by Mark Rhoads
One reader objected to my Illinois Hall of Fame biography of the late Sen. Charles Percy which was in general a positive and factual story. The reader objected that I should not say anything nice about Percy because he was a "Rockefeller Republican" which was 1964 speak for RINO.
I agree of course that Percy was a moderate to liberal Republican--much more liberal than me. But one does not always have to judge a person based only on their political views because life is more complicated than that.
Percy defeated state treasurer Bill Scott in the 1964 GOP primary for governor when Scott was the conservative alternative. As the GOP nominee, Percy did not have to endorse Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) for president but he did so anyway for the sake of party unity and to build up some good will with conservatives in Illinois. When reporters tried to get Percy to blame Goldwater's drag on the state ticket for Percy's loss to Gov. Otto Kerner, Percy refused to take the bait and he did not blame Goldwater but said only that the heavy Democratic turnout statewide was too steep a hill for any Repulblican to climb that year.
Yes, my professional and political relationship with Chuck Percy was a good one in spite of our philosophical differences in part because our mothers were good friends and he treated me and my family with great kindness.
For the most part it is not easy running for office in Illinois as a conservative Republican for many reasons including an unfriendly news media environment, so it is often a better policy to avoid the temptation to personalize philosophical differences among different points of view. Politics is always complicated and an opponent in one year can be an ally in another year.
I was a severe critic in 2010 of the voting record of Rep. Mark Kirk in the House before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. I was not wrong to be a critic then, but circumstances sometimes change. I have been watching Kirk's voting record in the Senate this year and so far he is casting more good votes than bad ones in my opinion and he has been more in tune with the GOP leader of the Senate than his votes in the House indicated he might be.
There are many factors that determine whether or not a public official can gain respect and support and the purity of his or her philosophical position is only one factor. Basic honesty is also important as is the desire to work hard and pay attention to constituents, even those who disagree. Kirk might have defeated Alexi Giannoulias by a larger margin if he had not inflated his Navy service resume which planted doubts in the minds of some votera as to his integrity and sense of proportion.
Yet so far this year, Kirk continues to do his homework well on national security issues and is regarded as a leader among experts in that field. I still wish of course that Kirk was more friendly to conservatives on some social issues but he is a help on tax and budget votes. You seldom get everything you want in a neat package in politics so sometimes you settle for half a loaf in the hope that will take policy in a better direction overall.
But it is up to individual voters to decide what is most important to them and cast their votes for or against candidates based on how much they agree or differ with the core values of the voter. Everyone always has the right to dissent and decide for themselves how far they might go to compromise on cherished principles for the success of other principles.