Editorial: Democracy, not purity

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 04:16 PM

Thursday’s events in Washington had a surreal feel.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and the party’s go-to guy on budget issues, got Democrats to agree to a compromise budget plan — and he was immediately attacked by conservative groups.

The criticism of the budget plan is entirely accurate, to a point. As NPR put it Friday morning, the plan is missing something for everyone. Not one person likes it.

That’s the point, though. As Ryan said, this is what divided government looks like. Nothing gets done if everyone holds out for his or her ideal bill.

So Ryan did what legislators at every level have done throughout the history of this republic: He sought common ground and made progress where he could.

If Republicans take back the Senate in 2014, the party perhaps will be able to press for more of its agenda. If it wins the White House in 2016, even more will be possible.

But even having both houses of Congress and the White House won’t guarantee the purists that they will get their way. Just ask state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. With both houses of the N.C. General Assembly under veto-proof Republican majorities and the governorship in Republican hands, Rucho set out last spring to truly reform the state budget in alignment with the party’s ideals. And it tanked. What finally passed was basically an income tax cut, not a reform. Rucho resigned his budget-writing post rather than sign on.

That’s democracy.