Leonard Pitts Jr.: Our politics is a mess, but one party is the reason

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: May 19, 2012
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And another one bites the dust.

But Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar did not go quietly. After last week's defeat in the GOP primary, the veteran legislator issued a remarkable statement warning of the dangers of continued partisanship. Lugar, a conservative who embraces “the Republican principles of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free enterprise and trade expansion,” was nevertheless targeted for defeat by conservatives who felt he had strayed from ideological orthodoxy. This, because he compromised with the other party on a few matters — the auto industry bailout, TARP, the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices — that were, he thought, “the right votes for the country.”


“Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum,” Lugar said, “are dominating the political debate in our country. … They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise.”

The senator is in the ballpark. But he misstates the problem in two ways.

In the first place, the issue is not partisanship, but hyper-partisanship, a mindset that prioritizes party above country. In the second place, Lugar's sop to moral equivalence notwithstanding, this is not a problem caused by partisans “at both ends of the political spectrum.”

It was not Democrats who held the economy hostage in a manufactured debt ceiling crisis that caused the nation's credit rating to be lowered for the first time in history. It was not Democrats who voted down their own deficit reduction resolution, apparently because they didn't want the president to share credit. It was not a Democratic leader who declared defeating the president his top legislative priority.

No, it was Republicans who did all that. And it is not Democrats who have seen a steady trickle of condemnation and defection by their own appalled members.

That trickle includes Nathan Fletcher, a San Diego mayoral candidate who left the GOP because, “I don't believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy.”

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