Party politics trumping country’s best interests

Published 5:00 am Monday, March 19, 2007

It was not too many years ago that, politically, Mississippi wasa one-party state. Republicans, it was said, could hold theirconvention in a telephone booth with room to spare. Such was thedomination the Democratic Party had on Mississippi politics.

Times change and this state now boasts a thriving two-partysystem.

A system that allows different views to be expressed and voicesheard. A system that encourages open and lively debate on theissues that affect the lives of Mississippians so that workablesolutions can be found.

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One of the many frustrations of national politics these days isthe partisan culture that has taken over Washington during the past20 years.

Once there was a time when the best interests of the countryruled congressional votes, with Democrats and Republicans findingways to work together for a common good. Congress back in thosedays was made up of independent thinkers beholden to no one buttheir constituents and not afraid to cross party lines.

Today the focus is on the best interests of the party with thecountry’s best interests not always the first priority.

Last weekend Mississippi Democrats allowed the issue of partyloyalty requirements to raise its ugly head. In a move by theparty’s executive committee, Democrats are considering decertifyingcandidates who do not openly support the party’s state and nationalticket or issues.

In 1999, Brookhaven Representative Jim Barnett, then a Democrat,was caught in the party’s crosshairs over his party loyaltyfollowing his support of a Republican candidate – friend and fellowBrookhavenite Mike Parker – for Congress.

A fierce party battle ensued that eventually found the popularand influential state legislator back on the ballot. OtherwiseBarnett would have been blocked out of the general election asqualifying deadlines had passed.

Barnett went on to easily win re-election and quickly switchedparties.

For Brookhaven and Lincoln County voters in 1999 the stakes werehigh as it was not local voters who were choosing who wouldrepresent them in the Legislature, but a small group of state partyofficials more interested in statewide party politics than whatlocal voters wanted.

Few could argue that Dr. Barnett’s influence on the area and thestate would not have been sorely missed had his certification beenrejected by Democratic party officials that year.

Our state and nation would be a stronger and better place ifpoliticians would again be able and willing to vote theirconscience with the best interests of their constituents in mind,and not the political party to which they belong.