Elected officials don’t have to be in lock step with political party

By Observer editorial March 24, 2010 02:22 pm
Oregon needs more coalition builders. The state needs legislators who can compromise, and not cave, people who know the true meaning of win-win situations and who don’t aim for win-lose insensitivity. We need more civil — not combative — discussion where differences of opinion are tolerated and even respected.

Oregon needs more compromising that is based on common sense and a responsible approach to legislating. This takes guts in the current political climate of contentiousness and mud fights. Oregon needs more  consensus-building and constructive debate, and less political grandstanding. We need to establish a dialogue, find the middle ground on issues ranging from taxes and education to wind farms.

Oregon needs gentle but firm leadership that looks for alternatives that may not exactly follow the party line. We need to respect other viewpoints and to search for common interest and the common good.

What brings all this to mind is the recent news of a threatening letter a state party chairman sent to two Republican state representatives. These gentlemen had the audacity, or courage if you prefer, to vote for tax increases last year. In the letter, Bob Tiernan told Greg Smith of Heppner and Bob Jenson of Pendleton that they should either refuse campaign help from unions or think about quitting the primary elections. Some conservatives are furious that Smith voted for an income tax increase on earnings well above six figures and Jenson voted for both a tax increase on the wealthy and a business tax increase.

However we think of tax increases, the votes took courage to defy the party line. Jenson, a former history professor, said Tiernan’s letter kind of reminded him of Communist Soviet Union politics, where no deviation from the party line was allowed, and he hopes the Republican party hasn’t devolved into some kind of goose-step mentality. Jenson said his vote was the result of school budgets being in dire shape and the threat that makes to education and the future quality of life of Northeast Oregon communities.

It takes courage to do what is right in the face of certain criticism. Bravo for any legislators, Democrat or Republican, willing to take an independent stand for what is right for Oregon’s future.