Not a Pox on Both Their Houses—Just the GOP's

The time for Tea Party extremism is over, and Republicans must reach across the aisle.

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The public is furious at Congress. The business community is furious at Congress. The president is furious at Congress. Heck, the Congress is furious at Congress!

The "Plan B" debacle has further eroded House Speaker John Boehner's standing in his own caucus. It hasn't helped much out in the countryside either, telegraphing an image of inaction and disorganization.

All that seems to be left to come out of the Republicans is finger pointing and petty politics. Democrats are so mad that they aren't far behind either.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

But it is the Republicans who have been boxed in by their own extremism. We are to a point where the leadership of the congressional Republicans may be constitutionally (I don't mean capital "C") incapable of achieving a deal on almost anything controversial that comes before them. They are so far out of the mainstream, and they answer to their most extreme members, that it is nearly impossible for them to deliver on legislation, without jeopardizing  their jobs.

Right now it is the fiscal cliff, next it will be the debt ceiling, then immigration, then climate change, then confirmation of presidential appointments and judges. And somehow Republicans still believe that paralysis will allow them to win elections. They are so caught up in the politics and strapped into their own ideological straight jackets that the word compromise does not leave their lips.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the fiscal cliff.]

Forget that such intransigence is bad for the country. Forget that the public overwhelmingly supports President Obama's positions. Forget that the vitriol directed at Congress is at an all time high and only climbing.

Sure, the Republicans now represent more extreme districts politically. Sure, many of them could get beat in a primary if they acted responsibly. Sure, the interest groups headed by the likes of Grover Norquist or now Jim DeMint will come down their throats. But, really, you don't have the backbone, the spine, the courage to sign on to a compromise that helps the nation? Even when the public has shown in poll after poll that is what they want? Why did you run for Congress in the first place?

[See 2012: The Year in Cartoons.]

The notion of legislators taking on the tough problems and solving them is almost a relic with this crop of Republicans. They don't see how important it is to work across the aisle and actually accomplish something. Think about it: Would Ronald Reagan tolerate this nonsense? How about George H.W. Bush? How about Dwight Eisenhower? Or Everett Dirksen? Or Howard Baker?

The time for Tea Party extremism is over. Real Republicans should recognize that.

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