Congress is no place for ideologues
Lloyd Omdahl, Columnist
Congressional Republicans may have shot themselves in the foot in the recent debt limit debacle but everybody is limping.
As we look to another such controversy in the next few months, there is a possibility that irreconcilable differences on the left and the right may put the country into an economic downspin in another congressional impasse.
Confidence in our governmental institutions has declined to an abysmal level. It is apparent that tea party extremists have been taking the two parties down with them.
In a recent Gallup poll, approval of Congress stands at 12 percent. Republicans may have taken the harshest criticism but confidence in Democrats has also suffered.
Pew Research found that 74 percent of the voters want most members of Congress defeated in 2014; 38 percent want their own members defeated.
The block of 40 uncompromising tea party ideologues are determined to push the country over the cliff, even if it means ruining the credit of the country and defaulting on its obligations.
It is obvious that ideological purists cannot function constructively in a diverse country that requires compromise for the peaceful co-existence of a wide range of ethnic, religious, economic and social groups.
Many tea partyers are Evangelical Christians who are absolute about the matters of faith. For that they should be admired. But then they get elected to Congress and bring their absolutism to the secular world, it snarls a system that thrives on compromise.
For them, compromise is some sort of sin. The Apostle Paul compromised. God compromised. It’s strange that their followers can’t do it in the secular world.
Now the blame can’t be placed solely on tea party congressmen. To get elected, they must have the support of a significant number of like-minded citizens to defeat Republican incumbents in primary elections.
These like-minded voters are products of polarization, a condition produced by left-wing liberals and right-wing conservatives. They feast on the rants of MSNBC and FOX “News” to affirm their biases and intensify their partisanship.
But moderate Republicans are fed up with the present situation and want to take their party back. Fearing the economic crisis that would occur under default, moderate Republican businessmen are starting to mobilize money and candidates to challenge tea party incumbents.
In Michigan, businessmen are challenging two tea party candidates in the primaries. The same is happening in several other states. This early effort will very likely expand before the 2014 election rolls around.
Bringing this home, North Dakota has a congressman who is either a tea party member or a fellow traveler as evidenced by his public comments and his voting.
North Dakota Republicans will not run a candidate in the primary election against an incumbent of their own party, even though Rep. Kevin Cramer got his seat by opposing the party’s convention nominee in a primary. As a result, the party owes him nothing and could challenge him.
However, beating our own incumbents is not the style in North Dakota. Except in rare cases, parties have not run candidates against their own since our two-party system came into existence in 1956.
To deal with Cramer’s tea party inclinations, moderate Republicans in North Dakota need to take him to the woodshed. Otherwise, he will continue to give aid and comfort to those who want to push the country over the cliff, as they promised they will do next time around.
For the country and the party moderate Republicans in North Dakota should see that 2015 finds a different thinking Cramer in Washington.
(Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director)