A notable former GOP Missouri senator criticizes Republican extremists and fellow native Missourian, Rush Limbaugh.
Last week, former Missouri Sen. John C. Danforth criticized the direction of his Republican Party - and politics in general - in a speech to the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
It wasn't the first time he had done so. It probably won't be the last.
But the speech was notable for its timing in this presidential election year and for the clarity with which it points to the crumbling foundation of our national two-party political system.
"Government is broken, unable to deal with any subject deeper than politics itself," Danforth said in an annual lecture named after him and the late Sen. Tom Eagleton, a Democrat. "Here, I think, is the problem: Politics is the art of compromise, and, in today's climate, compromise isn't tolerated."
Danforth was just getting started.
He criticized "Rush Limbaugh and his ilk" for wanting politicians with "hard edges."
He referred to the unwillingness to compromise in politics as biblical idolatry. "It's possible to advocate positions without worshipping them," he said.
Danforth's statements are much like those of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who recently decried the state of politics in the Republican Party. He suggested that both his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Ronald Reagan would struggle to be effective today.
The former governor and the former senator are right. For the sake of their party, and because the nation works better when compromise isn't a dirty word, other important national voices should take up their cause.
Unfortunately, bowing to party loyalty pressures, both Bush and Danforth have diminished their otherwise strong messages.
Last week, when prominent Republicans criticized Bush for daring to question the party, he quickly turned to the social media site Twitter to fire off a few partisan criticisms of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama. It was if he wanted to restore himself to the good graces of those who might determine whether Bush is a future power broker.
Why walk back the truth? What Bush said not only was accurate, but it also had to be said. He should say it again and again so that his party can appeal to the independents who have abandoned it.
Then there's Danforth, who previously has decried the GOP's run to the right only to endorse some of its most extreme Missouri candidates. Thus is strong medicine diluted.
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