Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Remembering Mark Hatfield


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.   


5 comments:

Ginny Stiles said...

I am hoping you have a feed that sends comments to your email. I am not commenting on this post.

What I am doing is searching your amazing blog history trying to find the series you started on July 13, 2010 on "alternative worship".

Although you have "labels" on your posts, I cannot find a "list of labels" on the blog so that I might get to this series quickly. Where is that!
Anyway, can you send me a link to get to that series?
Ginny
ginny.stiles@gmail.com

Gary said...

All the liberals, political and religious, love Hatfield. That shows me that there was a lot wrong with the guy. More wrong than right.

John said...

Gary,

You didn't really just say that your clue to whether someone is good or bad is whether they are beloved, did you?

Gary said...

John,

No, I didn't say that.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Bob,

Thanks for this post.

If there is one "hero" I have had when it comes to nation state politics, it was Mark Hatfield.

I'm not sure that he was more of a Democrat or a Republican, but his ability to transcend the partisan divide, certainly attracts me.