04.10.13

Liberal warrior

Sheldon Whitehouse is attacking the obstructionist GOP head-on. Will it work?

The Republican Party's disastrous showing in the 2012 election has spawned all manner of blueprints for a GOP reinvention.

But the party seems more interested in amendment than overhaul. It's budging on immigration reform and moving a bit on gay marriage. Elsewhere, though, it appears as immovable as ever.

That intransigence — or, if you like, resolve — raises a vital question on the other side of the aisle: faced with a GOP still hostile to the president — and to standard political negotiation — what is a liberal legislator to do?

Is there any use, at this point, in trying to work with the Republican Party on the big issues?

It is a particularly fraught question in the Senate, which still clings to a dying tradition of comity. But a handful of junior Democrats have surrendered any dream of the old order and acceded to the hyper partisanship of the Age of Obama.

Among the most articulate and forceful of this new breed: Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — he makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.

It is, for Whitehouse's liberal supporters, an effort of undeniable appeal: here is a Democrat going on the offensive, taking it to a GOP that so often seems the aggressor.

But is it the best course? The only course? And most important: can it work?

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By:  David Scharfenberg
Source: Providence Phoenix