In the 1990s when I lived in Arlington, Virginia and served on that county’s Republican committee, I would regularly attend meetings of the Democratic-controlled County Board and express my concerns about their tax increases and meddlesome policies. On occasion, I would talk to the vaious Board members in person.
Once when I ran into Democratic Board Member James B. “Jim” Hunter, III walking through the hallway on his way to the meeting. I approached him and in a rather confrontational manner, urged him to vote against the meals tax increase which he and his colleagues on the all-Democratic Board were considering. Given the manner of my approach, I was stunned (and humbled) by his courteous response. He showed more respect for me than I did for him, looking right at me, listening (without interrupting) to my spiel, then thanking me for expressing my opinion. He reached his hand out to shake mine.
I would never again approach that good man in a confrontational manner.
In subsequent years, as I remained active in the Arlington County Republican Committee and various civic organizations (I was a member of the Arlington County Commission for the Arts) I got to know him better, still asking him tough questions but with the same courtesy he had showed me. (He taught me a lesson, that good man did.)
Once when he spoke to the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, he responded to my question as he always did, with respect. He thanked me for speaking out, then addressed my concerns. (I thanked him for his civil response.) After the public portion of the meeting, we chatted amicably during the sorical hour, with him placing his left hand on my back and shaking my extended right hand with his and said, “Dan, we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Other Republicans reported a similar reaction when they met with that good man to discuss their differences with the Board.
When he died, enough members of the County Republican Committee attended his funeral to make a quorum.
Obviously Barack Obama Democrats have not learned from their late partisan from the one part of Virginia which was briefly part of the District of Columbia. Instead of trashing Republicans who raise their concerns with elected officials as tools of special interest or of maleficent corporations and dismissing our concerns, they should show us the same respect Jim Hunter showed to his political opponents.
Until his death, Hunter remained a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, regularly voting for a larger County government and to raise taxes. But, he never saw his Republican adversaries (or anyone else who disagreed with the policies he supported) as his enemies. Instead, he saw us as his constituents who happened to have a different view than he of how the County should be governed.
After watching an episode of Rome (as I’ve bee doing every night of late (when in LA)), I checked my e-mail and the blogs. As I read the latter, I was astounded at how so many Democrats and their allied interest groups have been trashing opponents of the Democratic health care overhaul. They should instead act as did a good man who, while he lived, nobly rode under their political banner. Like Jim Hunter, they should agree to disagree with critics of their policies.
After all, isn’t that what postpartisan politics looks like, as opposed to that old Washington politics “where everybody is always looking for somebody else to blame” . . . or to destroy?