In December I opined in this column that perhaps the best thing that could happen to the Republican Party is to sustain a good shellacking in the November election.
A number of readers took umbrage, choosing to dismiss it as liberal bias rather than to examine the merits of the argument.
Last week, two scholars -- Thomas Mann from the liberal Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein from the more conservative American Enterprise Institute -- reached a similar conclusion.
They state unequivocally that the blame for the current dysfunction in Washington lies at the feet of the Republican Party.
In an opinion piece in The Washington Post last week, they wrote:
"In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."
Republicans, in my view, have embraced the type of negotiation tactics that has placed President Barack Obama in a similar position to the one that led President John Kennedy to conclude after his 1961 summit in Vienna with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev:
"We cannot negotiate with those who say, 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.' "
Republicans have become an anti-intellectual, anti-tax and anti-science protest party that eschews compromise.
Pick an issue -- where have the Republicans demonstrated leadership beyond their "our way or no way" philosophy? Was it climate change, the economy, the deficit, the debt ceiling or the health care legislation?
The strident tone that the party has embraced would leave little room for bygone Republican stalwarts such as Jacob Javits, John Danforth or Everett Dirksen, let alone Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan.
The individual mandate of the health care legislation that the Supreme Court is currently evaluating is not some Orwellian first step to deconstruct the welfare of a free society but an idea put forth by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Republicans in Congress have taken a conservative idea that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also used to pass health care legislation in Massachusetts, transforming it into Marxist ideology to prove the president is attempting to change the nation for the worse.
In our system of government, it is always problematic when one political party passes major legislation alone. But what should the president do when the Republicans have no desire to support anything he proposes, even if it is their idea?
Politically speaking, I understand that when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested if Republicans work with the president, he will get the credit.
What I don't understand is when such considerations trump working in the interest of the American people.
This is not to suggest Democrats are the party of virtue, but it is difficult for our form of democracy to function when one party prefers the comfort of the extreme.
Hiding behind a campaign promise may provide one with the appearance of sticking to one's principles, but it is a cowardly way to govern.
The strict adherence to a campaign promise when governing can be as useful as paying for auto repairs before the mechanic has determined the problem.
Our system of government needs two political parties actively engaging in the marketplace of ideas. That also includes casting difficult votes and sometimes compromising on behalf of the American people. Anyone can hold a placard that reads "No!" That's called being an activist. But should the American taxpayer compensate such acts at $174,000 annually?
Between liberal and conservative orthodoxy lies the answers to America's myriad problems. But answers are impossible to find if one party is content to stay under a rock appearing periodically to offer focus-tested pabulum to justify doing nothing.
Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of the forthcoming book: 1963: The Year of Hope and Hostility. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website 1963hopeandhostility.com
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