Bob Dole was a savvy politician. A conservative Republican, he led Senate Republicans for a decade. He could throw and take a partisan punch, but he knew that getting things done on Capitol Hill — governing — required working with rather than against Democrats.
He was an outstanding senator, respected by political adversaries as well as allies both for what he accomplished and what he said. He retired from the Senate in 1996, but the wisdom he acquired in a 35-year career in Congress was evident in remarks he made on Fox News Sunday about a subject dear to his heart — the national Republican Party.
Mr. Dole is understandably concerned about it. It’s ineffective and its priorities are skewed to the point that Mr. Dole said, “I think they ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and a positive agenda.”
The Republican agenda since Barack Obama was elected president has been driven by the desire to force him to fail. That has involved legitimate philosophical differences, but it has also meant abandoning and even opposing positions Republicans once supported because the president also supported them.
So much has the party changed that Mr. Dole said he isn’t sure he would be welcome in it. “I doubt it,” he said, when Fox News host Chris Wallace asked. What’s more, Mr. Dole added, “Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it because he had ideas and… We might have made it, but I doubt it.”
Among other things, Mr. Dole indicated that he thinks the party lacks genuine leaders, particularly in the Senate. “Somebody has to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ ” said Mr. Dole, who knew what it took to build a consensus among disparate senators.
Mr. Dole isn’t alone in his views of the Republican Party. According to an April Washington Post-ABC News poll, almost half of the polled individuals who described themselves as Republicans said the party is “out of touch” with issues that most concern Americans.
As troubling as such findings are, dissatisfaction is essential to making the kinds of changes the party needs to make if it is to better represent Americans and generate ideas the public will support. If the party can do that, election success, perhaps including the White House, will likely come.
We’re confident that Mr. Dole would be delighted to tear down the “Closed for Repairs” sign and replace it with “Open” and “Welcome” signs.