Work together still best way to improve lives

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, January 16, 2011

With the tragic shootings last weekend in Arizona being thelatest topic used to stoke the fires of political animosity acrossthe nation, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and state Democrats areat least sounding a little like they’re trying to lower thetoxicity level here.

In delivering his final State of the State speech Tuesday, Barbourendorsed the idea of building a civil rights museum in the state, amove he had reservations about when it was proposed in 2007. Also,from tort reform to budgetary restraint to economic progresscompared to the time of his first address in 2004, the governorapplauded lawmakers for their ability work together to get thingsdone for the state’s betterment.

“It wasn’t easy or always pretty. Sometimes we battled, but weaccomplished a lot, together,” Barbour said.

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His state speech Tuesday did take a few shots at President Obama’sfederal policies, but Barbour on Friday was warning his fellowRepublicans to not get overconfident in their newfound power whilein control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaking at a GOPretreat in Baltimore, the governor warned against thinking thatRepublicans are running the government and said their focus mustremain fixed on the struggling national economy and Democrats whostill hold the Senate and the White House.

From a party strategy standpoint, keeping voters’ attention onill-conceived Democratic policies is a good move and one that is tobe expected. But the warning against GOP overconfidence is also aprudent plan and to some extent signals a recognition that bothparties will have to work together to improve the situation for allcitizens.

Cynics and skeptics will dismiss Barbour’s tones as simply those ofa wily politician angling to better position himself for a possiblepresidential campaign next year and to look good for a widersection of voters. A similar take could categorize the affair aspolitical efforts to make nice for a governor in his final year inoffice.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that an ability to work withmembers of the opposite party is the best way to bring about changethat will improve the lives of all people – especially given thetough economic position in which Mississippi finds itself now. Rep.Cecil Brown, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee,stated as such in his party’s response to Barbour’s speech.

“The only way we will work our way through this crisis is byputting aside our political differences and working for the good ofevery Mississippian,” Brown said.

At least in the early stages of this legislative session, thereseem to be fewer charges of “partisanship” leveled against thegovernor by some members of the Legislature. That is a welcomeimprovement over the tone during some of the governor’s previousseven years in office.

There is no doubt there are tough decisions still to be made overthe budget, various services and other aspects of state government.Mississippians must remain hopeful that the conciliatory and worktogether mentality endures as those difficult choices arefaced.