Knoxville News Sentinel: Editorial: Alexander wisely places country above his party

Posted on September 27, 2011

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander put country before party last week by resigning as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the third most powerful GOP position in the Senate, to chart a more realistic course.

In today's polarized political climate, eschewing partisan posturing for practical solutions can be risky, but leaders like Alexander have a responsibility to move the nation forward.

Alexander said stepping down from the leadership position would allow him to regain his independence, meaning he will be able to part with the GOP leadership when necessary. In his remarks announcing his decision on the Senate floor, Alexander noted that the Senate "requires 60 votes to achieve a result on serious issues and 60-vote results simply cannot be found among only Republicans, or only Democrats."

Like former Tennessee Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. before him, Alexander is showing a statesmanlike willingness to meet Democrats in the middle and hash out compromises that serve the best interests of the Republic. The most partisan members of both parties should take notice.

Alexander remains a committed Republican — over the weekend he blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over the latest government shutdown showdown — and said he would continue to work to pass Republican-sponsored legislation. But his recognition that compromise sometimes is a necessary part of the legislative process exhibits a common-sense wisdom sorely missing now in Washington.

Alexander is demonstrating a commitment to put America's best interests above self or party. Republicans and Democrats alike should follow his example in working for the common good.