This is the time of year when political candidates, vying for the chance to represent you, raise the specter that cooperation is possible once they are elected.
They talk about the need for compromise, discuss their desire to work with members of the other political party, and promise to “reach across the aisle” to ensure that what needs to get done for the good of the country will get done ... if they are elected.
Then, of course, once they take the seats for which they were chosen, the promises often go out the window and partisan politics return. Many — maybe even most — go back to arguing issues based not necessarily on what is best for their constituents, but instead on what position they are told by their designated political party to take.
We know from their responses to the Morris Daily Herald’s election questionnaires that Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo, the Republican candidates vying for their party’s nomination in the new 16th Congressional District, are making such pledges. If they go back on them will be something to watch.
At the local level, however, many candidates for Grundy County Board have chosen to dismiss the cliches of promising cooperation and vowing to work together. Some, in their questionnaire responses, instead opted to come right out and say partisanship is good.
Others even accused the media in general, and in a thinly veiled (or not-at-all-veiled) way the Morris Daily Herald in specifics, of believing that debate and disagreement in politics is bad.
“I’m not sure the board is as divided along partisan lines as some people might like to think. While partisanship is not always a bad thing, in some cases it can be divisive,” one incumbent board member wrote.
“Partisanship is sometimes necessary and will always exist,” added a first-time candidate.
“What the Morris Daily Herald sees as ‘partisanship,’ I see as a county board which finally is having healthy policy debates,” stated another incumbent.
“I am always amazed that the media in this country seems to be obsessed with the idea of not having any arguments about policy in public bodies,” contributed a third incumbent.
We at the Morris Daily Herald are in no way advocating for debate to end among county board members... or, for that matter, city council members, General Assembly members or members of Congress.
Debate, as many of the candidates for the county board correctly point out, is a healthy way for elected officials to weigh all sides of issues, hear opposing views and, hopefully, reach a decision based on what they truly believe as individuals is best for their constituents.
The problem at the county board level — and, to be honest, at all levels of government — is that it has become commonplace for members of a political party (or, at times, a faction within that party) to vote as a block in a predetermined fashion without weighing the arguments presented by those of differing views or those they represent.
One of the incumbents said he is not sure the board is divided along partisan lines, but one need only look at the majority of the divided votes of the board to realize that the members with the “D” after their names and the members designed with an “R” are usually on opposite sides of the vote.
It is our hope that the candidates nominated on March 20, and those elected in November, will decide that the ideas themselves, and not the letter of the alphabet associated with its originator, are what is truly important as they argue policy and form their opinions.
Then, and only then, will the Grundy County Board finally be having “healthy policy debates.”