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Party animals obviously despise middle ground

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POSTED March 4, 2009 4:35 a.m.
I had penned a column rallying against a proposal by key Democrats to undo Proposition 13.

It was early 1985 and I was working for The Press-Tribune in Roseville.

The call I got the next day from a reader who accused me of being a “ditto head” and thinking whatever Rush Limbaugh told me to think.

There was just one problem with the charge. I had never listened to Rush Limbaugh who had just got this start as a radio talk show host on Sacramento’s KFBK the year before. The reason was simple. I was in the middle of deadline when his show was on the air from 9 a.m. to noon as the paper I worked for was an afternoon daily.

It didn’t matter. The caller was convinced no one could come up with a conservative leaning thought without being told to do so. It was an assumption that anyone who supported a conservative or Republican position was a mindless zombie.

Over the years I’ve perhaps written over 7,500 columns. Rest assured I’ve had more than a few people disagree with me. I’ve been called everything from a bleeding heart liberal to a backwards conservative and other enduring terms that does little to raise the level of debate.

Most who feel a need to paint descriptive words to describe my political leanings or who accuse me of being a mindless zombie are what would best be described as party animals.

They believe there is no middle ground and unless you agree 100 percent all the time with them you must be against them.

It is a wonderful outlook that really messes things up when such people obtain elective office whether it is on a city council or the legislature.

There isn’t anything wrong per se with party animals. The herds today just don’t have the alpha leaders like Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, and Scoop Jackson who could compromise and put aside differences to do what had to be done to strengthen and protect America.

You obviously need people who are blindly true to their parties to make it work. The late Don Stewart of Manteca – a World War II veteran, carpenters union business agent, and true blue Democratic Party organizer - is a prime example.

He asked once if I voted straight party ticket and I replied I rarely did and could recall several times I voted for more Democrats than Republicans.

“That’s the problem with you Republicans,” Don snapped, “You don’t vote straight party line.”

I responded with a question,” So if Adolf Hitler was a Democrat and Jesus Christ was a Republican you’d vote for Hitler?”

Without missing a beat he shot back, “You’re damn right!”

Don – who gave up a part of his youth as many of his generation did fighting the Axis Powers – obviously wouldn’t vote for Hitler. It was his way of making a point you can’t have a party without party loyalists.

Rhetoric aside, Don always delivered for his family, his union, his community, and his country. It required bending a bit without abandoning your bedrock principles. Don was quick witted and to the point but he never name called. And, as he’d probably say, “you’re damned right that I put my country first above politics.”

People like Don make political parties work but they did so without degrading the loyal opposition or sacrificing getting things done so the party could prevail at all costs.

Today, much of our policy and political debate is conducted in absolutes. The rule of the day is “it’s my way or the highway.”

It is important to remember that everything in life is cyclical, everything.

It is just like those clamoring today to get rid of the two-third rule for passing a state budget. They may think the Democrats will always be the majority party but the day will come when someone else – perhaps the Republicans – will hold most of the cards. Do they really want a world where the party they don’t support can flip the state with a mere majority vote when it comes to something as major as the budget and taxes?

We need reform. Perhaps the best way to do that is to have open primaries allowing those candidates who aren’t 100 percent beholden to the party machine in order to win in primaries can have a chance to prevail.  As it stands now, those that cater to the extremists in their respective political parties are usually the only real picks the general voting public has to select between at the general election.

We need party animals but we don’t need a proliferation of people who feel they are more beholden to their party than a state or nation that should strive to be all inclusive whether it is with ethnic groups, culture, or political views.
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