An endorsment, and a transformation

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Roughly a year ago, our editorial page carried a hopeful headline. “Rod Blum is best suited to find bipartisan solutions.”

It appeared over our endorsement of the now U.S. representative from Dubuque. We met with both the Democratic nominee, Pat “Shut down that switchboard!” Murphy and Blum, an accomplished businessman with a great command of the issues and a sharp wit. It wasn’t really a tough call. He struck us someone who could go to Washington, D.C. and be part of the solution instead of the problem. The problem being rigid ideologues on both sides of the aisle who would rather pick endless fights than govern the country.

“For this race, a rare open seat within Iowa’s federal delegation with no third-party candidate on the ballot, we wanted to know which of the two men held a realistic view of what a first-year congressman could accomplish, and who could best play with others in a bipartisan way,” we wrote in the endorsement.

“Blum is best suited for this task,” we concluded.

Another, larger, front-page headline on Friday got me thinking about that endorsement. “GOP FACES TURMOIL AS DEADLINES LOOM.” All caps? Must be important.

A small, very conservative group of roughly 40 or so House members known as the “Freedom Caucus” has spilled much of that thick, sticky turmoil. It has obstructed, threatened and shoved its way into the national spotlight, pushing House Speaker John Boehner toward the exit and now claiming the hide of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who dropped his bid to be speaker Thursday.

Blum has thrown in with the Freedom Caucus, which has worked again and again to bring Congress, perhaps even the government, to a screeching halt until its rigid, ideological demands are met. And the leadership vacuum they’ve helped create not only brings down the House, but jeopardizes efforts to meet a series of important legislative deadlines, including paying the nation’s debts.

So the country needs to be governed. Too bad the Legislative Branch is now controlled by 40 people who would rather throw wrenches into the gears. That’s a big problem, not a solution.

“This is an opportunity to change business as usual in Washington, D.C.,” Blum said in a statement Thursday.

Actually, senseless gridlock is business as usual.

But hey, it draws plenty of applause from crowds of partisan GOP activists who blame the “establishment” for just about everything. So if that’s Blum’s goal, it’s been a great success.

But what about the rest of us, the folks Blum told last fall that he’d go to Washington and reach across the aisle and get things done? Unlike other members of the Freedom Caucus who hail mostly from ruby red Republican districts, Blum represents a decidedly purple slice of the electoral landscape. His district is home to 133,000 Republicans, 153,000 Democrats and 192,000 independents.

That’s not a district that sent Blum to Washington to lock arms with U.S. Rep. Steve King. Some of us may have had another sort of Republican role model in mind. Jim Leach, perhaps.

I’m not asking Blum to stop being conservative, or stop advocating strongly for conservative issues. I’m just wondering what happened to the realist we talked with last fall, the guy who conceded that yanking Obamacare out by the roots isn’t likely with a Democrat in the White House. The guy who said, “I’m not interested in Republican-only solutions any more than I’m interested in a Democrat-only solution.”

Because what’s now unusual in Washington are people willing to temper their ideology with a dose of reality, and who are willing to concede that kicking and screaming are not governing. We’ve seen all the turmoil and tantrums we can stand.

I know it’s too much to ask. These are not realistic times. A large chunk of voters in both parties want to be told, loudly or softly, exactly what they want to hear, and nothing else will do. The headlines, I’m afraid, will be anything but hopeful.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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