In essence, there are now few if any penalties for governing as an ideologue, even if that undermines your party leaders and caucus colleagues and results in bad policy. The factors that once brought the fringes into the fold have eroded, and President Reagan’s commitment to strategic compromise has lost considerable currency.
Fortunately, the democratic process is ever-evolving and capable of change. The public’s anger over the shutdown and the corporate community’s disgust with Congress’ economic mismanagement has prompted a sudden visible shift in the political winds in Washington.
That blowback drove an ideological odd couple, conservative House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and his progressive Senate counterpart, Patty Murray, to the bargaining table to avoid a second shutdown. Speaker John Boehner’s willingness to work across the aisle has also strengthened his standing with his colleagues — not weakened it, as many expected — and that position has been further bolstered by his bold defense of the Murray-Ryan pact against external conservative opposition. Meanwhile, a moderate Republican congressional candidate in Alabama recently scored an unexpected victory against a Tea Party absolutist.
These steps signal the possibility of real, lasting change will occur as leaders gain and assert the confidence to chart a new course.