With the election over, Republicans are arguing about whether they should address Democrats via compromise, or confrontation. Both have their places, but I have a different suggestion.


With the deficit and the debt ballooning, with the economy remaining in the tank, and with tough choices on the horizon, what Americans need more than anything is clarity about what those choices involve, about who is making them, and about who is avoiding them.

Sometimes clarity will mean confrontation.

Republicans need to live up to their promise of an Obamacare repeal. Democrats will then be forced to join them, or vote against repeal. That will produce clarity on who stands for what, in time for the next elections.

If it passes Congress, Obama will be forced to veto or acquiesce. That will produce clarity, too.

Likewise on topics like taxes, the debt limit and other pressing issues. Often when Washington insiders talk "compromise," they really mean engineering a situation where nobody really has to take a position, or responsibility. In those circumstances, clarity is better served by forcing positions into the open, even if doing so involves confrontation.

Sometimes, of course, compromises can bring clarity -- when it's clear what's being given up, and what's gained in exchange. Generally speaking, though, the Washington approach is to pretend that there's a free lunch, rather than to acknowledge the trade-offs.

This must change. Voters deserve to know the truth, and a compromise that won't work if voters know the truth isn't really a compromise at all, but a con.

A move for clarity will meet much resistance. First, of course, from Congress itself -- including many Republicans. Virtually the entire superstructure of today's legislative branch is designed to minimize clarity, and hence accountability.

The survival instincts of politicians involve the avoidance of taking stands, and Republican politicians aren't immune from them any more than Democrats are. Republicans just have more to worry about in terms of Tea Party primary challengers.

Second, from the administration, which despite its promises has never been much for transparency regarding its policy initiatives, and from its in-the-tank allies in the press -- which is to say most of the press, aside from fine institutions like this one. They will do their best to make the issues about race, about personalities, about class warfare, about anything at all except about the actual choices involved.

Republicans in Congress -- and the more elevated institutions of the press, like this one, that are not in the tank -- will have to fight such efforts and make sure that the facts come out.

One way to do so is to stay on message, of course. Another is to follow House Minority Leader (and, soon, Speaker) John Boehner's advice, and "listen." During the Obamacare debacle, Democratic representatives and senators ran away from constituent meetings and town halls. The last thing they wanted to do was listen to their constituents.

By way of contrast, Republicans should engage constituents early and often, and -- publicly -- encourage Democrats to do the same.

The town hall meeting is a popular tactic, and one that Democrats will have trouble emulating. That alone would make it good politics, but there's substance as well as tactics in support of this approach.

One of the main reasons for the Democrats' defeat this year was voters' sense that they wouldn't listen -- that they rammed through a predetermined agenda without paying any attention to voters' misgivings, and that they, in fact, seemed to glory in their lack of accountability. (Remember Speaker Nancy Pelosi's parade-with-gavel through the throngs of anti-Obamacare protesters?)

By listening to voters at town hall meetings, Republicans can not only show that they care, they can accomplish something else. They can actually learn something.

By not listening to voters, and not being straight with them, Democrats committed political suicide. Republicans should take a lesson, and promote clarity. In these times, voters will reward that.

Examiner contributor Glenn Harlan Reynolds hosts "InstaVision" on PJTV.com and blogs at Instapundit.com. He is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee.