Charlie Harper: No pleasing Party of No

April 18, 2013 

I've almost been amused at the press Senator Johnny Isakson has received over the past week. Almost. Some on the hard right are going ballistic over the temerity of Isakson to agree to have dinner with 11 of his colleagues from the Senate and the president. These same folks are people who like to paint President Obama as being aloof and detached. Yet when the president makes an attempt to actually build those bridges that are needed so that honest and frank discussion on curing the nations' fiscal problems, too many on the right don't want the conversation.

We have a representative government for a reason. It's not so that those we elect to represent us will just say no to every vote, every opportunity, every proposal, without discussion.

We work with people from opposite sides to shape legislation not for the sake of compromise, but so that we can explain why our approach is better, and so that we can incorporate our principles, values, and ideals into the legislation that will ultimately pass.

Such is the case with the vote on opening debate on the Democrats' gun control package in the Senate. I actually got to hear people on the radio asking who should primary Isakson because he would dare to allow the debate to begin.

Think about that for a moment. Some, having learned nothing about our politics that allowed Republicans to be painted as obstructionist over being solution oriented, now want to make allowing a debate on a major issue of the day an act for which there is no forgiveness.

Let's think this through logically in a couple of ways.

Even if this debate moves to cloture for a final vote in the Senate and passes, it's not going to pass the House. Period.

So allowing the debate in the Senate isn't going to allow the president to take your guns or mine. It's not going to allow Nancy Pelosi to register your guns or mine. All it's going to do is give the NRA another excuse to send more fundraising appeals and talk radio hosts to foster the anger that has become too associated with a large part of our party that seems to quickly lose sight of the big picture.

And what is that big picture?

It's a large number of Senate seats currently held by Democrats in Western, Republican-leaning states. The kind of states that Republicans will need if they're going to pick up control of the Senate in 2014. The kind of place where Republicans can drive a wedge between Democratic senators and Democratic leadership. But you can do this only if you allow a vote.

Instead, we're hearing the cry of RINO again for those who vote to approve this debate. Good old RINOs like Johnny Isakson and Pat Toomey. Wait -- Pat Toomey? The guy who was supposed to oust the old RINO Arlen Specter? The former president of Club for Growth, one of the biggest RINO-hunting organizations in the conservasphere? Yes, that Pat Toomey.

Just as is the case with Marco Rubio helping negotiate immigration reform, any patron saint of the hard right can find himself in the RINO camp by actually trying to … govern. As our representative system says they're supposed to.

We've had an immigration problem in this country for far too long. We have fiscal issues that will bankrupt us all if not solved. And the issue of gun control needs a public hearing so the public can know who stands behind the Second Amendment and who wants to erase it.

It's time for those of us engaged in the political process to get out from behind the soundbites of talk radio, understand the processes going on around us, and be part of the solution. Continuing to carp from the sidelines will only serve to distance us from those who actually cut a deal on any of the above issues when that time comes.

I don't want us to be the party of "No." I want us to be the party of ideas. But we won't be that party unless we position ourselves to sell them to those who don't currently align with us. It's time more of us understood that.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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