David Broder started covering politics for The Washington Post in 1965,
back when politicians still reached across the aisle to get things done
(like Vietnam) and nobody cared what the blogs thought, because they hadn't been invented. It's an era Broder pines for in pretty much every one of
There's certainly a case to be made for bringing civility,
responsibility and centrism (the three most important planks of the
David Broder platform) back to American politics. But Broder's approach tends to blur the lines between 'moderate icon' and 'politician your grandparents really
liked.' In his Post column today, he pondered what Bob Dole and Gerald
Ford could teach Barack Obama and the Tea Party. This went about as well
as you would expect:
I was looking directly at the large photo mural of former senator Dole and his frequent partner, Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan, the House minority leader.Considering it was just last week that Broder observed "one of our great political parties -- Republican -- has undergone much more than the normal between-elections transition. And the other -- Democratic -- is having a helluva struggle adjusting to the change," this counts as progress.
One of them -- Ford -- achieved the presidency only briefly, when Richard Nixon was forced to resign. The other -- Dole -- failed each time he ran. But no one regards them as political failures, because they realized that victory is counted in more than vote totals. They won the ultimate tests of character for two reasons. They did not sacrifice their political principles. And they acknowledged that they shared the responsibility for making this system of government work.
It helped that they came to Washington as young military veterans, survivors of a war against an implacable enemy. They knew the difference between the Nazis, who were truly evil, and the Democrats, who were simply fellow Americans with different political beliefs.
For Obama and the Republicans to establish a productive post-election atmosphere, it may require nothing more than the recapture of that wisdom of their political forebears. Behave as if you are veterans, and today's political disputes will recede to their proper size.