The Good Old Days

by Mark Wilson

The New York Review of Books on former Speaker of the House Tom Foley:

Shortly after he was elected Speaker in 1989, Foley proposed to the minority leader, Bob Michel, that the two of them meet once a week, first in the office of one of them and the following week in the other’s. They did so throughout Foley’s speakership. Such an arrangement now is unimaginable.

Is this romanticizing the past? Or did Republicans and Democrats think differently about their relationships with each other back then? Today, they act as though they’re on separate sides of a war (and indeed they use war language) in which only one side can prevail. Foley seemed to think differently: he and his counterpart across the aisle were not enemies, but part of the same project: governance. By contrast, today’s Republican party leaders view governance as a zero-sum game where one side must win and the other must necessarily lose. Getting anything less than everything you asked for is not the result of compromise, but an indication of failure: if you didn’t get everything, you’ve lost.

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