Thursday, January 21, 2010
Democrats and Republicans are not nearly as inclusive as they were even two decades ago. Democrats don't have tolerance for conservative members while Republicans generally bristle at liberals in their ranks.
Yet, for much of the 20th century the Democratic Party tilted to the left but had some members who were conservative. The Republican Party leaned more to the right but had some liberal members. As a result, there was some ideological overlap between the Republicans and Democrats that was often useful in hammering out issues and legislation.
But over the years the parties drifted further to the right or left of political center, which served to create a bigger and bigger divide between the Democrats and Republicans. In addition, the tolerance waned for those within the party who had differing points of view.
In the early 1990s the 16th Legislative District, which at that time covered Walla Walla County and much of the Tri-Cities, was represented by three conservative Democrats -- Valoria Loveland, Bill Grant and Dave Mastin.
Today, this politically conservative district is all Republican and likely will remain that way. There just aren't that many conservative Democrats willing to run for office these days. It takes a very, very tough skin.
And now, at least in Washington state, it appears that the political parties are becoming even more polarized.
The Democrats who control the state Senate and House are taking action to create problems for Sen. Tim Sheldon, a conservative Democrat.
Sheldon, who is an elected county commissioner from Mason County, has often broken ranks and sided with Republicans.
Democrats and liberal groups have accused him of being a Republican in all but name, and they've spent a lot of money in an effort to get him defeated. It hasn't worked. He's apparently popular in his conservative, rural district. He keeps getting elected.
So now Democrats have proposed legislation and a constitutional amendment to prohibit legislators from holding another paid elected position. A similar proposal has been introduced in the House.
Sen. Adam Kline, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the proposal is good public policy because legislators who also hold local offices are inclined to take an overly parochial view, rather than "focusing on the state's issues."
Perhaps. But couldn't the same thing be said of those who hold any job in state or local government? And what about those who work in the private sector? All our views -- even state legislators' -- are shaped in part by our jobs, our friends and our communities. That, frankly, is why Washington has a citizen Legislature.
If elected officials are banned from serving in the Legislature then who else will be banned?
Ahh, the next legislator to fall out of favor with his political party.
This proposal is petty and vindictive and shouldn't become law.