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Other Voices: Departures from office are part of sad political trend

By Beaumont Enterprise
Nov. 14, 2017 at 11:55 p.m.


Ted Poe represented Southeast Texas in Congress after gerrymandering brought the Houston-area politician into the region. The same clever map-drawing took him out of Southeast Texas a few years ago, and some area residents may have forgotten about him. But Poe made news again last week when he became the latest in a growing line of traditional Texas Republicans who have bailed out of our increasingly bitter and often irrational politics.

Poe has battled leukemia, and that may have affected his decision not to seek re-election. But he's 69 and said he's "in good health," so an eighth term was not out of the question.

An important point to remember about Texas politicians like Poe, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Sam Johnson and even state House Speaker Joe Straus is that they were conservative by any measure. Poe even spent 22 years as a criminal court judge in Harris County, where he earned a reputation for the creative — and sometimes demeaning requirements — he imposed on defendants as part of their sentences, like requiring them to clean out the stables used by police horses. He called it "Poetic Justice."

But being a conservative is no longer good enough for some GOP primary races. To survive that gauntlet, candidates have to go further and further to the right, even if they're a character like Steve Stockman, elected twice to Congress despite behavior that should have disqualified him.

Granted, Democrats in Texas and the rest of the country have fallen into the same trap. In the last presidential election, Democrats almost selected an outright socialist for their candidate in Bernie Sanders. His success pushed eventual winner Hillary Clinton further to the left, embracing Sanders' call for "free" college and quitting international trade agreements. Those positions probably contributed to her defeat as voters sensed she really didn't believe in some of the things she was saying.

We can do better. Voters are increasingly left with the choice between extremes on both sides, and that's not really a choice.

If Texans and all Americans had more elected officials who understood the value of reasonable compromise without abandoning core principles, we'd all be better off.

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