Mark Hatfield, the former Senator from Oregon, died yesterday at the age of 89. He was in my estimation a great public servant, and a symbol of what a politician can be if choosing to serve for the greater good. He wasn't perfect, and I wouldn't have agreed with him on every position, but he had a pretty consistent record of putting people before party. Of course, back then, before the complete polarization of partisan politics one could do so. I doubt that today, a man like Mark Hatfield could survive the process. The GOP has moved too far to the Right and so moderate/liberal Republicans, especially ones who in general opposed military solutions, wouldn't be welcome in the Republican Party. But the fact that he was a Republican suggests that he would not have been completely comfortable in the Democratic fold.
Hatfield was a politician, but he was also a Christian. He was open about his faith and how it influenced his view of the world and the nation. I expect that this understanding influenced his stands on war, on the death penalty, the poor and the homeless, and abortion. He was, one might say, truly pro-life.
One of the legacies of Hatfield was his position on war and military. I was reminded that he was among the first group to enter Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. That experience had an effect on his vision of the world. Thus, in 1965, while governor of Oregon, he was the lone Governor at the National Governor's Conference to vote against support for President Johnson's Vietnam policies. That got him labeled a traitor. He was also one of two Republicans to vote against the first Gulf War, and worked for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Now, I grew up in Oregon, moving to the state with my family in 1967, just one year after Hatfield was elected to the United States Senate, where he served for thirty years. Back then the Republican Party was much different from the party of today. Republicans like Hatfield and Tom McCall were moderate/liberal and won state-wide races, while Democrats tended to win local races. Thus, it's governor and senators might be Republican, while its Congressional Reps would be Democrats. They tended to be environmentally conscious, even as they sought to help the business community.
Because much of my life in Oregon came during my growing up years through college, I wasn't probably quite as aware of Mark Hatfield's influence, as I might have if I had been older. But, I can say that I am proud to have been a constituent of Mark Hatfield's. I would have voted for him once, while in college. In fact, the reason I'm a Democrat today is that my mother made a comment about Hatfield being more a Democrat than a Republican. That settled it -- if Hatfield was closer to the Democrats than the Republicans, then I would become a Democrat. And the rest is history.
Again, I want to commend the life of Mark Hatfield, Christian, public servant, citizen.