Amid all the recent dysfunction in Washington, and with the passing of former House speaker Tom Foley, there has been a lot of pining for the days of Bob Dole and Tip O’Neill, for the time when Democrats and Republicans walked hand in hand by the reflecting pool.
Give me a break: When Foley was speaker, acting with civility and comity was in a lawmaker's best interest. In those days, you had to be nice to your committee chairman to get a friendly hearing for whatever you wanted inserted into a bill or to be considered for subcommittee chairman.
But Congress no longer works like that. Today it's all about the periodic mega-votes on continuing resolutions or the symbolic votes that interest groups score. For many Republicans, the big concerns are whether the Club for Growth will give them a pass in their primary race, whether they get face time on a cable news shouting match and whether talk-radio hosts think they are sufficiently belligerent about all things Obama. The lack of strategy and collective discipline has produced an every-man-for-himself political culture that is the enemy of policy development.
Good policy is the best politics, but if you don't make any policy, you don't get any good political results. I try to be a loyal advocate for the GOP cause, but even I have lost track of what the party is trying to accomplish. And don't tell me our No. 1 priority is to defund Obamacare. I get it, but that's not possible under the power-sharing arrangement allowed by the Constitution. We need a Plan B.
The demise of the GOP and the wounds inflicted by the recent showdown are being overstated, but Republicans still need to be for something realistic. Our country has no shortage of challenges. Now would be a perfect time to introduce a unified GOP alternative to Obamacare. Not stray random ideas or piecemeal retreads but a real solution. The worst-case scenario would be for Obamacare to implode and for Republicans to have nothing to offer in its place.
As for foreign affairs, consider two simple questions: Where in the world is the United States stronger today than it was the day Barack Obama was elected? And what key relationship has been developed between our president and a foreign leader at Mr. Obama's initiative or courting? There isn't a place in the world where we are more influential today than we were before Mr. Obama took office, and there isn't an international leader who is more likely to go out on a limb to support us.
Will Republicans step into the void, articulate a proactive, positive vision for the future, unite our party and country and, above all, lead? Nothing less than the GOP's standing as a national party and America's unquestioned global leadership are at stake.
Ed Rogers is a Republican strategist who blogs at The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog.