Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kirk, the Republican, for Illinois

Kirk's moderation, and thoughtful dissent offer a powerful counter-balance to a party that might otherwise be dominated by its extremists after the November elections.

When they go to the polls on November 2, Illinois voters will get to pull the lever between two fairly decent and qualified individuals for the senate seat being vacated by Senator Roland Burris – State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic Party’s nominee and U.S. Representative Mark Kirk, the Republican Party’s nominee.

By all accounts the talking heads consider this a toss-up with the congressman holding a slight edge heading into the last two weeks of the campaign – so close that the president decided to make a trip to Illinois to rally Democratic base to support his candidate, Giannoulias, on November 2.

Both candidates have seen their resumes questioned within the past few months – U.S. Representative Mark Kirk for embellishing his war record and Giannoulias for loans that Broadway Bankhave made to some disreputable figures like convicted money launderer Tony Rezko and convicted mobster Michael Giorango. Giannoulias was a senior loan officer at the bank though he himself did not make any loans to Rezko or get implicated in any criminal wrong doing. Kirk credited himself for receiving a naval intelligence award that was given to the whole unit which he led.

Neither can point to anything that should automatically disqualify the other from the senate seat and in fact both can point to their governmental experience to make their case for the senate seat President Barack Obama once held – Kirk as the moderate Republican that can act as a check but make doeals with the current president, and Giannoulias as his state’s treasurer. Illinois could certainly do worse then pick Giannoulias as their new senator but the Political Heretic believes that voters should the Republican in this case. Moderation deserves to be rewarded and the party can definitely benefit from a voice of reason in a party that is being pushed further and further to the right.

U.S. Representative Mark Kirk knows how the game is played in Washington and can use that experience to make the kinds of deals with members on both sides of the political aisle while providing a necessary check when the president overreaches on his agenda. He supported the TARP bailouts which saved the economy from financial ruin.

The Political Heretic disagrees with the representative on some issues and finds more to like in Giannoulias' position on a number of these issues (immigration being the exception). He is disappointed that Kirk ran away from his support for cap-and-trade legislation and staunchly opposes his support for extending the Bush tax cuts or repealing the health care reform package passed earlier this year. The Political Heretic supports the the right of gay people to marry while Kirk merely professes support for civil unions. But no candidate is perfect and on balance the Political Heretic hopes that these are merely Kirk’s efforts to appeal to the party’s base. He certainly hopes Kirk will compromise with the president on taxes so that middle class voters are not burdened with higher taxes and he hopes that the Republican nominee will work with the president to craft civil union legislation so that gay families can get a measure of recognition from the federal government.

Nevertheless, the country can benefit from having another voice on Capitol Hill, particularly one who can offer a reasonable difference opinion without being disagreeable and the more Republicans and independents reward people like Kirk with positions of power, the less they will depend on incompetent know-nothing extremists like Sharron Angle.

Kirk is not, a reflexive, anti-government go-it-alone Tea Party candidate that would say no to everything which the president supports. He voted for the re-authorization and extension of the S-CHIP program. He voted for stem cell research and he voted for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a measure designed to ban employers from discriminating against a person for his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation. All of these are measures that are typically supported by the Democrats and those who believe that the government can be a powerful force for good.

Mr. Kirk’s dalliance with the Democratic Party does not end there nor did it end when President Barack Obama moved into the White House. He voted for the Matthew Sheperd Hate Crimes statute that was a part of the Department of Defense Authorization Act passed last year and for extending unemployment benefits. Kirk’s objection to the president’s economic stimulus package, wasn’t based on some knee-jerk reaction against big government. It was predicated on the size (too big) and its focus (not enough on infrastructure spending). While reasonable people can disagree with his vote few from our side of the aisle can argue with his repudiation of the anti-government crusades from the likes of Sharron Angle:

“In many ways, we have forgotten our own economic history,” Representative Kirk said towards the end of the debate. “We all know the Lincoln administration, because it was the victor in the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But what was the third biggest thing that it did. Some would say it was the 1862 inter-- transcontinental railway act that was the ultimate public-private partnership in getting infrastructure going.

We have seen in Indiana this kind of thing ignite the economy. Where Governor Daniels has done a very good job in having economic growth in his state while Illinois has fallen behind. It's that kind of-- new thinking that we would bring to the Senate.”

Kirk clearly isn’t running on the Tea Party agenda. If anything, he’s running against it.
The Republican nominee who touted his support for the now constitutionally defunct McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill said he would support a bill that requires financial disclosure bill.

If elected, he can and should be expected to work with those on the other side of the aisle in crafting bipartisan legislation to rebuild America, fix our campaign finance reforms, and hopefully, once again, work with the president on a cap and trade bill.

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