, who were in the minority of these state senates, beganstalling, stopped compromising and would launch insults at theiropponents.
Eventually, the attention that these Republicans got from thepublic helped them to gain power and win the majority, sacrificingcompromise and creating a culture of hostility. I felt that theremust be a more ethical way to win a majority.
The EWU Republicans felt differently.
They thought such tactics were perfectly justifiable. In fact,one response I got was: “Hey, they won,” followed by ashrug.
After our meeting, my blood went cold. It dawned on me then howvalid Gombosky’s fears were, knowing that this could possiblybe the nature of politics in the future, in which Republicanpoliticians feel that acquiring power, no matter how unethical themeans, is justified.
I hope that the more moderate elements of the Republican Partycan inhibit the spread of the “Gingrich Revolution,”and create an ethical atmosphere amongst their members. I fear thatpartisan extremism will cause people to forget the central tenet ofpolitics: to get stuff done.