By editorial board • 

Partisanship has no place in city and county politics

Tom Bunn’s Republican leanings ran deep.

Like brothers Jim and Stan, he served his party in the Oregon Legislature before opting for other pursuits. While they went on to win higher elective office, he set his sights on the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners in 1994, joining two fellow Republicans on the three-member body.

However, Bunn favored making the board nonpartisan from the outset, feeling partisanship had no place at the county level. He eventually persuaded Rob Johnstone, a Republican turned Libertarian, to go along. They outvoted Republican Leslie Lewis to put the idea to voters in the 2002 general election, and it sailed to victory.

Ironically, Bunn’s partisan 2002 re-election campaign, culminating in a lopsided loss to Democratic newcomer Mary Stern, turned him against the idea he had so long championed. He ultimately ended up voting no at the polls.

But the partisan rancor of that campaign appeared to have the opposite effect on most voters. In fact, it was widely credited with boosting the measure to victory.

The News-Register strongly endorsed the change. Its pre- and post-election headlines assured readers, respectively, “Measure would take the party out of politics” and “Voters give partisanship the heave-ho.”

With the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, we aren’t so sure. We wish it were true, but the promise never seems to have materialized.

In fact, the partisanship of county commissioner politics seems to be creeping into the traditionally safe haven of other elected county officials and even city politics. Increasingly, rigid ideological convictions are the starting point for any campaign, no matter how unpolitical the seat should be.

A pre-election study the News-Register conducted in 2000 showed rancor and division on the county board actually diminished when Democrat Ted Lopuszinski defeated Republican Dennis Goecks in 1996. The board split along party lines only eight times during Lopuszinski’s first year and only once during his next two and a half, the study showed.

That led local GOP chair Neil Cohen to attack Johnstone for allegedly embracing the “tax and spend” policies of the opposition. Johnstone acknowledged that played a part in his political rebirth as a Libertarian, saying, “Clearly there was a part of me that was motivated by some frustration I’d felt within the party.”

Political parties must not serve as straightjackets on the free exercise of either thought or action. Neither should ideological convictions or the organizations arising to enforce them.

We hold that conviction to be equally true on both the right and the left.

We’ve had more than our fill of the imposition of political purity by Oregon Democrats and their union allies at the state level. The GOP seems to be increasingly adopting that style at the local levels.

The electorate has played its role in the resurgence of local partisanship, too. Speaking recently at a local Republican meeting, treasurer candidate Paulette Alexandria said she planned to stay non-partisan in her race, but repeated questions of “Which party are you in?” prompted her to embrace what is now an openly GOP-backed campaign.

Voters emphatically chose nonpartisanship over partisanship in the election of 2002. We hope they will again yearn for candidates of character, backbone and independence who are willing to do their own thinking and arrive at their own conclusions, without fear or favor.



This exemplifies exactly why a free press is so essential to a free government: to “warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. ...the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeebled the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus, the policy and will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. ... And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” — George Washington, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

Thank you, N-R, for your vigilance.

Don Dix

From the article -- 'Political parties must not serve as straight-jackets on the free exercise of either thought or action.'

But that's the exact description of political parties and what is expected of it's membership, herd mentality. Just another logical and convincing argument not to belong.

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