What is good for the political party far outweighs what is good for the people.
We are accustomed to elected representatives having that attitude in Washington and Albany. It colors everything that happens there.
But here in Chautauqua County too?
Last week, Chautauqua County Legislature chairman Fred Croscut sent an email to a Republican Party member from Ellery who frequently comments on articles from local newspapers published online.
She is not a legislator, mind you, but, rather, serves on a county GOP committee. Although you can leave comments anonymously on our website if you wish, that is not Carla Westerlund’s style. She is “carlaw” online and wants people to know it.
We considered describing Westerlund as a Republican Party stalwart, but that implies an unreasoning partisanship. While she is resolute in her beliefs, robust in her volunteer work for the party, and brave in taking on things she sees as wrong, Westerlund is not blindly nor unreasonably partisan.
And so when someone tosses out an idea, she looks at the sense of what is being said, not who is saying it.
In late August, Democrat Legislator Rudy Mueller of Lakewood did just that when he criticized the majority Republicans on the Public Safety Committee for refusing to do their duty to prioritize programs as part of the legislature’s budget work.
“Thank you, Dr. Mueller. I agree 100 percent,” Westerlund wrote in response on our website for everyone to see.
Fast on the heels of that came an email from Republican Legislature chairman Croscut. He sent it to Mrs. Westerlund and members of the legislature’s GOP caucus, chiding her: “Because all legislators are up for election this year, I really wish you would quit complimenting the other side. “
Quit complimenting the other side.
Think about what that implies.
Does Croscut ever wonder how we can solve problems if, for purely political reasons, we refuse to acknowledge a good idea when it comes from the other side?
Does he ever worry about the very real consequences of the legislature being incapable of having thorough, nonpartisan problem-solving discussions? And why does he even see other legislators as opponents first and foremost, rather than as partners in governing our very small part of a very big world?
How do otherwise reasonable people like Croscut get caught up in the belief that the prize for winning public office is something other than the privilege of serving the people of this county?
In truth, not all legislators feel that way — but they are in the minority of each party’s legislative caucus. And we know there are candidates running for the legislature right now whose interests are centered on what is best for our county, not their political party.
Our one hope, perhaps, is that these reasonable and well-meaning people ignore their political affiliation and create among themselves their own consortium in the legislature next year.
And then let us hope they are fierce in their determination to toe the line in the best interests of good government, instead of what their party caucus leaders will demand of them - toeing the line in the best interests of a political party.