Let's hope Senate candidate Richard Mourdock still gets it.
If this account is true and accurate – not always a safe assumption with political reporting these days – it’s disappointing and maybe a little disturbing. Even hard-line conservative GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, the website Huffington Post gleefully reports, disagrees with Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on his stubborn insistence to never compromise with Democrats unless they give in.
Furthermore, Mourdock himself seems to be backing off from that declaration in an unseemly fit of hypocrisy. “Over the past week,” the website reports, “Mourdock has been trying to cast himself as more of a team player who can work with anyone. His latest ad features Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman saying exactly that. But Mourdock said often in his primary campaign to oust incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar that the elder statesman’s style of working across the aisle was part of the problem …”
Granted, nothing unusual is going on here. In fact, it’s very much politics as usual. The rule is that a candidate is fiery and unyielding in the primary to keep the base engaged, then tones it down for the general election so as not to scare off the “moderates” and “independents.” The rule certainly applies here. Lugar, all politics aside, would have been a favorite to win because he is a revered political figure here. But Mourdock’s unflinching conservatism has obviously given many of those in the middle pause, because pools show him in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly.
And whether compromise is good or bad depends on what is being compromised and whether one is negotiating from a position of strength or a position of weakness. But in a true compromise, it’s hard to see how each side can give up something without one of them violating bedrock principles to do so. A bedrock principle for conservatives today is that government growth must be rolled back, not just stopped. Can we live with a compromise that merely slows the growth of government a little?
No, we cannot. “Politics as usual” isn’t going to get us out of the fiscal mess we’re in. If the Republicans we send to Washington in November take the usual approach to politics, it won’t mean a thing even if they own the White House and both houses of Congress.
Until now, Mourdock has seemed to grasp that. His “no compromise with Democrats unless they change” seemed to draw a line: Government growth is off the table. We’re not sure that line is there now, and somehow the idea of a cooperative Mourdock being cheered on by an accommodating Ryan does not bring us much comfort.