Principled opposition to the fiscal cliff agreement is no vice. Conservatives such as U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, believe they must take a stand against Obama's arrogant governance and out-of-control spending. But politics is supposed to temper principle with pragmatism, forging policies that not everybody will like (and indeed that most everybody will find some fault with).
The fiscal cliff was narrowly averted in an ugly, last-minute deal. The key issues will return. If House Republicans can't coalesce behind Boehner, if a leadership vacuum is evident, then Obama and the Democrats will exploit their divisions over and over. If “mainstream” Republicans are knocked off in primaries (only to see the challenger lose in general elections), their numbers and influence will shrink.
The difficulty of reaching a deal and the fact that it went down to the wire aren't necessarily bad things. Despite his re-election, Obama has no right to cakewalk his way through a second term. If he wants a fight over fiscal responsibility, the Republicans should respond in kind.
But they need to respond from a position of relative unity rather than division. For want of a vision, a House could be lost. And a president who wants to leave a dirty fiscal carpet for future generations to clean naturally abhors a vacuum.
McReynolds is The Oklahoman's opinion editor.