“I think departments like the Department of Education, Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency — I think those are things that right now we can’t afford,” the Tea Party politician said in 2010, adding, “those are some of the departments I would cut right there.”
Like many of the wave of 2010 Republican freshmen who swept into the House of Representatives, Southerland came to Washington to make big changes. Right now.
Almost two years later, Southerland is sounding a different note. In a Tuesday Wall Street Journal article on negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff, Southerland said of his first term, “We came in wanting to change the world and realized it doesn’t move quite as fast as we would like.”
One more fever-swamp fantasy hits modern reality, and reality wins.
This isn’t to pick on Southerland, who is really more of a type. He’s an example of a politician who sweeps office having pledged things he or she could never honor. This heedless ambition is an equal-opportunity affliction, ensnaring Republicans and Democrats. Let’s recall how Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay’s prison for suspected terrorists. Didn’t happen, did it?
Perhaps the best we can hope for is that these newcomers are quick learners.
We hope that’s the case for Southerland and others in Congress’ Tea Party coalition. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appears to be working to put the more single-minded of his majority on the path to political reality.
It’s not unlike a 12-step process. Yes, the president won re-election despite Republicans’ vigorous attempts to make him a one-term president. Yes, Republicans will be blamed if the nation slips off the fiscal cliff. No, forestalling this issue four years until Obama is out of office is impractical.
As noted previously, Boehner has an unenviable job.
We could say the same for Obama. He’s spent much of his first term searching for reliable negotiating partners from the other side of the aisle. Instead, too many elected Republicans wasted time playing to their constituents’ ridiculous conspiracies about the president. Instead of seeking common ground, Republicans opted to stand in complete opposition to Obama’s major initiatives.
That didn’t work, and Republicans played a price in the 2012 election, losing control of the Senate and the White House. They kept the House despite the fact that more Americans voted for Democratic candidates than Republican ones.
It’s past time for compromise. The clock is ticking.