The first major speaker at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of right-wing advocates, grassroots activists, and politicians (including 2012 contenders), was Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who had a fundamental message for the base: compromise sucks.
GOPers on Capitol Hill should not be looking to work with Democrats to develop common solutions to the nation's woes, he proclaimed. Not at all. Not ever. And DeMint, with an I'm-so-clever smile, offered what he obviously thought was a killer analogy: the Super Bowl.
Referring to last Sunday's game, he said, "I can guarantee you that coach Tom Coughlin did not tell his Giants to go out on the field and work with those other guys....They weren't cooperating with Tom Brady."
DeMint explained that the New York Giants and the New England Patriots had "different goals." Consequently, compromise would not work. Continuing with this trenchant observation, DeMint noted that "compromise works well in this world when you have shared goals." You can compromise with a wife or with a business colleague. But not with Democrats: "We don't have shared goals with the Democrats."
DeMint, of course, is ignoring the efforts of other conservative Republicans to forge agreements with the other side, most notably the Gang of Six in the Senate. This band of Republican and Democratic senators put together a deficit-reduction framework that drew signs of support from about 40 Democratic and Republican members of the upper chamber last summer. But this compromise failed. Why? Not because Democrats were unwilling to work toward a shared goal with the GOPers. It collapsed because Tea Party-whipped Republicans (such as House Speaker John Boehner) could not accept any increase in tax revenues—and this package included about $1.5 trillion in boosted revenues over ten years.
The problem was not that the shared goal of deficit reduction could not yield a bipartisan compromise. The Gang of Six showed that it could. The issue was that Republican extremists would not accept even an agreement devised by fellow Republicans. They just wouldn't play ball—and that's hardly a course of action that Tom Coughlin would advise his players.