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Parties, voters must reject extremism

September 12, 2018

For a while Tuesday, as we somberly remembered the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we forgot that we were Democrats or Republicans. We realized there are times when we are simply Americans, that far more unites us than divides us. That’s something we need to keep in mind more often, especially as the fall campaign heats up for county and state offices.

As our story Sunday reported, the Jefferson County Republican Party contains a fairly broad range of views that is becoming increasingly rare in these divisive times. The party is unquestionably based in conservatism, but it doesn’t represent just one faction of that philosophy.

Party members support social conservatives like U.S. Rep. Randy Weber and libertarian-leaning judicial candidates like Mitch Templeton. Some officials, like County Judge Jeff Branick, used to be Democrats.

That kind of variety shouldn’t be surprising in a county that was once solidly Democratic but now is starting to elect more Republicans. It’s practical, too. Many voters in the county don’t vote single-ticket. They usually know the men and women running for local posts. They can and do vote for someone they didn’t see on their primary ballots.

That’s encouraging, and it’s not as common as it used to be. At the national level, some Democrats are veering toward socialism while some Republicans are embracing nationalism. Southeast Texans can’t affect what happens in the rest of the country, but here they can support candidates who try to appeal to as many voters as possible instead of just a narrow range.

To be sure, Democrats will still lean toward the left side of the spectrum while Republicans favor the right. They may both want to attract some independents and moderates in their campaigns, but they won’t abandon their core beliefs.

That’s completely understandable, and it would be naïve to expect agreement between the two parties on every issue.

But they also don’t have to disagree on every point either. There are times that consensus and compromise are possible, and both parties should be open to meeting in the middle whenever they can. That should be especially possible at the local level, where most issues are about basic governance. A road or a drainage ditch really doesn’t fall under one banner or another.

As Americans, we can disagree sharply on some issues, but we should be able to do so in a civil, respectful manner. Because in the end, just as we were when the Twin Towers were attacked, we are defined by our national motto, e pluribus unum — out of many, one.

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